At some point in your early product development planning stages, it’s more likely than not that someone on the team is thinking, “We see the value in research and discovery, but we already know our customer and our product. Let’s just do the development. Let’s not hold up the process to explore things we already know.”
I get it. You’re not sure how to get started, you’re under tight deadlines, and your boss wants it done yesterday. How do you justify this initial investment of time and budget?
There are many great reasons not to pass over research and discovery, not the least of which being that skipping it can lead to a costly mistake and a waste of your valuable time. Markets constantly change, right under the noses of enterprise companies. What you thought you knew last week might not be valid today.
It’s important to refresh that insight constantly—especially before you go and invest a bunch of money. Bringing in your preconceived notions and getting stuck on them can put you further behind, and before you know it, your development budget has been blown on features that don’t add value for your users.
Research and discovery are essential to the success of your product. Here’s why:
Research and discovery is a core step in making the best use of your limited runway.
Anyone developing a product has a finite amount of money and time. Rather than rushing into a costly development, some research and discovery is almost always the right decision. This phase can be scaled to meet you budget-wise, but understanding the problem is key in not wasting the development budget.
It enables you to get out of the building.
As Steve Blank says, if your goal is to build market differentiation, you have to start by getting out of the building. It’s key to understanding your customers where they are and removing obstacles to your understanding of the problem. While research and discovery may be painful for you, it’s absolutely necessary.
Starting with research and discovery leads to true consumer-centricity.
Many companies think they know their customer but are way too close to their own problem to see the big picture. Having a third party involved can give you the objectivity to explore what the customer’s needs really and truly are. If you skip this step, you can prioritize the company’s needs over customers, and your product ends up focused on the company rather than the customer.
Now, all of that may sound fairly altruistic, so let’s get into the business case for research and discovery with two keys ways it is essential to your product strategy:
1. Peace of Mind/Consulting Armor
Having the research to back up your plan and provide the rest of your organization—is huge. Folks are pretty convinced they know their customer and product, but regardless of what they come up with for any key business decision, there will be people who want to question that.
You need to justify the decisions you’re making and the money you’re spending. You need to be able to say, “Yes, we have identified and quantified consumer need, and here’s what it looks like.”
People can second-guess other people. It’s much more difficult to second-guess data.
2. Bandwidth Augmentation
Many companies recognize the value of research and discovery but don’t have the time or people to make it happen. You’re not alone.
Socializing existing product features, canvassing to consumer research, building alignment inside your organization—all of these are areas where a firm like Skookum can help.
Research is hard. Crafting user surveys, conducting insightful research interviews, avoiding leading your interviewees, setting up the logistics—all of these are difficult skills to acquire. Still, you probably don’t want to hand the entire research and discovery process off to an external party. That’s why we work in close collaboration with client teams, so you’re truly part of the process and learn throughout the engagement.
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