This post was written with Olivia Sharp, Kainos Product Consultant

We’re proud to say we ran our very first public product meetup last month, Let’s Talk Product, in our lovely new London office.

40 people working in and around product management joined us for an evening of talks over beers and pizza. Our theme was product discoveries – what they are, different ways of running one, and what you should definitely avoid.

The talks

Here’s a run-down of the brilliant talks from our 4 speakers, all experienced product leaders at Kainos.

Lean start-up discovery – Jayti Thakker

Jayti told us how to apply a lean methodology to discovery when there’s only a limited brief and vision from senior managers.

Learnings:

  • A kick-off is essential to define a vision and success criteria, and agree ways of working
  • The principles of lean start-up can help the team to define, refine and conclude one or more hypotheses over the course of their discovery
  • This approach can work in a discovery ‘heartbeat’ (see image) even though usually you see a lean start-up or hypothesis-driven approach at the prototyping stage of product delivery

Discovery on a live service – Chirag Agarwal

Chirag talked about how to do continuous, time-boxed discoveries on a live service based on his experience on the UK passport service.

Learnings:

  • Most services go live with their MVP and need further discoveries to make things better
  • Continuous, time-boxed discoveries allow you to meet deadlines, pass on benefits to users early and learn by failing fast
  • For each improvement, do a discovery to work out if it is something you should be doing and how you should go about it (see image)
  • If you take this approach you need a mature and established team that’s experienced in doing discoveries and understands the stakeholder landscape. You need an environment that allows you to fail and try again
  • User research recruitment can hold things up – get this working smoothly
  • Time constraints mean focus. We found 3 rounds of usability testing was enough for us to feel confident about making something live

Using discovery to understand strategic priorities for an
organisation – Dan Kemp

Dan talked us through his experience of using discovery to work out an organisation’s priorities when it has multiple strategies that could influence your product’s direction.

Learnings:

  • Use existing strategy research to build a picture of priorities
  • Stakeholder engagement is key, and sometimes needs a dedicated role when the stakeholder landscape is complex
  • Use personas and user journeys to present, visualise and validate priorities
  • Evaluate high-level technical constraints so you have a foundation for genuine transformation
  • Use a value framework to prioritise items on your roadmap
  • Make sure you have the right team!

Here be dragons! How not to run a discovery – Alison Coote

Alison talked about the typical traps to avoid during discoveries, with the help of 3 dragons.

While seemingly harmless, they have the potential to derail your discovery. How to keep your dragons away:

  • Minimise your distractions by keeping a focus on your mission
  • Think of a holistic service rather than a single product
  • Be collaborative. Discovery is a team sport and you need all sorts of skills to make it a success
  • Be conscious of your bias and test any assumptions

Next Let’s Talk Product meetups

Let’s Talk Product is all about sharing and discussing the best methods in product management to create products and services that make life better for users.

Our first event was a ‘discovery’ in how to
run a meetup. We saw lots of positive conversations and new connections being
made and got useful feedback which is helping us shape future sessions.

We’ll be running more events at our offices around the country with guest speakers from the product community.

Register for Let’s Talk Product Birmingham here.

Keep an eye on the Kainos twitter channel for news.