You know something is a problem, but you have a product or solution to solve it, so you are all set, right? I am going to boldly say that you are wrong. You need to do your due diligence to validate problem statements with reporting and research.
In this guide, we will cover how to do your own research as well as how to use research that is out there so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
"Validating" and "research" are the two most important words in this guide. You need to ensure that the problem you are looking at is valid and that you researched to ensure it is valid. Doing this work on the front end is going to save a lot of time and money in the long run, especially if it turns out the problem isn’t valid.
Why? Because if the problem is not valid (aka not actually a problem), then you could build an entire product or solution to solve a problem that no one has. If no one has the problem, then no one needs the product and no one buys the product and the company doesn’t make money. It’s not a good situation.
Your research plan should include:
Stakeholder (internal) research
Quantitative customer research
Qualitative customer research
External general research
I recommend reading my guide Conducting Effective Surveys, which will help you better understand how to make sure your surveys are effective and you gain the correct insights out of them.
From these various forms of research, you need to create reporting. This reporting is important for you, but it is also extremely important for your various stakeholders, especially executives who are making the decision on whether to move forward with a product.
The reporting can (and should) be very simple for quantitative data. If you are using research and asking people if something is a problem and the answer is yes or no, that is simple to report and provides clear data on whether there is a problem that needs to be solved. The same concept applies to external research data: keep it simple and to the point.
Qualitative research is a little harder to create reporting around because there are no set numbers or data. You are gathering information that is based on opinion. However, it is important to include and highlight quotes you feel support your quantitative research. For example, say you are trying to validate whether a consumer needs more storage in their computer, and your research shows that 95% of consumers are "happy with the amount of storage their computer has" and you have a quote from a consumer saying they have so much storage they don’t know what to do with it. Something that like could be included in your report as it would further prove your finding that storage is not a problem. It’s taking basic facts and supporting them with evidence to prove (or disprove) that something is a problem.
This back-end work is the work that most people do not see, but as we have discussed, it is extremely important for your product launches and strategy. The rest of the company only sees the work you do after this work has been done.
From the reporting that you create, you should put together business cases that will eventually help customers understand how this solves their problem (which you have validated) as well as internal information that clearly explains the market potential. Understanding the market potential will clearly show the ROI to an executive who is making the decision to invest in something. All of these things should be compiled in an easy-to-present and easy-to-interpret PowerPoint deck. Do not take your mountains of spreadsheets and piles of research to conversations with decision-makers. Instead, make sure you compile the results in a clear and concise way.
Executives that are making decisions on strategy and investment appreciate when you do this work for them. You have researched using both external and internal data to propose a solution to a problem or determine there is no problem at all. If you start to get complicated and wishy-washy on the data, then it becomes much harder to solve problems. Here are the five steps to ensure you get the outcome you want:
Do the research
Compile the research
Interpret the research
Present the research
Make a clear recommendation based on the research
Validating problems and using reporting and research to understand these problems is a very important part of what you do as a product manager. I understand that for many, the most fun and exciting part of the job is coming up with solutions and bringing them to market. However, this behind-the-scenes work is integral for you to fully understand the problem so you can bring the best product and solution to market.
I recommend that you review my Executive Briefing in Product Management course. It will allow you to understand what the executive team expects of you as a product manager and help you get through the validation process.