The One Metric Every Product Team Should Track (Yet Few Do)
Ready for a riddle? “I belong to you, but other people use me more than you do. I am finished when people buy me, but I am never completely done.” The answer: Your product. If you work in technology, you know customers expect everything you create to continually improve. They want it to grow with them, adapt to their needs, and become even more useful than when they first purchased it.
A software product is always a work in progress — incrementally built over time, evolving as people use it. Value is gained (or lost) with every feature you add.
Building a product is an ongoing cost. Everything you create tallies up. The product team is the engine behind it all — so you naturally want folks to be as productive and efficient as possible. That means delivering what customers will benefit from the most with the least effort (and the most joy for those building it).
That ongoing cost is why product managers have such a challenging yet critical role in product development. What you choose to prioritize today has a real impact on your customer’s happiness, the longevity of your product, and the future of your company. But how do you choose which features to invest in? Too many teams end up choosing wrong without even realizing it.
It is time to bring accountability to the product development process. You do that by building the right habits.
To make better decisions tomorrow, product teams need to make even better decisions today. That responsibility requires deep consideration — informed by qualitative thought and quantitative analysis. In a value-based approach to product development, your analysis should start with the very first time you evaluate an idea. Our team at Aha! does this with the product value scorecard shown below that is built into our software suite.
Idea and feature scoring has always been a part of our software. But as we began to define a new product development model that is rooted in value, we realized that our own team was missing a crucial metric. We had different scorecards for ideas and features — which meant that tracking the validity of our initial estimates from concept to production could be challenging.
The initial value estimate almost always shifts. The team learns more about what customers think and what the product team thinks it will take to deliver. This happens throughout roadmap planning and continues into development. To ensure accountability, we needed built-in checkpoints to update the value score using a consistent method.
We recently released an updated product value scorecard that carries from idea through to feature prioritization. With a single scorecard that persists throughout the product development process, the Aha! product team is now able to look at how the score changed — comparing our initial score to the end results. Being able to understand if we were right improves our ability to estimate in the future.
But what about once the functionality is delivered to customers? Did we deliver what we thought we would? How can we reconcile the scores we initially gave with the end result? We gather quantitative and qualitative data to determine a realized value score. Our product team looks at usage data for the quantitative piece. Depending on what we shipped, we might count how many people were successfully able to make it through all of the steps in a given task, track error rates, and calculate how often users are returning.
We also gather qualitative feedback from users using the in-app feedback widget that is part of our advanced idea management software. We can enable the widget in specific functionality once we release an update so users can tell us what they think. We do research and gather insights through empathy sessions where we invite a group of customers to chat with our product team. Since all of this feedback is stored in our product development software, we are able to quickly take action on what customers need most. This also closes the loop in terms of whether we achieved what we set out to and helps us better estimate value for future features.
Value-based product development drives a disciplined approach that leads to better decisions.
Habits require practice. That is why I think that measuring product value is the best way for a collective product team to improve over time. The more that you estimate, score, and measure? The more you learn. As you implement those learnings, you hone the team's collective understanding of what value is — to customers and to the business.
Value is as value does. That is why the best teams use purpose-built product development software. Does yours?