Values are powerful. They reflect what is important to us and they define who we are, the decisions we make and, most importantly, they drive our future. Understanding our values and the things that are truly important to us helps keep balance in our lives. Generally, if we do something that does not fit with our values then we feel uncomfortable, unhappy or stressed. When we lose touch with them, we lose direction. But when we follow them, we feel we are on the right path.
Alina Ghiarasim, Lead Business Analyst, Endava
Alina will be speaking at the virtual Business Analysis Conference Europe 21-23 September 2020 on the subject, ‘Leverage UX Techniques for Agile Business Analysis‘
This article was previously published here.
Product Principles are for products what core values are for individuals. They reflect the values around which a product is built. While the product vision paints an ambitious future state and the product strategy provides the roadmap to get there, the product principles help us decide what is important to be considered along the way.
Product principles are the fundamental values that support and justify all the actions and decisions with regards to the product.
They can be seen and used in different ways, and here are some views that I find most relevant.
A framework for decision making
Product Principles are a big part of the product’s unique identity and leadership. They are a set of beliefs and intentions that provide direction and guidance to the team.
For sure lots of teams can recall difficult decisions that they had to make where the right answer was not straightforward from the product vision only. The gap between the strategic objectives and operational activities is filled in the by the product principles. Everyday product teams take a lot of decisions — some of them are small, some of them are more critical and have a big impact. In time teams observe patterns and ways of doing things when they take good decisions, but also when they take bad decisions. So, they learn what they do well and what they don’t do well. All this learning is the emerging point of product principles whichbecome embedded in the way product teams work.
Questions like “should we implement this new capability?”, “should we consider a new customer segment?”, “what should be our next priority?”, “how do we measure the benefits of a feature?”, “should we stop working on this?” can be more easily answered if principles are kept in mind.
For example, if one of the principles is to never compromise on the quality of the product, then any action not satisfying this standard is easily eliminated.
Product principles need to be specific enough that we can measure decisions and results against them. They are a tool to create alignment and a common vocabulary that result in faster decisions and quality outcomes.
A market differentiator
Principles are authentic only if they have an active influence and if the product and product team live by them, at least most of the time.
In some cases, the principles are simply a tool for the product teams. But, in other cases, the principles could be public and serve as a clear statement of what the product is promoting — for users, customers and partners.
Principles educate the customers about the identity of the product. Especially in this competitive world, having a set of specific principles that speak to the public could be a market differentiator. They can become a tool for winning and retaining customers when the product holds the values that clients are looking for.
An inspirational manifesto
Product principles need to be connected with the product teams at an emotional level. They should get them excited and motivated that they are doing the right thing for the product and for the world. They should be an internal reference for what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable in the product that teams are building. Great product principles drive the teams’ mindset from “just doing work” to “adding value and creating something extraordinary”.
When we immerse in the daily work it’s easy to get lost in delivery and forget what we’re actually trying to achieve, but product principles could act as an emotional liaison among the team members keeping them united and giving them a sense of accomplishment of something that truly matters.
Here are a few principles that emerged from the lessons we learned when working on a specific product. In this case it was critical to change the mindset of the team to challenge more the status quo and always try to innovate, so product principles focused a lot on these aspects. Defining the principles helped us break wrong thinking patterns, focus on the right questions and always take the best decisions for the good of the product.
Principle: Promote good user habits
- Have we considered what behavior this will drive on to the user?
- How did we improve the user’s experience?
- We are not afraid to challenge/change a current behavior to a better one
- We know it’s not ideal, but this is how it works right now
Principle: Less is more
- Do we really need this (task)? How can we achieve this (task) with less?
- Can we achieve the goal without manual work?
- Can we buy instead of build?
- We should not need a training manual to be able to do this!
- I just need another button, just another checkbox, just another upload!
Principle: Own it, love it!
- We know how the product works, why it works like this and how to best use it
- We will protect the product (from complications, conflicting features, etc.)
- How does our product impact (help) the real world?
- We don’t know what this is or why we are doing this or how this will be used or what benefit it brings
To sum it up…
When product teams are struggling with endless discussions, difficult decisions or disconnected ways of working, they need to pause and remind themselves what are the principles they should be thinking and working by. Because principles enable decisions and decisions drive success. And this is what product principles are all about — product success.
Alina is a Lead Business Analyst with 15 years of experience in the IT field. She has extensive experience in agile software delivery, digital transformation, pre-sales activities and end-to-end product life cycle. She has run the Business Analysis discipline in Endava Iasi location aiming to grow analysis skills within the department and she is also a mentor teaching and supporting professionals who wish to change their careers to the BA field. She is involved in the local product and design communities evangelizing the importance of investing in analysis skills to increase project success rate.
Copyright Alina Ghiarasim, Lead Business Analyst, Endava