The Product Discovery Process: What Questions Should You Be Asking?
When you’re working on the product discovery process in advance of developing a new digital product, asking the right questions is a crucial starting point. Your team needs to ensure that everyone—key business stakeholders, your product team, your technical team, and your end users—has developed a set of shared goals and values.
While each group may have different priorities, by conducting in-depth research through carefully-considered questions, you’ll be able to get a sense of where their visions overlap. From there, you can plan to build out a product that will resonate with everyone involved.
Whether developing the project with an internal team, or working with a software development agency, here’s a look at some of the most important questions to ask in the product discovery phase.
The End Users
The most important stakeholders in the process aren’t the people funding it; they’re the people using the end product, so start by talking to them. They’ll ultimately determine its success or failure, so it’s essential that your team takes the time to understand what they need in a digital solution. Questions to ask them include:
What is your current process like for solving this problem?
Depending on the product, this answer may take many shapes. Here’s a look at several potential “problems” and how the user might answer them:
- Problem: I want to order a pizza.
- Current process: I call the restaurant and place my order by phone.
- Problem: I need to pay my contractors and track their information for taxes.
- Current process: I write out checks by hand and mark down the expenses manually in Quickbooks.
- Problem: I need to track the status of hundreds of different pieces of equipment at the warehouse where I work.
- Current process: I use a spreadsheet to manually enter in the changing status.
What frustrations do you have with the current process?
Here’s where you’re able to learn what’s not working so you can begin to think about how to fix it. To use the same three examples, you might hear things like:
- “I often spend 10 minutes on hold when I call in. They get my order wrong. I need to wait in line to check out when I arrive.”
- “I often run out of checks. My contractors want to be paid more quickly. I often lose track of who I’ve paid before I’m able to enter it into the software.”
- “It takes hours out of my day to do this mindless work. I’m the only one who knows the process, so if I’m sick or on vacation, it gets messed up. I sometimes forget to enter a status update so it’s not always accurate.”
What tools or support do you wish you had to improve the process?
Now, find out directly from them what features they think would make their experience easier. Having experienced the difficulties of the current process, they should be well-primed to explain the features that would facilitate a more enjoyable and seamless experience.
The pizza customer, for instance, might want an app that enables her to place her order error-free, and avoid waiting in line when it’s time to pick up. Take a look at where the gaps in the process are to see where your solution resides.
The Business Stakeholders
While user research is a key part of the product discovery process, it’s also important to ensure that your business stakeholders are aligned on their goals for the product. Some questions to ask them might include:
What are your primary business goals over the next 3 to 5 years?
This question, aimed at stakeholders in different departments throughout the company, will help provide a good sense of each team’s ambitions in terms of scale and direction.
While a CEO might focus on growth in market adoption, a technical director might mention increasing automation of manual tasks to increase efficiencies. You’ll be able to gather a strong sense of each type of stakeholder’s key priorities regarding the business and understand how this new product may play into that.
How will you measure the success of this product launch?
What are some key industry trends that could impact the success of this product?
In this question, your stakeholders will showcase their knowledge of their particular domain to provide insights into possible opportunities or problems that could influence the product. For instance, your technical director might mention a type of cybersecurity attack that the product may be vulnerable to, while your CEO might focus on what your competitors are rolling out in their own product roadmaps.
Once you’ve completed an in-depth Q&A process, it will be time to map out the shared goals and values of all stakeholders—both user and business—and ideate a product that ticks as many of those boxes as possible.