Discover more from Kathy PM
Product Opportunity and Idea templates for modern Product Managers
How do you know what to build? The answer to this question, like many others in the Product Manager world, is “it depends.” Knowing what to…
How do you know what to build? The answer to this question, like many others in the Product Manager world, is “it depends.” Knowing what to build starts with preparing to plan what to build. This sounds like pre-planning, which sucks the life out of a software delivery team, so lately I’ve been working on a few tools that help you prepare to plan without even knowing that you’re doing it. Planning is a practice that is unique to your organization’s needs, how fast your market moves, and who’s on the team doing the work. If the team doing the work understands how work is identified and prioritized, they’ll be armed with the autonomy to make decisions which helps them move faster.
These are tools that have helped my team move fast while navigating dependencies, competing priorities, and changing market and business dynamics. What I love about them is that it puts the team in the driver’s seat, maximizing communication across organizations, and focuses on understanding customer pain points and problems to be solved.
Two planning tools to live by:
The first is the Product Idea Template. It’s a document that can be used to collect ideas that need to be flushed out more at a later date. This is basically the whiteboard approach. Sometimes teams get wrapped up in the details of an idea and this can cause some level of decision paralysis. The Product Idea Template gives the team a place to write the idea down with some additional questions, and put that idea somewhere so that they can focus on it later. It gives teams permission to move forward without knowing all the answers.
The second is the Product Opportunity Template. This document is meatier, more robust. It’s used to collect data, customer conversations, problems to be solved, jobs to be done, and where to get more information. A collection of these documents can be prioritized to build a product roadmap or direction, and can be used by the delivery team to help form a project kickoff.
How I use these documents:
Don’t let your customer research sit in a notes document. Product teams that work to understand their customers are always in the field listening and talking to users, demoing ideas, researching opportunities, pain points, etc. During this time, PMs can pick up on a lot of information. Some of the information may only be useful for the team doing the research, but a lot of it is unrelated and needs to be shared with the teams that can use it for their projects. Instead of doing nothing with this valuable data, PMs can use the Product Idea Template to draft up a story and post it for another team to pick up on. This helps teams share the information learned during customer calls instead of letting it sit in a notes folder. It also helps PMs think across the organization and not just in their silos.
If the idea is something you want to dig into more, you can begin studying it with the Product Opportunity Template. I recommend approaching the problem scientifically: write down a hypothesis and try to prove yourself wrong. This method has always helped me stay curious and uncover plenty of. rocks and boulders along the way. Throughout your research, use the opportunity template to collect data, customer stories and interviews, proof points, etc. Once you have a collection of opportunity documents, you can prioritize them with your leadership team to help build a product direction (there’s a lot more that goes into product direction and road mapping, but the opportunity doc can be a useful tool for this process).
Publish these documents in your team’s document share (for example, a shared GitHub repository). Give the documents some labels or put them in corresponding folders so that teams know how to find them and use them for their product development.
Happy problem hunting!
These are just two tools I use to help collect information for planning, customer research, and product ideas. Building a product direction roadmap or prioritizing projects is another beast and these tools are just a part of what PMs can keep in their quiver. Ultimately, they help quickly articulate the problem to be solved, while gathering supporting evidence that brings key context to a team as early as possible. I store these templates in a gist because I’m always editing things, but the history is available so everyone can see how the templates evolve.