Paul Jackson

@pivotservices

Pivot Product Hits | November Edition

The Product Strategy Toolset

A canvas masterclass, from Alex Osterwalder.

In Summary: Selling colleagues on the value of product strategy can be challenging in startups and tech companies where the prevailing culture is one of coding rather than talking. To succeed, Product Managers need to deploy tools and methods that deliver maximum value in the shortest possible time.

In my experience, the most effective combination is Alex Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Canvas and Value Map combined with Ash Maurya’s Lean Product Canvas. These can be completed by a group, are easy to use and swiftly achieve closure around the target customer, the Job to be Done, the value proposition and the channels to market.

In this excellent short, Alex Osterwalder uses the Value Proposition Canvas to demonstrate how Tesla serves a variety of its target customers’ needs.

What (exactly) is the Product Customisation Curve?

In product development, there’s no single thing you can build that will make all users happy, says YC’s Aaron Harris.

In Summary: If you’re a startup, any angry customer can feel like the end of the world. This often leads product teams to create unsustainable product customisations. The biggest danger is committing to large costs that are hard to remove. Doing this can force your company down a path to failure or an extreme pivot.

The harder thing to do is figure out which customisations to make, weighted by the increase in happiness of the users you actually want.

As a guiding rule, customisations that are software features are easier to build than customisations involving people processes. If you have to build a people process, build one that can be replaced with software later.

Don’t invest in Products, invest in Customers

It’s not a feature problem, says Vonjour’s Dan Tawfik.

In Summary: Product is the foundation of a startup. The first iteration of a product delivers the kernel of value that the company delivers for years to come. But small iterations in the product just deliver marginal returns. If you don’t acquire users in a meaningful way, you’re not giving your business the chance to survive.

When building Vonjour, Dan’s team rapidly developed new features thinking each one would be an inflection point. (‘Ticketing will be a game changer’…) But, not one moved the needle when it came to growth.

Eventually, they stopped building features and invested the remainder of their capital in marketing, rather than product. In doing so, they discovered that the imperfections they noticed weren’t an issue for users. The majority were perfectly satisfied with the product as it was.

Designing Products with AI

Designing with AI is just like designing anything else. Focus on people problems, test your assumptions, and provide affordances for when things go wrong, says Facebook’s Erica Virtue.

In Summary: The allure of AI is that it can make your product ‘magically’ work.

But good product design uses AI in a way that enhances the experience, rather than defines it. Whilst working on Facebook Recommendations, Erica’s team didn’t try to invent a completely new behaviour. Instead, they found an existing one and made it far better.

Even if your AI works most of the time, there are going to be moments when it fails. So, usability testing with real people remains important. By watching people go through experiences early, Erica’s team uncovered a lot of issues with their AI they wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Feature / Product / Company?

In Summary: Most companies begin life somewhere between a feature and a product. And that’s where most companies end, as a collection of features that feel like a product but are really somewhere in between.

Features provide specific point value to users. Products stitch together related features into bundles that solve problems that are universal. The bigger the opportunity and the more ubiquitous the solution, the more focus can pay off.

Instagram built a series of relatively simple features into a product. But the opportunity was so large they were able to turn that product into a company by stitching together its users into something larger.

The features were ubiquitous across the user base. They solved a problem that many people had the need for in a way that worked for everyone.

How to make Product Decisions without Doubt

When you doubt your product decision, step back and ask yourself: what do I believe about the world, and does this push us in that direction? asks Slack’s Paul Rosania.

In Summary: From introducing the algorithmic timeline to Twitter, to turning on Do Not Disturb for all Slack’s users by default, Paul Rosania has presided over some of the most hi-profile (and hi-risk) product decisions in tech.

Product decisions of this nature can be paralysing acts of faith. But, rather than avoid critics, Paul’s advice to Product Managers is dive headfirst into their doubts.

Start by getting the debates off email and offer direct, human contact to solicit feedback. This process will help return you to your product’s purpose, your company’s worldview and (critically) your instinct.

How WhatsApp and Facebook design Products at scale

When building a product, having a clear problem to solve can be half the battle, says WhatsApp’s Charlie Deets.

In Summary: Whereas Facebook uses a high level mission to drive company decisions, WhatsApp uses design principles to focus product conversations so the majority of their thinking goes into the minutiae of the execution.

Also unlike FB, WhatsApp prefers not to alert people to new features in the product. They assume that, if they build features that are obviously useful, people will find them and engagement will naturally follow.

If WhatsApp had a product motto, it would be “Move Slow and Deliberate.” When designers hand off to engineers, they try to deliver as much of a finished spec as possible.

Product Quote of the Month

“Keep it short. Respect users’ time. Get to the point and get out of the way.”

Great primer on designing voice products, from Clearleft.

Originally published at Pivot Product Hits.

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