If you are running a bootstrapped startup, you know what it means not to have any revenue for the first few months and what the struggle is like trying to get out of that. The struggle to generate monthly revenue so that you don't have to max out your savings trying to run a business.
Beating this struggle and reaching an MRR or ARR that makes your company ramen profitable entails a lot of things, but one core factor is that you need a product management framework.
Thankfully, the founders before you, both bootstrapped and those with access to funding from the start, have come up with a handful of product management frameworks for you to choose from.
Spotify, for example, swears by the “Think It, Build It, Ship It, Tweak It” framework.
It is a framework where teams research ideas, validate problems and experiment with concepts. They then develop their MVP and test it with some of their users to gain feedback. After this, they release this feature, but not to all Spotify users. They monitor the select few, and If the feature is a success, they’ll roll it out to the entire user base. If it’s a failure, they go back to the drawing board.
What Exactly Is A Product Management Framework?
Everything exists for a reason, except maybe https://theuselessweb.com/ which takes me to equally useless websites, but even those websites make me laugh, which is a valid reason.
So why shouldn’t your startup or the product you are building have a reason for existing?
A product management framework helps you justify why your product should exist and how beneficial it is to prospective customers. It is also a great way to ensure that you are creating the right features for your product
A slightly different definition would be that a product management framework helps guide the vision for a product and sets guidelines that everybody working on the product should follow.
What Are Some Types of Product Management Frameworks Bootstrapped Founders Can Try Out?
- Minimum Viable Product
Eric Ries introduced the concept of a Minimum Viable Product, and it involves developing a product and introducing it into the market early enough with enough features (nothing too elaborate) to attract customers.
This fast entry into the market helps you validate your product idea with user feedback, so you can go back to the drawing board early enough and improve the product if the need arises.
Airbnb adopted this framework in its early days by creating a simple website which contained photos and other useful details of its founders’ apartments that they wanted to rent out. They found several paying guests almost immediately and validated their idea of creating short-term, peer-to-peer rental housing online, creating a 100 billion dollar company.
The Minimum Viable Product Framework in a nutshell follows these steps:
- Get the product to the market as quickly as possible.
- Test it with real users before building more elaborate features or extending the product’s reach.
- Collect feedback from these users; It tells you what they like about the product and what they don’t.
- Go back to the drawing board and improve the product.
- North Star Framework
This is a product strategy framework that involves identifying a single, important metric (North Star Metric) that best explains the core value that your product offers its customers and employing all efforts to ensure the growth of this metric.
Airbnb’s North Star Metric is nights booked, and Facebook’s North Star Metric is daily active users.
Whatever yours is, the north star framework helps you decide on and prioritize efforts that can lead to the growth of your north star metric, whether it be new user signups or user retention.
How does it work?
- Identify your north star metric. For Instacart, it is same-day delivery.
- Identify the factors that can help you improve your north star metric. Instacart decided that they needed lots of customers placing orders for lots of items. They also needed to ensure that these orders were delivered on time.
- Identify the inputs needed. Do you need research, software development, or testing? Whatever it is, employ processes for these inputs.
- Keep the north metric in view at all times.
3. Opportunity Solution Tree
The Opportunity Solution Tree is a more visual product management framework, as it involves laying down a visual guide for how you intend to achieve your projected goals. This visual guide contains ideation flows, experimentation ideas, and identified gaps.
This framework was invented by Teresa Torres, a product discovery coach, in 2016 as a way to help product teams come up with an efficient product discovery strategy and keep track of ideas and discovery processes.
It helps you:
- Stay organized through the ideation phase.
- Stay on course during the product discovery process.
- Adopt experimentation as a culture when building products.
How Do You Create an Opportunity Solution Tree (OST)?
- Identify your desired goal: narrow down your goal to a single metric you want to achieve, e.g. revenue, customer satisfaction, retention, etc.
- Identify and understand the opportunities that lie in your industry: Dig in deep to understand the needs and pain points of your customers and use those pain points to create opportunities
- Open your mind to the fact that solutions can come from anywhere: They can come from a mentor, a case study, trends in the industry, or what a competitor did. However, the solutions must be linked to the opportunities that have been identified.
- Experiment to validate your solutions: Test and gain as much useful information as you can on your product/opportunity.
4. Kano Model
The Kano model answers the question of how likely it is for your product to satisfy customers or make them happy.
It is designed to help startups prioritize what to build and implement by determining which features will satisfy and make customers happy.
This model identifies five categories of potential customer reactions to a new feature, among which include dissatisfaction, indifference, and customer delight, and groups new features into these categories. The categories these features fall into are determined by user feedback and reactions.
How Does the Kano Model Work?
It requires putting together a list of potential new features that the product team or anyone else thinks need to be developed, and weighing them on their potential to satisfy customers and how much it costs to implement them.
5. Working Backwards
Amazon is probably the champion of this product management framework, and it starts with visualizing what the perfect finished product looks like and working backwards from there.
Once you have that vision of what success looks like, you then begin to break down the steps required to achieve that perfect product. This way, you ensure that every step you take is a meaningful one, and you are not just doing anything and everything.
How does it work?
- First, you create a press release that explains what the product is, the problem it is trying to solve and who it is for.
- Then you come up with and implement steps and processes that will contribute to the product that you talked about in your product release
What are the advantages?
- It ensures that the team is focused on what the customer wants.
- It serves as a guide during product development and ensures you don’t veer away from the product roadmap.
- It’s a good way to assess whether there’s a market for the product. If the press release is hard to write, then the product probably doesn’t have a market.
6. MoSCoW Method
MoSCoW is an acronym for, Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have, and it is a great product management framework for ensuring that you don’t create useless features.
With the MoSCoW methods, all stakeholders must agree on what to prioritize and the kind of resources they would like to allocate to each initiative.
After that, you will then separate each initiative into the Must-have, Should have, Could have, or Won’t have categories.
What does each of these categories mean?
These are features that are non-negotiable and the ones with the highest priority.
Should Have features are very valuable to your company and users, but not the most vital.
Could Have, also known as the nice to haves are the ones whose impact will not really be felt if they are left out.
Won’t Have features are ones that are not a priority and could be moved to the future phase of the product.
7. RICE Prioritization
The RICE scoring model is an acronym for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. It is a product strategy framework that helps startups determine which products, features, and initiatives to include in their product roadmaps by scoring them.
How does RICE work?
This involves estimating how many people your features and initiatives will reach in a given time period. For example, if you estimate that your project will reach 150 new customers within the next quarter, your reach score is 150.
Impact involves putting a score to how well you think focusing on certain initiatives will result in the highest impact or more qualitative objectives, such as increasing customer retention.
Confidence ensures that you are relying on more than intuition and putting a score to the question of How sure am I of those reach, impact, and effort scores I gave each project idea? If the confidence score is below 50%, then you need to redirect your priorities.
This is where you calculate how much time a project will demand from your team and how much work a team member can do within a time period. So, for example, a project that requires 5 different people to work on it for a week would have an effort score of 5 person-weeks. Another project that would require 1 person to work on it for 5 weeks would also have an effort score of 5 person-weeks.
What are the Dos of a product management framework?
- Outline your problems and solutions.
When creating a product management framework, you have to ensure that you know in great detail your product’s goals and the problems you intend to solve. You also have to make sure these problems align with your ideas and the solutions align with the opportunities in the market.
- Research and understand your product’s market.
When developing your product, conduct as much research as possible on the problem your product is attempting to solve and the competitive advantage your solution can bring to the market. Having these details can make all the difference in whether you are a success or a failure.
- Understand your customer's needs and let them serve as a guide.
To build a successful and useful product, you need to understand what your customers need, and the problems they are facing. Talk to them, know their pain points, and develop a detailed profile of them.
- Define your product roadmap and guidelines.
You need to create a good product roadmap that outlines your plans for the foreseeable future. This roadmap should contain your short and long-term priorities, communicate high-level decisions, and contain details on what you intend to build.
- Look out for growth trends and patterns.
Starting from scratch nowadays might not be the best move when building a product. Instead, look for an example of a product in your market or any other market that has a good market share and follow their strategy.
- Evolve as your market evolves
If you take the time to study the market, you should be able to identify when a change is about to happen and evolve with it. Evolving ensures that you will never lose a huge market share.
- Outline your KPIs.
You need to create measurable KPIs that will tell you if you have succeeded. These KPIs back up your success with data and don’t just leave you assuming whether you have succeeded.
- Communicate your strategy.
Make sure to share your product management framework, what it entails, and your plans and goals with all relevant stakeholders. Sharing your product management framework and doing it on time helps people buy into your vision and this, in turn, helps you achieve your goals.
- Measure your progress and go back to the drawing board if needed.
Data should always inform your process and framework, as it improves your chances of success. It helps you know whether to go on with your chosen path or whether to go back to the drawing board.
What are the Don’ts of a product management framework?
1. Starting implementation too late
Nowadays, there are a lot of innovative and disruptive companies out there who, like you, are looking to corner the market, so it is important that once you have identified the perfect product management framework for your startup, you get to work implementing it.
The longer you sit on your implementation plans, the more difficult it becomes to execute, as the market is always changing.
2. Mistaking what you want for what the user wants
It can sometimes be difficult to tell what features and initiatives are important to the user, so it is important to guide customers through the product and its uses and ask them questions about what they think could make it better. As a bootstrapped founder, you must never make the assumption that you know the best features for your customers.
3. Coming up with product ideas in a vacuum.
Your product won’t exist on its own in a vacuum. There has to be a context in which it is applied. You need to bear this larger context in mind when coming up with product ideas.
4. Mistaking Innovation For Value.
Innovation is a big thing with founders nowadays, and I see the need for it, but it’s critical that you don’t trade innovation for value and functionality. Instead, you must be able to strike a fine balance.
5. Ignoring what the competition is doing
Competition releasing what you’re working on can sometimes throw a wrench into your development plans. That is why you continuously need to monitor your competition and check if they are creating features too similar for comfort. If they are, you might need to pivot or find an edge.
6. Mistaking Must-Haves for Nice-To-Haves
The first version of your product cannot have all your planned features, so it is essential to determine which ones are more important and best solve your users’ problems.
When you identify the most indispensable features, include them in your product and take them to the market first.
The beauty of product management frameworks is that sometimes you can invent yours, like Amazon did with the walking backwards approach, or combine 2 or more to reach ramen profitability.
Whatever path you choose to take, remember that you don’t have to stick with one product strategy framework forever, and you can always go back to the drawing board.
Making the decision on what product management framework to use can be made easier by talking to other founders, and asking what’s worked for them. That’s why we have created a community where you can ask these questions freely.
Join now by visiting https://www.ramenclub.so/#join-ramen-club.