Product Thinking: Identifying your desired outcomes

Ward Andrews
By Ward Andrews
Cover Image for Product Thinking: Identifying your desired outcomes

Product Thinking: Identifying your desired outcomes

This is one of a series of blog posts exploring what product thinking is, why it matters, and how to develop it in your organization.

You understand the power of product thinking and you’ve taken steps to identify your customers’ problems and how to help them accomplish their key jobs. How do you know when your product is successful?

The last piece of product thinking focuses on the outputs. It answers the question of what you want to achieve (your goals) and what you’re doing to achieve it (the features you intend to build).

Set your goals to measure success.

Too many projects start with a vague vision and sense of what’s trying to be achieved and no real definition of success. How can you know if you’ve gotten where you’re going if you haven’t set a destination?

A simple statement defining success can go a long way to helping everybody in the organization maintain a product thinking mindset. Agree from the outset what you’re looking for to indicate that you’ve been successful.

This could be a specific business metric like increased revenue, decreased operating expenses, or some other financial KPI. It could be a user or customer experience metric like reduced customer service calls, increased customer satisfaction, or an influx of new users. It could also be a qualitative or anecdotal sense that you’re moving in the right direction in making the lives of your customers easier.

Whatever your definition of success, set it as a team, post it on a wall, and remind everybody constantly of what you’re driving towards. Thinking in terms of product success will also help you determine the success of the features you build. Is this contributing to the overall success of the product? What do we need to see in this feature that will demonstrate that it is successful in itself?

These are core questions to answer at the beginning, middle, and end of any product development life cycle.

Determine your path to success.

If there’s one reason to focus on bringing a product thinking mindset to your projects, it’s to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. It’s great to have a big vision for the product and an overall sense of direction and what success looks like. You also need to make it all happen.

Many product teams (often unintentionally) start with great ideas for cool features and go in search of an audience for those features. That’s like buying a bunch of awesome gadgets and gear and then looking for a mountain to climb. You might make it up the mountain eventually, but you’ll likely find that your backpack was much heavier than it needed to be and half the tools you brought were useless for the type of mountain you chose to climb.

Only after you’ve determined the purpose of the product and how success will be defined do you actually choose the features that are worth building. This will save you countless hours and budget building the wrong things for the wrong people.

A product thinking mindset doesn’t ignore the importance of a well-designed feature, interface or visual design. It optimizes the effort to create all of those by targeting what has the best chance of succeeding within the context of the larger problem you’re trying to solve.

Nobody ever gets it 100% right 100% of the time. But with a product thinking approach, in balance with design thinking and a solid overall vision and business strategy, you’ll increase your chances of building the right product at the right time with the right amount of effort.

Looking for a guide? We’re here to help.

Design thinking is in our DNA. It’s what we do every day to help clients create smart, useful features and designs that add value to their products. At the same time, we never lose sight of the bigger picture. We instill product thinking in every project we tackle and we know how to guide teams big and small through the process of creating products that solve real problems for real people.

If you’re feeling a little lost in your product strategy, let’s talk about how we can help get you back on track.