Bring Value to Existing Products with Continuous Discovery

Techniques for bringing continuous discovery into your products

Including Continuous Discovery in development sprints can greatly improve your existing products. 

After all, if your initial Product Discovery process answered the question “what are we building?” at the onset of the project, then Continuous Discovery should represent the opportunity to evolve your answer. It’s refinement based on experience. Action based on knowledge. Changes to address real world customers feedback or shifting market conditions.

Continuous Discovery acknowledges: it’s not enough to ship a product or service today, and move on to another assignment tomorrow. Instead, you must continue to attack the goal you set out to solve with your product in the first place, making significant enhancements such as new features and modifications to existing features wherever they make sense. 

Here’s a real-world example: recently, our team deployed an updated feature to a biopharmaceutical client’s mobile application. Where previously users could search for a fellow employee’s contact information through the app, now through our update those users can download the employee contact to their iOS or Android contacts for ongoing use. While it might seem like a simple, intuitive little feature that makes life just a bit easier for employees on the go, the reality is that we wouldn’t have deployed this change, unless we’d taken the time to listen to our users, and to see which problems they wanted solved. 

Below are a few techniques that you too can use to bring continuous discovery into your products: 

Involve your Customers 

Customers are complex. Their needs and wants are not simple, nor always rational. Customers tend to think with their hearts as well as their heads. They can be demanding and irrational, doing things that make no sense to you or the company. 

But they can also be creative in ways that surprise you, especially if you listen to what they want. Customer insights can bring new value to your product in ways you never expected, or shed light on new use cases for your products that you never considered. 

Continuous Discovery is how to give customers a voice in your product evolution. It’s how to build the products they need.

Gather Data

Of course, major decisions about product roadmaps should never be made in a vacuum. Arm yourself with data about your users, their preferences and their usage. Study the analytics and other reporting that tells you how users flow through your products. 

And then, gather feedback from a broad swathe of users. Engaging with customers and gathering feedback for discovery can be conducted via surveys, moderated interview sessions and discovery workshops. 

While surveys are an important, basic tool in the UX designer’s toolbox, they don’t have to be the only one. Another even more effective way to consider engaging with your user base is via workshops. 

Workshops inspire curiosity, empathy and teamwork between brand and user, and are a great way to go beyond measuring the baseline. A well executed workshop changes the dynamic between customer and company, moving your users from passive to interactive, aware to invested. They provide a forum for open dialogue that makes it easier for design teams to understand product problems, and the changes that could better meet people’s needs. 

Hold Stakeholder Workshops to Gain Leadership Buy-In

Client suggestions are wonderful, but they’ll never be implemented without the approval of product leaders and other stakeholders. So how do you get stakeholders involved meaningfully in the continuous discovery process? 

Consider a stakeholder workshop.

A valuable part of any stakeholder workshop is to bring the real-world problems discovered from your customer discovery process back into the organization for review and discussion. There are different ways of parsing through the client feedback, and one way that has worked well in my experience is to bucket the suggested product improvements into the following three categories, and then discuss the pros and cons of each.

  1. Deliberate Enhancements make known changes to improve the already-used features of an  existing product, to add value and provide stickiness or loyalty with the product.
  2. Frequency Enhancements introduce more features into the product, or expose features that the customer might not be using.
  3. Adoption Enhancements  are the addition of new features that customers do not use at all today, but that could bring in new users or provide value down the road. 

I have found that this bucketing and discussion approach can be applied to any industry or at any stage of product design. 

Make Time for Continuous Discovery With Your Team

With so much focus on opinions of end users, and the stakeholders that can greenlight your project, it would be easy to forget to seek and manage the opinions of the team members who work on the product in question. 

But that would be a mistake. Some of the best ideas come from team members; they’re deeply involved and invested in the product and its long term success.

To enroll your team in the continuous discovery process, they must have a regular and comfortable time set aside  to ask questions and listen to answers. 

This is not just a chance for product owners or stakeholders to lecture on their vision. It should be an opportunity for team members at all levels of experience and seniority to raise concerns about what’s being done, how it’s being done, why it’s worthwhile and whether there is a better way. 

At the core of Continuous Discovery is a commitment to 360 degree communication. If you involve customers, stakeholders and product teammates alike in a continuous process of open dialogue and product feedback for discovery, not only will your products benefit, so too will your shared vision for the future of the brand.