Kerry Start-Up 101: Do you know how your product is being used?

Knowing how your product is (actually) used by consumers is useful information and is often not as obvious and straightforward as you may think. Having this consumer usage information can lead to opportunities for significant cost saving and product evolution.

For our purposes, a consumer = any entity using your product (human, API etc.).

It’s important to understand how your product is being used so that your teams resources can be directed towards the most important aspects of your product, i.e. don’t send your team on a mission to make/maintain a seldom used feature perfect when your most important consumer-critical features/improvements languish in the backlog.

So how do you know how your product is actually being used? Here are a few tips:

Don’t Believe Only What You Hear

Talking to human consumers will yield many valuable insights, but remember they may not give you the full story. Accessing the right people can be difficult, even if you get access, people are subjective and, well… human!

Mistakes and assumptions are made, sentiment and mood all play a part, and therefore inaccuracies are inevitable. Objectivity is required to determine actual usage patterns, and this is where rudimentary data capture can help you (and provide a very useful entry level data science upskilling opportunity for your organisation).

Data Capture Architecture

Think about designing your product to capture key data pertaining to real-world consumer behaviour. As a stakeholder you should be able to analyse this data easily to determine, for example, the most common consumer journeys, the number of times a particular event happened, the consumer time spent performing the task, etc. Ideally, this data capture should be scoped out and defined at the start of the design process to ensure the product architecture supports it natively. If it’s done properly, building in even a limited number of valuable data capture points at the early product design stage should mean that your product data capture capability is extensible and therefore more data capture requirements can be easily accommodated as they present themselves.

Actionable Metrics

Once you have the data (and please ensure that your enterprise data hub is correctly architected for future scale and also that your data is well formatted and “clean”), you must evaluate the data and take appropriate executive action. This business-level decision-making process is far simpler when supported by objective data. A question on whether a feature has reached “end-of-life” may be based on the material lack of consumer usage and not someone’s opinion that it has.

Building rudimentary data-capture and analysis capabilities into your product will help you understand product usage patterns and will enable smart executive decision making.

A very common real-world example of how this approach to consumer usage–based prioritisation can add value is as follows:

  • A consumer of your product can achieve the same desired outcome via multiple paths through the application, but the path to achieve this outcome that your team is testing could be the path most rarely used—leaving the most commonly used path completely untested. This is not good.

Summary

Appropriate data capture and analysis can help to objectively identify the important consumer-centric aspects of the product and enable intelligent business decisions based on facts and evidence. Your team will also thank you (a lot!) for telling them where they need focus their efforts…

An important indirect benefit of a project such as this is the up-skilling opportunity it presents for your development organisation to deliver a non-(production-)critical data–focussed project that will break the ice in terms of your organisation’s data-monetisation journey—a journey that I assume/hope you are on!