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The most important concepts in product work

If you work in a product organisation, there are some concepts that you need to consider at all times. These are often shared, in the form of responsibilities, between different roles. You can use these to help define:

Purpose

An organisation should have a purpose. It's the "why", not the "what", and it should inform what you create - what value you add to the world. At a high level, a vision or mission statement for a company should act as a flag in the sand that the whole company can move towards. This purpose should help you make broad product decisions. At a low level, the purpose of a feature or change should help you decide how to deliver it.

Shared understanding

Product work is almost always a group effort. If people in the group don't understand the reason for the work, or are not committed to it, work slows or goes in the wrong direction. It's very important that any group which works together has a shared understanding. Everyone in the group should understand the same things, and be committed to them, even if they don't agree.

Needs

It's important to understand the needs of stakeholders. Stakeholders include the people you work for, the people who will use your product, the people who invest in your business, the general public, and many others. All of those people have needs, and if you do not meet them with your work, it can cause problems. It's very important to understand the needs of everyone who has a stake in the work, even if it's so you can safely dismiss them.

Value

If your work is worth something to someone, it has value. If someone can see the value of your work, they're more likely to want it. If you create value, and make it clear to the people you're trying to deliver it to, you are more likely to be successful.

Viability

This is specifically business viability. Is it viable to create the value you want to create, for the organisation? For example, if a company has £10,000, and they want to create something which costs £1,000,000, it is not viable. Even if an idea is good, it might not be viable, and should not be delivered.

Feasibility

Is it technically feasible for the organisation to build and deliver the idea? For example, there are lots of good ideas that rely on very advanced artificial intelligence. The organisation might not have the expertise, or the computing power might not exist yet to make that idea a reality. It is unfeasible.

Usability

Once you've delivered an idea, can people figure out how to use it? Is it too difficult to understand, or does it not work in the way people think it will? These are usability issues, and even a good idea can be ruined if people cannot use it.

Eliminating risk

The four previous concepts (Value, Viability, Feasibility, and Usability) all represent a risk that the product organisation needs to eliminate in order to be successful. A product manager, for example, needs to make sure that the product is valuable, viable, feasible, and usable. This makes up the majority of their responsibility.

Inclusion

This concept includes Accessibility. Inclusion means you take into account the views and needs of people who tend to be under-represented. This includes minorities, the oppressed, people with disabilities, and anyone else conveniently forgotten by society. Does your product work for people in this position? Does it harm them in some way? Does it unfairly exclude them?

Beauty

When an interface is visual, the concept of beauty is important. It's easy to assume that it isn't, but beauty has been shown to make the perceived value of a product higher. People respond to beauty, and any product person would be wrong to ignore it, even if they eventually decide to dismiss it. There are many successful products that do not put effort into beauty.

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