Product managers are called upon to accomplish many tasks at different points in a product life cycle. One which can be important and potentially even a game changer is to develop a proof of concept for a product and then test the idea out. I’ll provide an example.
In one case, my division wanted us to explore a potential product concept for a hot business area — the Internet of Things (IoT). The first challenge was to look at the market and see if there was’s a value proposition that made sense for the company. My company was well known for being able to integrate hardware and software, so a product that built on that approach potentially offered both a technical and business fit. Next came study of the market and examining the current players. In the IoT space, it’s somewhat crowded, but various companies like Intel offer starting points in the form of toolkits, white papers and architectures, and there are several industry organizations that also offer guidance to would-be participants. Based on those resources and other investigations, we developed a product “Proof of Concept” presentation. It addressed the product concept, identified where our company added value and a contained a series of questions for potential partners / customers.
The next step was to test it out. Our division put the word out to our sales team that we had a product concept we’d like to review with potential prospects. When a couple of candidates were identified, we set up calls. We shared the product concept in the form of a presentation and used it to discuss three main areas with the prospects:
1) What did they think of our concept?
2) What had their experiences been with similar products?
3) Could they share any pain points?
The results were interesting. The prospects were intrigued by the concepts, but immediately began to compare them with existing products. That quickly led to the third phase, a discussion of pain points. All of this discussion provided helpful clues on where the markets were being well served and where there might be openings for new products. By meeting with multiple prospects, we got diverse perspectives and also heard some common themes. The testing confirmed the product concept had potential and could be the basis for further explorations and refinement if the company chose to take those next steps.
In summary, one way to test the viability of a product concept is to create a “proof of concept,” which may be as simple as a presentation or at the next level, a more complete working model. Then, it’s important to test the concept and how well it meets the needs of potential customers, before making the larger investments needed to bring a final version of the product to market.
Has your company seen similar challenges in considering new product offerings? What approaches were taken to test the new product concepts? Please feel free to offer comments on your experiences. Or, reach out to me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/james-rafferty-ma to discuss needs for similar projects.