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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is this problem worth solving!

A problem may not be always worth solving. While all problems have a solution it may not be a good idea to always take on problem for various reason, instead at-times it may be better to leave it for someone else to solve the problem. Problems are very tempting, but they can be deceptive too and hence a good product manager should first assess the problem before calling it an opportunity worth addressing.

A problem must pass 4 acid test before it qualifies to be considered as opportunity worth addressing.

Translating problem into opportunity

Alignment with long term Strategic goal
All problems have solution but your product is expected to solve problems that fall on it's path of long term strategic goals. Products are designed to address specific opportunity, they have their own set of priorities and a road-map that govern their direction. Check if the problem falls on the long term strategic path of the product and if not then asses if the problem benefits product by an means in achieving any short term momentum? If answers to both these questions are negative then drop the problem, else move on to next acid test.

Is ROI worth giving the extra effort
If I take on this problem what kind of solution will I be able to monetize. What is the cost to deliver such a solution, what skills set do I need to acquire or build in the team? Is this a short-lived opportunity or something that will earn me regular income over a longer duration. Business runs on profit and low ROI is as bad as NO ROI. A problem that does not offer good ROI should be dropped. So measure the potential of ROI before you decide to give in any extra effort. 

Cannibalization of sister products
All that glitters is not gold. Watch out for such glittering problems that on face value might look like a perfect opportunity but when looked at from the organization's point of view they might be creating a hole somewhere else. A wise product manager will not eat his own peers or sister products to grow, halt before someone else shows you the red light. Discuss strategic goals of both your product and sister product with it's owner to figure out a mutually beneficial way forward.  

What if I decide to let it go
All looks good, the problem meets above three criteria and is ready to be considered as next big opportunity. However, it would be wise to hold on to your horses and play a devil's advocate for some time. What If I do not take on this opportunity? What if I let it go or what is the cost of not doing this. This is the last measurement before you decide to take on or drop the problem. This one is little tricky because at times doing anything extra would usually involve trading-off with something that is already planned, so if losses (opportunity lost) are not much then why get unnecessarily busy doing something extra.

Opportunity identified should be discussed in product council (or something similar platform) and then should be added to the product backlog. Opportunities are bread and butter of the product, so be wise in choosing one as bad diet may often lead to bad health. The message is loud and clear, take problem through all 4 acid test and be sure that your product is having a healthy diet and you know and are sure if the problem is worth solving or not.


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