May 11

Simon Cast, ProdPad: Considering Context in Your Product

When you think critically about product management you start to notice how there are many products that are actually solutions looking for a problem. The Segway springs to my mind, and perhaps you can think of some others. Some of these ‘solutions’ will find a niche, but more often they will fail, at a huge cost in terms of both resources and time.
Before you begin to build your product it’s crucial that you, as a product manager, think about context. If you want to avoid product failure you need to ask yourself:
  • What problem are you solving?
  • Is this problem worth solving
  • Is the time right? Is there sufficient market demand to justify this development?
  • Can it be done at the right price?
These are fundamental questions that underpin all of good product management practice, and good product managers will lead the charge in getting the organisation answering those questions. You absolutely do not need to provide the answers yourself.
When you’re thinking about problems you need to understand that they don’t exist in isolation. They exist within an environment and before going further, you need to understand that environment. This is the context in which the problem exists. It’s important to think critically about the context of the problem, and you might find these questions a good starting point:
  • Where does the problem occur?
  • When does it occur?
  • Who does it occur for?
The context not only helps us to better understand the problem but also forms the basis of items like personas and starts to set constraints on what the solutions are going to look like.
For instance, it wouldn’t make sense to build an app that requires a credit card when the people with the problem that you are solving with the app don’t even have bank accounts.
Understanding the problem and the context of the problem are good first steps in good Product Management practice. From here you need to look into how your manage the cycle, backlog and roadmap.
Simon will cover more on this in the keynote on Wednesday so join us then – and don’t forget to pick up one of our Handy Guides for Product People! If you can’t wait head over to the ProdPad blog to read useful product management tips, tricks and articles on best practice.

Author: Simon Cast, ProdPad