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User Research

Why leveraging research in product development matters

Pros and cons of using agile methodologies

The publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 had a significant impact on the tech industry. The goal behind this product development process is to deliver value to customers and stakeholders quickly and continuously. However, it can be challenging to make good decisions when working in an agile environment, especially when faced with limited time and resources.

This Agile mindset of what Mark Zuckerberg once popularized in the term “move fast and break things” can result in a „build trap,“ a term coined by Melissa Perri 2018*. In this case, there is a predominant focus on delivering features rather than value to the customer. But since our goal is to create a product that meets the needs of the customer, data-driven decisions are important. The team should therefore implement the benefits of the agile methodologies, such as collaboration and autonomy, into their process. By incorporating research and understanding the user’s underlying problem they can mitigate two risks: a lack of comprehensive planning and design, and the need for rework down the line.

Thinking before building – prioritizing research

Most Product Managers have found themselves in a position in which they are pushed into delivering detailed product roadmaps. Management also demands a commitment to specific features being built without giving their teams the chance to explore the user’s problem thoroughly. Rushing through the creation of a roadmap can lead the product decisions to not be based on fact, but on best guesses. Having an established user research foundation will provide you with insights that you can use to support your product strategy and help you avoid getting top-down roadmap decisions from management.

5 tips on how to improve your product development process

Here’s what you can do if you find yourself struggling with establishing a productive product development process:

  1. Advocate for user research: Emphasize the importance of understanding the user’s needs and problems before building the product. This can help the team make informed decisions about what features to build and prioritize.
  2. Communicate the benefits: Explain to management how user research, design thinking, and thorough planning can lead to a more successful product, with fewer inefficiencies and rework in the long run.
  3. Lead by example: Show the team how to prioritize features based on business value and user needs by using insights from user research and design thinking.
  4. Encourage collaboration: Foster an environment where the team feels comfortable sharing their ideas and having open and honest discussions about what features to build and why.
  5. Keep the focus on outcomes: Regularly check in with the team to ensure that they are focused on delivering outcomes rather than just outputs. This will help keep the team on track and prevent scope creep.
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Let’s create agile environments with room for experimentation

What is the working environment in which these processes can evolve? For teams to strive for a product that balances business needs with solving user problems, it is helpful to make research a regular part of your development process, and set aside time and resources for it. Giving the opportunity and space to experiment, learn and explore the user’s problems is a catalyst for a positive product process.

And we as product managers should use the versatility of our skills here purposefully so that the end result is a happy team, satisfied users, and a successful product. Providing orientation to the team, making sure that the strategy is aligned with the overall goals and vision. Without a framework to guide them in their decision-making process, it is more likely for them to feel disoriented. In order to make it a meaningful project for everyone involved, it is worth investing time in user research and problem exploration.


Reading tip:

*Melissa Perri’s “The Build Trap”

I based this blog on the learnings I had after reading this book. I have worked on a few projects in which the organizations are stuck in a “build trap” mindset and it made me think about ways that one as an individual that is not in a management position can start changing the direction and team mindset to steer the development process in the right direction.

A blogpost by our Product Guy Juan


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