How to Influence the Business by David J Bland
In this keynote from #mtpcon San Francisco, Precoil founder David J Bland offers some helpful tips on how product managers can influence the business and run more effective experiments.
David talks about products that people loved and that have now disappeared from the shelves. He gives the example of Clearly Canadian, a popular flavored sparkling water, widely available in the 90s, which now is nowhere to be found. Why did it fail? David shares three key product themes and the questions that the themes aim to answer which have an impact on product failure or success.
Product managers should evaluate if their products are:
- Desirable – Do they?
- Viable – Should we?
- Feasible – Can we?
With strong evidence and appropriate feedback, product managers can help to solve product problems by validating the assumptions of desirability, viability, and feasibility.
Two Models of Thinking: Product and Business
People often think you have look at your product from either a product-centric or a business-model lens. David poses the question: Why not both?
Viewing your business from a product-centric lens, the product is at the center of everything. You first evaluate the desirability, viability, and feasibility of the product. The product then sits as a part of a business model, which flows further into the overall context of organization. Each of these three elements serves an important purpose, but by looking at strategy from only a product-centric view, you are unlikely to be able to make an impact on the larger business.
From the business-centric lens, tools like the Business Model Canvas template start from the view of the organization as a whole. The product is simply a resource in service of the business model. Looking at strategy from this view can be useful to understand the bigger context, but it is typically built on a system of assumptions that may not be realistic.
A Better way
David explains that “when overlaying the framework of the product-centric themes (desirable, viable, and feasible) on top of the business model canvas, only then you can use product thinking to look holistically at the business model”.
In this blended product and business model framework:
- What is desirability? It is your value proposition, customer segments, channels and relationships.
- What is viability? It is your revenue stream and cost structure.
- What is feasibility? This is all about the infrastructure. Technical, regulatory, and patents.
After identifying your assumptions your next step should be how to experiment.
Experiment Loop – Start with Learn
The problem with the typical build, measure, and learn experiment loop is that product managers start with build and iterate the loop process as fast as possible. Why is this a big mistake?
“It is more powerful to start with learn,” explains David. You should learn well first, then build a product on those learnings. Next, measure the build from qualitative and quantitative results. This revised loop process allows the product manager to understand what people are actually doing.
How can desirability, viability, and feasibility be tested?
Four Experiment Tips
Each experiment is measured against cost, time, and strength. While there are many ways to experiment, David highlighted four methods that could be used.
- Partner Interviews – In a B2B context, test for viability and feasibility by listening and talking directly with your partners.
- Letter of Intent – With a non-binding legal document, all three themes are tested. This experiment starts the process of clarifying and qualifying verbal business meetings.
- Pop-Up Store – More evidence can be generated with all themes tested. This run may answer assumptions about whether customers would be willing to pre-purchase or allow the business to explore an unknown distribution channel.
- Wizard of Oz – With all themes tested, this is a favorite type of unbiased experiment. It provides relatively strong evidence due to its nature of a specific customer experience that delivers value manually with people in lieu of technology alone.
In closing, to keep your favorite products on the shelves, product managers can influence the business with blended product thinking frameworks and running lean experiments.
David’s book, Testing Business Ideas, is available here.