Learning, succeeding, and failing… again and again. These experiences of success and failure, across my many years in content-based product management for learning and research for the Higher Education market has informed this eight-part series.
My focus is very specifically on supporting product managers tasked with building products that incorporate content, licensed or originally published, into learning and/or research solutions. My experience with bringing content and software and services together in solutions to support learners and researchers is what I consider to be the unique context and contribution of this series.
New product development practice is simultaneously creative and grounded in the specific context of the business where you operate as a product manager. There are infinite problems and needs you will uncover in customer discovery, but relatively few of these will be an ideal fit to pursue for your company or organization. Content-based, technology enabled products, such as are the focus of this series, will only succeed if they are built to: 1. Fit the business strategy, 2. Can be supported by the existing technology powering the business and 3. Can be delivered by the organization’s marketing and sales structure and teams.
Part 2: Customer Discovery
Much has been written on the process of discovery and the usefulness of proposing a hypothesis about customer needs, stating your assumptions, asking good questions and then evaluating and refining your hypothesis based on iterative customer interaction. An excellent resource for developing an understanding of the discovery process in general is the Silicon Valley Product Group blog: https://svpg.com/ In this post I will focus on specific challenges in formulating hypotheses in the context of content-based products for learning and research and the challenges that follow in customer discovery. With content-based products two intertwined concerns need to be addressed before a testable hypothesis can be generated: 1. Prevailing and possible business models and 2. Publisher relationships.
- Read more: Customer Discovery
Publishing and content creating businesses may not get a lot of attention from venture capital, but they are bedrock providers nonetheless. Building new products that leverage content in ever more meaningful ways for higher education library patrons demands we celebrate the role of publishers and content creators and that we build their perspective into our products. But we must also challenge and refine the publisher perspective when an opportunity to broaden access, improve affordability or enhance research outputs is in the balance. In short, new product development in the higher education space must be done in a give-and-take partnership with publishers and content creators.
- Read more: Publisher and Content Partner Discovery
We have arrived at the moment we need to sell our new product concept to senior leadership. We have completed customer discovery and established a concept that satisfies a significant unmet need for our customers. We have established with a representative mix of our publishing partners a model they will support with licensed content. Finally, we have considered the strategic, technological and go-to-market context of our business and we know our new product concept is aligned with our companies’ strengths and growth objectives. A well-constructed business case, presented with confidence, is the critical next step to take our proposed product from conceptual to development.
- Read more: The Components of a Business Case
Part 5: The Management of the Roadmap
The senior leadership team and the product leadership group have approved your business case and you are now ready to engage the product team, including engineering, user design and product ownership who, with your leadership, are responsible for delivering on the product concept. In your approved business case wire frames, mock-ups, product requirements, and sprint estimates were presented and approved. Now, with your product team, it is time to turn to the road map and prioritization of the schedule and the product build. Three factors will impinge upon and determine your success in delivering on your successful product launch: 1. Competing priorities, 2. Scope creep and 3. Pressure to meet a deadline.
- Read more: The Management of the Roadmap
The overriding objective of carefully managing the road map is to ensure the delivery of a product that meets the most basic and essential requirements of a paying or using customer audience. If the road map expands because of scope creep, or if the road map is delayed for competing priorities, delivering the product as defined in the business case suffers. With this in mind, part six will discuss, differentiate and contextualize the two terms used in product development that capture the essence of delivering a most basic product a customer will support: Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Product Market Fit (PMF).
Part 7: Go-To-Market
The very best product managers are the chief executives of their products, and this means working as closely with the marketing and sales team as with the finance, user design and engineering teams. At launch, a successful go-to-market effort, guided by the product manager and product marketing manager, will have detailed the follow through with the development partners and the many reviewers who offered feedback along the way. The go-to-market plan will include clear sales messaging based on the solutions designed into the product and the role of product management in training and supporting sales. And the go-to-market plan should include a content marketing communication plan designed to leverage industry publications, conferences, blogs and other forums to amplify the new product messaging.
- Read more: Go-To-Market
Part 8: Iterate
My perspective on new product development is based on constant interaction with customers on an iterative basis, with the goal of introducing and testing new product solutions with those same customers. This is an iterative new product development process based on bringing the minimal, salable product to market with the understanding enhancements are coming. When an organization commits to iterative product releases following the validation of a minimally viable product (MVP), and after releasing for sale a product market fit PMF), (You can find definitions in Part 6 of this series for: Product Market Fit and Minimum Viable Product), it has committed to cementing into its organisational structure and strategy a new product development practice that will not yield big failures.
Read more: Iterate
If you want to work together on your new product development strategy, contact me directly.
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