Building Great Products the Lean Startup Way

Building Great Products the Lean Startup Way with Dan Olsen, Interim VP Product Management, Product Management Consultant, Olsen Solutions

by Tejaswini Ravindra

November 2013 Event

Dan Olsen did a very informative presentation on how to apply Lean Startup principles and cover best practices in understanding customer needs, prioritization, UX design, user testing, and analytics that can be used to optimize your product.

A good product manager’s approach should equate to a product ninja: Self-sufficient and have a wide array of skills.

Key takeaways:

  1. Achieving product-market fit requires:
    1. Meeting customer needs; better than the alternatives
    2. Ease of use
    3. Having a good value/price point

Dan focused this discussion on how to build a product that meets customer needs and is better than other alternatives.

  1. Here’s the cheat sheet to being a lean product ninja:
    1. Understand the problem space to identify underserved customer needs
    2. Define your value proposition
    3. Create wireframes/mockups
    4. Get user feedback
    5. Revise your feature set, UI design and messaging to improve product-market fit.
    6. Launch, learn & iterate

A good way to get started on product market fit is to define a “problem space” and a “solution space”. A problem space identifies a very specific customer need that is currently not being met or being met in a way that needs improvement. Subsequently, the solution space defines a specific implementation to address this need and will generate a product requirement. To further hone in on the right solution, map out importance of the customer need to current user satisfaction to how the need is being met. A customer need that is not important or if important is being met in a satisfactory manner, is not worth going after.

A situation where customer need which is high in importance and the current solutions are less than satisfactory is an indicator of an opportunity for your product.  Map out the benefits your product can offer versus what your competitor’s in a matrix to get a clear grasp of opportunity areas.  This will lead to a clear and concise value proposition.

The next step is to test out your hypothesis. This is an extremely important phase as your learnings from these tests will shape the final product requirements and hence determine your true product-market fit.  Dan pointed out various approaches to gathering user feedback. Tools such as Balsamiq, Invision etc. are very handy for product managers to quickly create wireframes and prototypes to gather feedback and learn quickly so as to iterate on the feature set. It’s important to NOT confuse usability with product-market fit.  Users react to:

  1. Feature set
  2. UI design
  3. Messaging

Therefore it’s important to ensure that feedback you are collecting is framed in a manner that gives you maximum opportunity to learn about how your feature set is satisfying the underlying customer need. If these tests are conducted too early eg: when messaging is not quite ready, users may end up focusing on something entirely different and the underlying need will not get discussed.

Finally, make sure that you define the metrics that you will use to evaluate product-market fit. For each metric, know the current value of the metric and understand which metrics have the highest Return on Investment or Improvement potential.  For more details, Dan’s slides and a recording of his talk can be found at

Tejaswini is a product manager with a background in building products in internet, e-commerce and mobile applications. She has worked at eBay , IBM & smaller to medium sized companies in various roles ranging from engineering to product management & strategy. Currently she consults on product management and is very interested in multichannel commerce applications and mobile payments.

#CX #UX #Lean #Metrics #Project_Mgmt #Startups #Entrepreneurship #Market_Analysis #Ideation #Design #Development #Roadmap #Growth