Pragmatic marketing says be market-driven. They advocate for using objective research and analysis of data to build features based on true needs. The opposite is saying doing something because your boss thinks it’s a good idea, or a key stakeholder called and asked for a feature.
How do you make sure your product is market driven? I suggest that, as product owners, we have to be data inspired. (For this post, when I say “data”, I’m really thinking about analytics on user actions and their flow through your application).
What do you do with data?
I have mixed emotions when I think about how data is used. Used poorly, data can generate skewed conclusions about what features you should change or build. Used well, it is the antidote to an organization that makes decision based on politics or decisions based on who screams loudest. In other words, data is a tool.
Use it to ask better questions. Use it to show there is a need for change or improvement. Use it to share successes. It’s just one more (important) way to help you shape the product.
How do you get data for your app?
Instrumentation! I have used things like Yahoo’s Flurry for my iOS app, Google Analytics for websites I’ve built, and Adobe Analytics (aka Omniture) for web apps we use at my current company. They all have different benefits, but the thrust is the same – see how users are using the product and quantify it.
Whatever tool you use, the important thing is to know what questions you have and then make sure the usage data can answer them. I have made the mistake of thinking I would get useful information with the very basic stats, only to have to go back two or three times and add more ‘hooks’ in the system until we started to generate good answers.
One note of caution – be careful not to rely solely on data. I once had a friend who used a popular dating website where, after filling out an EXTENSIVE survey about herself, found herself matched with…her old boss. Data don’t know everything.
I hope that you prioritize analytics tools in your backlog and make it part of every ongoing story, just like unit testing or code reviews. And then use the information in that to support your hunches, ask better questions, and to be user-centered in your planning (or market-driven if you prefer).
Use data. Be inspired by it. Let it guide you, just don’t let it rule you.