The discovery phase of the product development cycle is the stage where customer problems or goals are uncovered and solutions to those problems are validated. Since it’s cheaper to test concepts than it is to develop them, this phase should be done before a solution is implemented.
In Marty Cagan’s book Inspired, he identifies 4 key risks that the discovery phase should aim to mitigate:
- Value risk – whether customers will buy product or users will choose to use it
- Usability risk – whether users can figure out how to use product
- **Feasibility risk **– whether engineers can build what is needed with the time, skills and technology available
- Business viability risk – whether this solution also works for the various aspects of the business
If a solution isn’t valuable, usable, feasible and viable then the ideation cycle should continue until it is.
Gathering customer data and information is critical during the discovery phase. This can be accomplished through passive or active efforts including:
- Product analytics
- In-app surveys
- Feedback forms
- Targeted surveys
- Customer interviews
Combining qualitative and quantitative research produces optimal results. What might not be clear with product analytics alone might paint a clearer picture when combined with customer interviews.
Customer interviews can be used to validate a concept or a design. Concept validation is the first step in the discovery phase. It requires understanding the customer’s problem (aka “use case” or “story”). Many organizations will skip this step and jump straight to designing solutions they assume customer’s want.
In Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christensen developed the Jobs To Be Done framework which gets to the root of why and whether customers will use a particular product. The idea is that when we buy a product, we are hiring it to get a particular job done in our life. Understanding what jobs customers are looking to hire your product for is an essential part of concept validation.
Design validation is done after concept validation. Other terms for design validation include “UX interview”, “user testing” or “UI testing”. These are formal processes where the designer tests the usability of a specific design-flow with users.
Some other methods that help agile product teams with product discovery include:
- Opportunity solution trees
- NPS surveys
- User journey mapping