Your Quick Guide to Timeboxed and Continuous Product Discovery

Creating new products, launching them, and seeing the profound impact they have on users’ lives is one of the most rewarding experiences in business. That’s probably why you’re in this game.

When practiced correctly, product discovery maximizes the chances of achieving product success

Roman Pinchler

However, too many organizations have flawed product discovery processes, resulting in sub-optimal revenue and disappointed customers.

Effective, continuous product discovery is key to business success. So let’s take a look at how this process should work.

Here is an overview of what activities are included in continuous product discovery and how time-boxed product discovery differs from continuous product discovery.

What is product discovery?

Product discovery helps decide whether a product or feature is worth developing and bringing to market, and if so, why.

In a broader sense, continuous product development covers a whole range of activities and agile ceremonies (daily standup, estimation sprint review or retrospectives, etc.) aimed at developing a brand-new product or when you planning bigger changes to an existing one. It is a vital tool for companies that want to meet real consumer needs using the agile framework.

Time management is a goal-oriented time management strategy that helps to increase productivity by meeting deadlines and reducing procrastination. A “time box” is assigned a goal, i.e. that a product team should complete a given task within a certain time.

The product discovery process, therefore, enables an organization to

  • solving customers’ problems,
  • create a product that meets those solutions,
  • achieve product success by bringing to market something that consumers need.

When you first start product discovery, be sure the product team asks the following questions, as these will provide a framework for the more detailed processes of ongoing product discovery.

Ask these questions before you start the continuous product discovery process

  • The product development process identifies the market segment. It also provides in-depth knowledge of prospective customers. Who is the customer?
  • The product must work as a solution to a specific problem or achieve a goal. What value does the customer get from the product?
  • The product must stand out from the competition. How does the product compete with existing, similar solutions?
  • Successful organizations not only create valuable products but also have a longer-term mission. Their main goal may be to generate revenue with their product, but it may also be to increase brand awareness in the market. How does the product fit into the larger business objectives?
  • In today’s marketplace, ethical considerations are vital to a product’s reputation. Can your product have an impact on society or the climate?
  • Production and marketing channels, costing and revenue streams play a vital role in product development. What is the marketing and business model of the product? Do you have a product strategy?
  • Identifying and optimizing how people will use the product is essential to its success. What will the user journey of the product be like?
  • Before designing the architecture, consider all the technologies that are available. How will you design the product architecture?

Product discovery frameworks

There are two main types in agile methodology for product discovery: timeboxed product discovery, and continuous product discovery.

Timeboxed product discovery

Time-boxed product discovery is a strategy to use when you want to launch new products or make significant changes to an existing product. When it comes to innovating and redesigning products at the highest level, it is extremely difficult to estimate how much work this will require. Timeboxing the process will ensure that development doesn’t spiral out of control into a resource-draining process.

Time-boxed product discovery requires the right team. Therefore, it makes sense to involve stakeholders, representatives of the development team, and a Product Owner and/or Product Manager.

A suggestion to consider: if product discovery and product delivery are carried out by the same cross-functional team, it is likely to increase internal motivation, individual responsibility and prevent knowledge silos from forming within the organisation.

Make sure to bring all the relevant knowledge into the room. A facilitator such as an Agile Coach or a Scrum Master can then guide the process. Their role is key, as they can ensure that everyone of the product team is listened to and that the best ideas get to the top.

What is the point of a time limit in the product discovery process?

Time-boxed product discovery is one of the ways to avoid the rabbit hole of innovation and getting lost in the details of the process.

Consequently, the primary objectives are:

  • validate the product strategy and business model,
  • establish a practical and feasible product roadmap,
  • identify the product details needed,
  • enable the development of design concepts and the prototyping of product architecture.

As a result, the creativity of the developers, the responsibility of the stakeholders and the product goals of the Product Owner come together in a time-constrained process and collide different proposals, so that everyone knows the arguments and can quickly agree.

The result of a time-boxed product discovery process triggers development and creates a minimum viable product (MVP). However, the MVP is rarely the finished product. This is where continuous product discovery or product rediscovery comes in.

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Continuous Product Discovery

Continuous product discovery is an important process that can squeeze more value out of your products. As technologies evolve and markets change, static products are never optimal to maximize revenue. Businesses can become more successful if they remain open and flexible, and can constantly adapt to changes and new challenges.

Best practices for continuous product discovery

  • KPIs (key performance indicators) or OKRs (objectives and key results) continually assess where the entire team improves.
  • Innovation should include new technological developments as well as other external variables. For example, changes in legislation or the changing position of competitors may affect the ability to sell the product or grow the market.
  • Investigate your competitors. Remember, your competitors have been involved in much the same processes as you are. Therefore, by keeping an eye on their developments, you can discover a gap in your continuous product discovery and generate new ideas.
  • Internal changes to your business strategy may mean that your product development processes need to be rethought. What impact do changes within your own company have on the product? For example, is there a way to reduce costs or expand your agile teams?
  • Create a product roadmap that tracks planned changes and is understandable and accessible to all product team members. Product roadmaps also support prioritization and sprint planning.

Continuous product discovery gives you a stable competitive edge in the market, as it constantly provides new sources of value and greater innovation in product development.

Learn about product discovery with user story mapping in Jira here:

Learn about product discovery with user story mapping in Azure DevOps here

Learn about product rediscovery using story mapping

Last thoughts

Finally, many organizations use the concept of scaled environments in their business and product strategy.

Continuous product discovery fits effectively into this model, but only if collaboration is defined as a core value. Getting everyone involved across all channels means that valuable insights are built into product discovery.

Remember, retrospectives are an excellent way to identify potential pitfalls and errors in the discovery phase and to continually refine the development workflow.