Varun: There are Product Managers out there who are working to bring their ideas into Products. Would you recommend any set process outline for building an MVP?
Bhavya: Before diving into the process laid out, it is necessary to understand that building a product is not a math formula. There aren’t a fixed number of steps that lay out the exact route from start to finish. Bear in mind that the complexity of your product influences the intensity and depth of your development process. Think of the process framework given above that binds together design, users, research, and analytics into the MVP development. This can, hopefully, give you some guidance and a rough idea to get your closer to finding a path that works for you. Once you reach a process that seems to work for you, dig in deeper, and try to improve that process.
Varun: Any idea starts with a Problem Identification. How did you discover the problem for Zipboard Users?
Bhavya: Every product’s end goal is to solve a problem. Whether that is a note taking app, or a marketing website for a company, both are products providing a key solution to a specific problem. A note taking app mimics or fills in the need for a journal by providing a readily available solution for storing and organizing thoughts or ideas. The marketing website solves the issue of spreading awareness about the company. It provides key information to users and makes the brand more accessible to them.
It is important to define your problem well and the full scope of it. Are you providing a platform that allows people to find the latest and coolest products? Are you making it simpler for designers and developers to share mocks? If you already have an idea for a product, isolate the problem behind that idea. It is immensely helpful to identify and articulate the problem, as clearly as possible.
For us, how we came to realize the problem was through personal experience. Our team was doing QA for remote clients and we realized the difficulty of exchanging feedback over email when talking about web projects and eLearning courses. This helped us define the problem statement for zipboard:
A tool to find an easier solution for different stakeholders — internal as well as external — to share contextual feedback and track issues and tasks at one place for software projects.
At this stage, all we wanted to do was write down and understand whether there was a clear need for the product and who it would serve. We did a collaborative session with all the stakeholders. Understood their perspectives. This gave us a better idea of the workflow and environment for the product.
In a lot of cases, entrepreneurs could be tempted to just discover the problem and run with it, but one has to be wary of that. Issues are not one-dimensional. Each stakeholder illuminates a different dimension of the issue. There may be multiple personas that your product can work for. For example, Amazon’s online store is as much a solution for online shoppers as it is for vendors wanting to sell their goods.
Varun: Is User Identification, more of a market segmentation or profiling problem? How do I assess market opportunity while keeping user focus?
Bhavya: I believe user identification should be led by the idea to define a persona that your product will serve. By looking at market segmentation before the user profile, you’re getting a high level view but not the nitty-gritties of what will actually work for your users and the product.
Since there could be different personas that can use your product, you need to identify the needs and pain points for each of them. Essentially, with user identification you get as comprehensive an idea possible about how your product will be positioned. Now you can start looking at the user journeys and where your product comes into the workflow. This will tell you about market opportunity and whether there are any overlaps that you can leverage.
Just to give an example, when we built zipboard we were started with the ideal user persona as eLearning project managers and instructional designers. But along the way we came to see that UX and eCommerce consultants could equally benefit from it, and there parallels in both processes that we can explore.
Similarly, Intercom built their product keeping in mind enterprises that wanted to make customer support more integrated and personal. What they advocate and something I strongly feel about as well, is that you have to illuminate the value for users rather than a feature. Market opportunity focuses on features, which is creates a “me-me-me” narrative of your product rather than how it can help the user.
A good way to explore market opportunity, instead, is to speak with early adopters or users who match the profile of your persona. Interact and validate your product with them. Once you understand their workflow
Varun: What is the most common mistake in defining a Product?
Bhavya: Too often there is a tendency to fall in love with the solution and deviate from the problem. Don’t let that happen.
Discuss the feasibility of solutions. But, it is important to remember that nothing is set in stone in the initial stages. You could have a dream solution that is just not feasible with the resources and technology at your disposal. Or it’s possible that what your internal stakeholders suggest is not the most intuitive solution for your end user. At the product defining stage, it is necessary to not lose sight of the problem statement.
Varun: Do Wireframing and Prototyping practices remain same irrespective of any SAAS product types?
Bhavya: It is definitely important to create an early stage mock of your product so that you can collect feedback at the beginning before you get into the actual implementation. By creating wireframes or a prototype, you’re able to create some kind of concrete deliverable that you can show to stakeholders for early discussions.
Of course, depending on the kind of SaaS product, there will be some variation to how the wireframes and prototypes are created. But, for the most, try to avoid any bells and whistles when you create the basic mocks. All you’re doing is visualizing the basic solution and its functionalities.
Varun: Any mantra for foolproof MVP validation for B2B SAAS?
Bhavya: While building products there is nothing really foolproof, but one thing that can go a long way is feedback. In B2B specially, its important to take your customers seriously and build with them. Get your customers or potential customers involved early on. Validating with users is the most important phase. This is needed not just when starting out but after each and every design iteration.
Bhavya is the founder of zipBoard. She has worked on multiple aspects of building a SAAS product from scratch. She drives the growth and development of zipBoard and leads a small team to deliver a robust and innovative collaboration solution for web developers and designers. She is also the co-organizer for Product Tank Delhi.