Building a successful product takes more than just having a great idea.
Like magicians mastering the art of illusion, great product managers utilize frameworks to create products that seem like magic.
With a wave of their hand, they uncover hidden customer needs. With the flip of a wrist they prioritize initiatives for maximum impact. With a flick of the fingers, complex products materialize rapidly.
The truth is there is no real magic behind building great products. But there are proven frameworks that enable more strategic discovery, delivery, and growth.
Frameworks distill decades of insights into repeatable plays you can execute. They provide the guardrails to navigate uncertainty and complexity. Frameworks won't replace creativity and vision, but they can unlock it.
In this guide, we'll explore some of the top frameworks leveraged by leading product teams. From uncovering opportunities, to defining strategy, to measuring impact - these are the illusionist's tools of the trade.
With the right frameworks in your toolkit, you'll be equipped to craft products that delight customers like magic.
Let's get started learning the secrets of PM frameworks.
What you'll learn:
- Discovery frameworks like Jobs-to-be-Done and Design Sprints enable validated learning about customer needs before overinvesting in solutions. Deeply understanding user problems is the foundation for product success.
- Prioritization models like RICE, Moscow, and Psych Conversion bring structure for evaluating and ranking initiatives based on customer value and business impact. They provide clarity on where to focus efforts for maximum results.
- Measurement frameworks like HEART, AARRR, and North Star identify the metrics that matter across the customer journey, guiding strategic decision-making rooted in outcomes versus opinions. What gets measured gets improved.
- Discover frameworks used by product teams at Spotify, Amazon, Airbnb, Intercom and more. Uncover metrics and techniques to measure product-market fit and value.
With the right frameworks in your tool belt, you'll be set up for success no matter the product challenge ahead. Read on to explore the top PM frameworks.
Discovery & Research
Before building any product, it's critical to deeply understand your customers and their needs. The discovery and research phase focuses on exploring potential opportunities, gathering insights into the problem space, and validating key assumptions.
Strong discovery and research dramatically increases your odds of building a successful product that delivers value. It's tempting to jump right into solution mode, but investing upfront in discovery pays huge dividends down the line.
The frameworks in this section will help you:
- Uncover your customers' jobs-to-be-done
- Rapidly test concepts and ideas with target users
- Get quick validation for product opportunities before over-investing
With the right discovery approach, you'll have confidence that your product targets real customer needs and pain points.
Amazon Working Backwards
The Amazon Working Backwards Method starts with the team imagining the product as if it were ready to ship. The first step is to draft a press release announcing the product's availability, with the target audience being the product's customer. This approach forces the product team to think through all the reasons they built the hypothetical product and draft a compelling news release to announce its launch.
The benefits of the Amazon Working Backwards Method include helping decision-makers become more emotionally intelligent and serving as a useful gut-check about a product's viability. Drafting a press release is easier and requires fewer resources than building a minimum viable product or creating and sending out customer surveys.
This method also aligns with Amazon's customer-centric approach, ensuring that the customer problem is intricately known and detailed before the product development process begins.
Jobs to be Done
The Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework focuses on understanding the underlying jobs customers are trying to get done rather than just their stated needs or product requirements. Jobs are the higher level tasks or activities that customers aim to achieve or make progress on in their lives.
With JTBD, the critical question is: what job is your customer hiring your product to do? By uncovering the underlying jobs, you can design products that solve real problems in customers' lives.
For example, a milkshake brand discovered that many customers hired milkshakes in the morning because they provided a satisfying experience during long, boring commutes. This allowed the company to tailor the morning milkshake offering rather than just improving the overall milkshake.
Oftentimes customers "hire" products like yours to help them get an important job done better or more easily. With the JTBD framework, your goal is to uncover these functional, social, and emotional jobs-to-be-done that your product can fulfill.
To put Jobs-to-be-Done into action:
- Observe and interview customers in their natural environments to understand their full context
- Ask "why" to get to the root of the job, not just surface needs
- Map out related jobs customers are trying to do
- Prioritize addressing the most underserved, high-value jobs
Taking a jobs-focused view of your customers will lead to much deeper insight into product opportunities and innovation. Rather than just building what customers ask for, you can create products that perfectly nail an important job-to-be-done.
Facebook 3 Questions
Facebook's 3 Question Approach is a framework used to guide product development within the company. Julie Zhuo, the VP of Product Design at Facebook, introduced this approach to ensure consistency in their projects and to put the user at the center of their development process.
The three questions are:
- What people problem are we trying to solve? This question focuses on identifying the problem from the users' perspective, rather than the company's profits or technical goals. A good problem statement should be human, simple, and straightforward.
- How do we know this is a real problem? This question is about validating the problem through quantitative or qualitative evidence. It helps ensure that the problem is worth solving and that the team is addressing a genuine issue faced by users.
- How will we know if we've solved this problem? This question emphasizes the importance of setting measurable goals and metrics to evaluate the outcome of the product development process. It helps the team understand how they can determine if their solution has successfully addressed the identified problem.
By answering these three questions at the outset of a project, Facebook aims to tackle the most urgent problems and develop features that truly enhance user satisfaction.
Created by Google Ventures, the Design Sprint is a 5-day process for rapidly validating product ideas and assumptions through design, prototyping, and customer testing.
The structured timeboxed approach aims to accelerate innovation and reduce risk by quickly determining what works and what doesn't before committing extensive resources.
The 5 days in the sprint include:
Define the problem and pick an target area to focus on
Ideate solutions and storyboard the user experience
Choose the best ideas to prototype
Build a realistic prototype of the solution
Gather customer feedback and validate assumptions
Key outcomes of a Design Sprint include synthesizing customer insights, aligning stakeholders, establishing key metrics, creating an early prototype, and setting up more extensive user testing.
Design Sprints work especially well for exploring new ideas, breaking through stagnation, and establishing alignment. They generate tremendous momentum and learning with minimal time and resources invested upfront.
IDEO Design Thinking
Design Thinking, as developed by IDEO, is a human-centered approach to innovation that focuses on understanding customer needs, rapid prototyping, and generating creative ideas. It is a methodology that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. IDEO has been a leading practitioner of Design Thinking, and their approach has evolved over time to address the complexities of various industries and challenges.
IDEO's Design Thinking process consists of six steps:
- Empathize: Understand the needs, behaviors, and motivations of the people you are designing for by putting yourself in their shoes.
- Define: Clearly articulate the problem you are trying to solve based on the insights gathered during the empathize stage.
- Ideate: Generate a wide range of creative ideas to address the defined problem.
- Prototype: Create a physical or digital representation of one or more of your ideas to test and refine them.
- Test: Gather feedback from users and stakeholders on your prototypes to iterate and improve your solution.
- Implement: Bring your refined solution to market and continue to learn and iterate based on real-world feedback.
IDEO has been instrumental in popularizing Design Thinking through sharing its approach, stories, tools, and techniques. They have also established IDEO U, an online learning platform where anyone can learn Design Thinking techniques at the forefront of global creativity and problem-solving.
In recent years, IDEO has been working to evolve its Design Thinking practices to better address the complexities of various industries and challenges. They have also launched IDEO.org, a social-impact spinoff that focuses on using human-centered design to solve some of the world's most difficult problems.
To learn more about IDEO's Design Thinking approach and tools, you can visit their Design Kit website and explore their online courses on IDEO U.
The Hooked Model, developed by Nir Eyal, is a four-phase process designed to create habit-forming products and services that result in voluntary, high-frequency engagement from customers. The model aims to connect a user's problem to a company's solution with enough frequency to make the engagement an ongoing practice. The four phases of the Hooked Model are:
- Trigger: This is the actuator of behavior and comes in two types - external and internal. Triggers prompt the user to begin using the product.
- Action: This is the behavior performed by the user in anticipation of a reward. The action is taken to satisfy the trigger.
- Variable Reward: After completing the action, the user receives a variable reward, which provides a sense of satisfaction and motivates them to continue using the product.
- Investment: This phase involves the user investing time, effort, or resources into the product, ultimately making it more valuable to them and increasing the likelihood of forming a habit.
The Hooked Model is important because understanding what drives customer behavior allows companies to build products that customers use habitually, creating a significant competitive advantage. By going through these phases repeatedly, successful products can achieve their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement without relying on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.
Pretotyping, conceived by Alberto Savoia, enables validating product concepts through quick and inexpensive experiments before investing in full prototypes and development.
Unlike a prototype which requires building extensive functionality, a pretotype focuses on testing key assumptions and learning critical information as early as possible.
Some examples of pretotypes include:
- Landing Page - Create a basic landing page to gauge interest and capture emails from potential customers.
- Explainer Video - Make a video demonstrating the product concept and value proposition.
- Concierge - Manually deliver the product experience to early users.
- Wizard of Oz - Mimic automated functionality through manual effort.
- Mechanical Turk - If we built this feature, who would use it and why?
The goal of pretotyping is to fail fast and learn cheaply. By testing your riskiest assumptions first, you can refine your product strategy and focus on the right problems to solve.
Preotyping is especially useful for exploring new opportunities, before dedicating engineering resources, and for early stage startups.
Strategy & Roadmapping
Once you've identified and validated a promising product opportunity, the next step is defining your overarching product strategy and roadmap.
Having a clear strategic vision and plan for executing on that vision is crucial for aligning stakeholders and delivering maximum value. It prevents you from just chasing short-term demands or random product ideas.
Strong product strategy outlines what you are trying to achieve, why it matters, and how you'll get there. The roadmap is the tactical plan for delivering on your strategy through concrete initiatives.
The frameworks covered in this section will help you:
- Establish a compelling and consistent product vision
- Balance short and long-term efforts in your roadmap
- Structure initiatives to drive towards your strategic goals
- Rally stakeholders around a shared plan of action
With the right strategy and roadmap, you'll be able to focus your team's efforts to maximize results and efficiently make progress towards your vision.
Product Field Canvas
The Product Field is a sense-making framework for product development that helps teams navigate complexity, align perspectives, find focus, and make informed decisions.
It is designed to create a shared understanding among stakeholders and build a common vocabulary for product development. The framework consists of a canvas that allows teams to gather and locate all knowledge about their product, enabling them to see the bigger picture and understand how all moving parts interact.
The canvas is structured around three main layers: Core, Context, and Elements:
- Core: The Core layer represents the central aspects of a product innovation, including the product's purpose, value proposition, and target audience. It is located at the center of the canvas.
- Context: The Context layer surrounds the Core and represents the aspects that influence the product's success, such as channels, technologies, partners, and customers. It helps teams understand the environment in which the product operates.
- Elements: The Elements layer is the outermost layer and represents the various components that make up the product, such as features, functionalities, and design elements.
To use the Product Field Canvas, teams go through the canvas area by area, using guiding questions to write down relevant facts and ideas about their product on sticky notes, and map them onto the canvas.
This process helps create a shared understanding of the product and its context, enabling teams to make better decisions and align their actions.
The 4 Fits
The Four Fits Framework, developed by Brian Balfour, former VP of Growth at HubSpot, is a growth strategy that emphasizes the importance of aligning four key components to build a successful $100M+ company. These four essential fits are:
- Market-Product Fit: Identify a need in the market and propose a solution for it. This is about creating a product that addresses the demands and preferences of a specific target audience.
- Product-Channel Fit: Build your product for a specific channel, rather than trying to force the channel to fit your product. This means designing your product with the distribution channels in mind, ensuring that it can be effectively marketed and delivered through those channels.
- Channel-Model Fit: Ensure that the cost of acquiring customers through your chosen channels is significantly lower than the revenue generated by those customers. This fit is crucial for maintaining a sustainable and profitable business model.
- Model-Market Fit: Calculate the maximum market size you hope to capture and ensure that your business model can scale to meet that potential. This involves understanding the size of your target market and the revenue potential it offers, as well as ensuring that your business model can support that level of growth.
These four fits work together to form an ecosystem for growth, and it is essential to consider them collectively rather than in isolation. Additionally, it is crucial to revisit and potentially adjust these fits as they continuously evolve and change over time. By aligning these four components, companies can significantly increase their chances of achieving substantial growth and success.
Product Vision Board
The Product Vision Board, popularized by product management tool Notion, provides a one-page visual summary of your product vision to align stakeholders.
The key components of a Product Vision Board include:
- Customer - Target users and their needs
- Solution - The product offering and value proposition
- Business Goals - How this aligns to company goals
- Differentiators - What sets you apart from competitors
- Success Metrics - How you'll track progress
The Product Vision Board tells a compelling story of who you are serving, what need you're fulfilling, and why it matters. It provides crucial context for product teams to execute initiatives tied to strategy.
Tips for creating an impactful Product Vision Board:
- Keep it high-level. Leave details for requirements docs.
- Use inspiring visuals and graphics that engage stakeholders
- Print it out and post it visibly in your workspace
- Revisit it often and update as strategy evolves
An aligned vision focused on delivering customer value is the North Star that guides all product development efforts. The Product Vision Board makes that vision tangible.
The Three Horizons framework, developed by McKinsey, provides a model for balancing short, medium, and long-term initiatives in your product roadmap.
The three horizons are:
- Horizon 1 - Core business today - Focused on incremental improvements to current products.
- Horizon 2 - Emerging opportunities - New offerings that extend your core business into new spaces.
- Horizon 3 - Future vision - Long-term innovations that can disrupt your market.
A roadmap should include a mix of horizons:
- Horizon 1 initiatives provide steady returns by improving today's products.
- Horizon 2 efforts plant seeds in potential growth areas just beyond your core offering.
- Horizon 3 allows you to shape your future while your current business funds the work.
Benefits of the Three Horizons approach:
- Maintains focus on short-term returns.
- Provides runway for disruptive innovation.
- Bridges the gap between incremental and breakthrough ideas.
- Balances risky bets with safer improvements.
With Three Horizons, you can satisfy short-term demands while reserving mindshare and resources for the future. It provides crucial balance.
Opportunity Solution Tree
The Opportunity Solution Tree, conceived by Teresa Torres, is a framework for mapping the relationships between customer needs, product opportunities, and your solutions.
The core components are:
- User - Details about your target customer segment
- Need - The customer problems and jobs-to-be-done
- Insight - Learnings that inform potential solutions
- Opportunity - Ideas to address user needs
- Solution - Your products or features that capture the opportunities
By linking needs to insights to opportunities to solutions, you can ensure that your product initiatives are grounded in real customer problems versus just chasing alluring solutions.
Tips for utilizing the Opportunity Solution Tree:
- Start by brainstorming needs and insights before defining solutions.
- Align stakeholders on the key needs and opportunities.
- Use it to identify gaps in your product strategy.
- Revisit the tree regularly to prune obsolete branches and add new growth opportunities.
The Opportunity Solution Tree brings structure to the fuzzy front-end of product strategy and provides a clear line of sight from customers to your roadmap.
The DIBB Framework (Data -> Insight -> Belief -> Bet) is a decision-making tool developed by Spotify to prioritize initiatives across the organization and create focus and alignment.
It was developed as part of the broader "Spotify Rhythm" and their evolving version of scaled Agile Methodology. The framework helps teams derive actionable intelligence from their data through the following steps:
- Analyzing the available Data (D)
- Translating the data into Insights (I)
- Formulating Beliefs (B)
- Placing Bets (B)
Spotify uses a "Bets Board" to display Company Bets, which are stack-ranked, resourced, and shared throughout the entire company. The Bets Board is part of the broader DIBB framework and is used to cascade different points of alignment across the organization. The framework was created as part of Spotify's unique organizational culture, prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
The DIBB framework has been used to make significant bets in the company, such as investing in podcasting and audiobooks. It is important to note that the DIBB framework was used several years ago in parts of the business, and it's unclear how much of Spotify uses it today.
The 666 Roadmap is a product management framework developed by Paul Adams, VP of Product at Intercom. This framework suggests that product roadmaps should be viewed over three distinct timelines: the next six years, the next six months, and the next six weeks.
- Six-year view: This long-term perspective is not meant to focus directly on your product but rather on your vision of the world six years from now. It should take into account how the world will have changed due to your actions and how it will have evolved based on existing trends.
- Six-month view: This medium-term perspective is about what you need to accomplish to show significant progress towards your long-term vision. It's your plan for the next six months, detailing the goals and milestones you want to achieve.
- Six-week view: This short-term perspective is your immediate action plan. It should be action-oriented and measurable, focusing on the tasks and activities that need to be completed in the next six weeks.
The 666 Roadmap framework helps product managers and teams to balance long-term vision with short-term actions, ensuring that they are working towards a cohesive and well-defined strategy. By breaking down the roadmap into these three timelines, teams can maintain a clear focus on their goals while also being adaptable and responsive to changes in the market or business environment.
Once you have a solid product strategy and roadmap, the next critical step is prioritizing which initiatives to tackle when.
Prioritization ensures you focus your efforts on the projects that will deliver maximum customer value and business impact. With endless possibilities but limited resources, you simply can't do everything at once.
Poor prioritization results in disjointed products that try to serve too many needs with mediocre results. Smart prioritization aligns your team around delivering specific outcomes that move the needle.
The frameworks covered in this section will help you:
- Evaluate initiatives based on customer and business impact
- Incorporate different stakeholders' perspectives
- Categorize priorities for better decision-making
- Communicate priorities and trade-offs across the organization
With a structured prioritization process, you'll be equipped to make tougher product decisions and position your efforts for maximum impact.
Customer Problem Stack Rank (CPSR)
The Customer Problem Stack Rank (CPSR) is a framework developed by Shreyas Doshi, a former Stripe product leader, to help product teams prioritize and understand the most important problems their customers face.
The main goal of CPSR is to avoid the "Focusing Illusion," which is the natural tendency for people to believe that the current thing they are thinking about is the most important.
To use the CPSR framework, you ask customers to prioritize and rank the problems they are facing in their business or organization. This exercise helps product teams understand the context of how a particular problem area fits into the customer's overall business and workflow, and how important it is for them.
By doing this, product teams can focus on solving the most valuable and urgent problems, increasing the chances of their product's success.
Psych Conversion is a prioritization framework created by Darius Contractor, former head of growth at Dropbox, to help product teams identify the initiatives that will have the biggest impact on user behavior.
The framework categorizes potential projects based on whether they influence user psychology (+Psych) or reduce friction (-Psych):
- +Psych - Features that tap into emotion, social factors, and identity to inspire users and build motivation. For example, referral rewards that reinforce social identity.
- -Psych - Optimizations that remove friction and enable new behaviors. For example, simplifying a checkout flow.
- Combo - Initiatives that have both psychological and friction-reducing aspects.
The key is identifying opportunities that address both motivation AND ability for behavior change. Just removing friction is not enough - you need to also give users inspiration.
Benefits of Psych Conversion prioritization:
- Highlights ideas that drive holistic user growth beyond one-off optimizations
- Incorporates emotional and social factors missing from traditional prioritization
- Provides more strategic direction than focusing only on friction removal
- Leads to products that connect with users on deeper levels
By considering both the emotional (+Psych) and functional (-Psych) jobs users are hiring your product to do, Psych Conversion results in more comprehensive product strategy and impactful priorities.
ICED Theory, developed by Vivek Kumar, is a framework designed to address the unique challenges of growing infrequent products, such as travel, shopping, or food delivery products. These products face difficulties in building recurring habits with customers due to their infrequent usage.
The ICED Theory model is based on four dimensions of infrequent products:
- I - Degree of Infrequency: This dimension represents how often a user interacts with the product. Infrequent products are used less often than daily or weekly products, making it challenging to build customer habits and engagement.
- C - Degree of Control over the User Experience: This dimension refers to the extent to which a product team can control the user experience. A higher degree of control allows for better optimization and improvement of the product experience.
- E - Degree of Engagement before, after, and during the transaction: This dimension focuses on the level of user engagement throughout the product lifecycle. High engagement before, during, and after a transaction can help improve customer satisfaction and retention.
- D - Distinctiveness of the Product: This dimension represents the uniqueness of the product in the market. A distinctive product can stand out from competitors and create a strong brand identity.
To apply the ICED Theory, product teams can use the ICED Theory Canvas, a tool that helps map out strategies for managing the degree of infrequency a user experiences.
By understanding and addressing these four dimensions, product teams can better navigate the challenges of growing infrequent products and create a more successful product experience for their customers.
The RICE method, popularized by Intercom, provides a simple framework for prioritizing product initiatives based on reach, impact, confidence, and effort.
Each potential initiative is scored across the RICE dimensions:
- Reach - The number of customers affected.
- Impact - The value delivered to those reached.
- Confidence - Level of certainty of impact.
- Effort - The work required to implement.
By scoring each initiative on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale, you can compare and rank priorities. Higher RICE scores indicate higher priority.
Benefits of RICE prioritization:
- Provides a consistent, repeatable framework for evaluating initiatives.
- Accounts for different variables beyond just business value.
- Easy to communicate priorities across the organization.
- Quantifies conversations to make decisions more objective.
For each initiative, consider creating a RICE assessment spreadsheet shared with stakeholders. RICE enables data-driven prioritization aligned to company goals.
The MoSCoW method, developed by Dai Clegg and popularized in agile software development, categorizes initiatives or requirements into four priority groups:
- Must have - Critical items that are non-negotiable.
- Should have - Important items that provide significant value.
- Could have - Nice-to-have items if there is capacity.
- Won't have - Items that won't be done now but could be considered later.
Items are discussed and grouped into the appropriate MoSCoW categories. This process aligns stakeholders on priorities and where items could potentially be traded off if needed.
Benefits of MoSCoW prioritization:
- Provides a clear separation of required vs. optional initiatives.
- Focuses discussion on priority rather than just desirability.
- Easy to communicate across the organization.
- Groups similar items so trade-offs are easier.
Regularly revisit the MoSCoW buckets as priorities shift. The must-haves and should-haves will feed your roadmap while could-haves are backlog candidates.
The GLEe model, created by Gibson Biddle, former VP of Product at Netflix, is a long-term, phased approach to crafting a product vision. It stands for Get Big, Lead, and Expand.
The model addresses common criticisms of product strategy, such as teams not understanding how projects fit together, investors complaining about the lack of a big product vision, and the product team being too focused on short-term goals.
The GLEe model encourages teams to think big, think long-term (3-5 years), and describe a phased, step-by-step approach to building a product that "dents the universe."
This exercise helps product leaders avoid the "one and done" phenomenon, where companies fail to innovate and grow after achieving initial success. By promoting long-term thinking, the GLEe model fosters an "anything is possible" attitude, enabling teams to invent the future.
GLEe helps product leaders form a product vision by encouraging them to think big, focus on long-term goals, and develop a phased approach to building innovative products.
Once you've aligned on strategy and prioritized your roadmap, next comes executing on product initiatives. This is where rubber meets the road.
Strong execution focuses on rapidly delivering maximum value to customers and the business through quick iteration and continuous learning. It's easy to get bogged down in endless planning and analysis rather than building.
The frameworks covered in this section provide methods to:
- Launch an early product to validate assumptions
- Iterate quickly based on user feedback
- Balance long-term vision with agile delivery
- Structure the development process for speed and alignment
With a relentless focus on execution, you can bring your product strategy to life in the real world. Learnings then further refine strategy and priorities. The best execution connects planning to shipping.
The Product Alignment Document (PAD) is a tool introduced at Miro to help guide structural opportunity discovery, solution discovery, and ensure product collaboration and knowledge sharing in the product organization as the company grows rapidly.
The PAD consists of three main pillars:
- Problem/Opportunity Framing: This section helps define the problem or opportunity being addressed, the target audience, and the desired outcome.
- Solution Framing: This part focuses on the proposed solution, including its features, benefits, and potential risks.
- Post-Launch Recap: After the solution is implemented and launched, this section assesses whether the desired outcome was achieved and reflects on any learnings that can be used to improve further.
The PAD is accompanied by ceremonies, such as the Product Alignment Meeting, where the content of the PAD is presented by teams and challenged by peers and stakeholders. This approach aims to create structure and collaboration among product teams during the discovery, design, and post-launch stages of the product lifecycle.
Multiple Strategic Tracks (MuST)
MuST, or Multiple Strategic Tracks, is a concept introduced by Itamar Gilad as a way to create product strategy by testing big ideas through short to medium-sized projects. Instead of relying on exhaustive research, analysis, and planning, MuST encourages opening new strategic tracks and exploring where they lead. This approach acknowledges the role of luck and being in the right place at the right time in achieving success.
The idea behind MuST is to allow for more flexibility and adaptability in product strategy. By having multiple strategic tracks, a company can explore different ideas and opportunities without being locked into a single path. This approach can help companies stay agile and responsive to changes in the market or industry.
An example of a company that has successfully implemented MuST is Netflix. By systemizing MuST, Netflix has been able to explore various strategic tracks and adapt its business model over time, allowing it to stay ahead of competitors and continue to grow.
MuST emphasizes flexibility and adaptability by testing big ideas through multiple strategic tracks. This approach can help companies stay agile and responsive to changes in the market, ultimately leading to greater success and growth.
How Spotify Builds Products
Spotify builds products using a process that emphasizes speed, autonomy, and innovation. The company organizes its product teams into full-stack squads, which have the freedom to act independently in support of the company's mission. The Spotify model is based on clear definitions of principles, roles, and collaboration strategies, allowing the development team to create a flexible methodology that solves many problems inherent in flexible teams working across the enterprise.
The essence of Spotify's philosophy includes creating innovative products and managing risk by first creating a prototype, and not launching the product by a specific date, but only by reaching specific goals. The company follows an internal open-source model, with a culture that focuses on sharing rather than owning. This approach encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing among team members.
Spotify's product development process consists of four key stages:
- Think It: This stage involves figuring out what type of product should be built and why. The focus is on understanding the problem space and identifying opportunities for innovation.
- Build It: In this stage, the team develops a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) to test their ideas and gather feedback from users.
- Ship It: Once the product has been refined based on user feedback, it is released to the market. Spotify prefers to release early and often, following Agile and Lean development methodologies.
- Tweak It: After the product is launched, the team continues to iterate and improve upon it based on user feedback and data analysis.
Spotify's model also includes structures like Chapters and Guilds, which help maintain communication and collaboration across different squads. Chapters are groups of people with similar skills working in the same area of competence, while Guilds are informal networks of people with shared interests that span across the entire organization.
Basecamp Cycles refer to the six-week work cycles followed by Basecamp, a project management and team collaboration software company. Each cycle contains two types of projects: Big Batch and Small Batch projects. The company's leadership, including the CEO, CTO, and product strategist, reviews project pitches and ideas before deciding which projects to include in a cycle. This approach allows the company to focus on meaningful work and reduces the overhead of constant planning, as opposed to shorter cycles like two-week sprints.
The six-week cycle structure is part of Basecamp's product development methodology called Shape Up. Shape Up aims to help teams stop running in circles and ship work that matters. It emphasizes the importance of defining project scopes, setting goals, and using hill charts to show progress on those scopes. The methodology has been applied successfully in various versions of Basecamp's product development.
In addition to the six-week cycles, Basecamp also works with 8-week cycles during Summer Hours. The cycle planning process involves team leads presenting their plans for the upcoming six or eight weeks before the start of the new cycle.
Yammer 5 Phases
The 5 project phases followed by Yammer's product teams are Design, Build, Test, Analyze, and Cleanup. Here's an expansion of each phase:
- Design: In this phase, the project starts with designing the feature or product. The team collaborates to create a blueprint of the project, considering user needs, technical requirements, and business goals. A dedicated designer is involved in this phase to ensure the project's visual and functional aspects are well-planned.
- Build: During the build phase, engineers work on developing the product or feature according to the design specifications. They implement the necessary code, integrate various components, and ensure the project meets the desired functionality.
- Test: In the testing phase, quality analysts and other team members test the product or feature to identify any bugs, errors, or issues. They ensure that the project meets the required quality standards and works as expected before moving on to the next phase.
- Analyze: The analyze phase involves evaluating the project's performance, user feedback, and other relevant data. Researchers and analysts work together to identify areas for improvement, potential issues, and opportunities for further development. This phase helps the team make informed decisions about the project's future.
- Cleanup: The final phase, cleanup, involves addressing any remaining issues, refining the project, and preparing it for launch. The team ensures that the project is polished and ready for users, and they may also work on documentation, marketing materials, and other supporting resources.
Each project at Yammer has a dedicated team consisting of a designer, researcher, analyst, multiple engineers, 1-2 quality analysts, a product marketer, and a product manager. These phases help Yammer's product teams to efficiently develop, test, and launch new projects while maintaining high-quality standards.
Minimum Viable Product
The Spotify Model advocates launching a "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP) as early as possible to validate product assumptions and start learning.
Instead of extensive upfront planning and design, MVPs focus on:
- Identifying the riskiest parts of an idea
- Building the smallest thing to start testing those parts
- Launching quickly to a small group of users
- Iterating based on feedback before expanding
Benefits of the Spotify MVP approach:
- Starts delivering value faster by eliminating over-engineering
- Gathers real-world feedback immediately to improve the product
- Enables adjusting strategy based on what users actually do vs what they say
- Reduces wasted effort by failing fast and pivoting if needed
The goal is not perfection, but progression. Spotify MVPs balance speed and learning over upfront predictability. Launch the imperfect but workable product, then improve it based on usage data.
Lean UX, coined by Jeff Gothelf, adapts lean startup principles to product design and development. It promotes rapid iteration based on live user data over rigid requirements and long design phases.
Core principles of Lean UX include:
- Cross-functional collaboration - Designers, product managers, developers work closely together.
- Minimum viable products - Launch basic working versions quickly.
- Customer feedback - Test concepts and prototypes early and often with users.
- Data-driven design - Optimize based on insights from user behavior vs. just opinions.
- Rapid iteration - Incrementally improve in small batches vs. big bang launches.
- Problem-focused - Stay grounded in actual user problems vs. just solutions.
By adopting a lean mindset of experimentation and learning, product teams can iterate faster and reduce waste. Lean UX connects the creativity of design with the speed of agile development.
Dual-track Agile, pioneered by software development expert Marty Coogan, balances agile iteration of short-term priorities with long-term planning.
Dual-track Agile is a product development framework that involves two parallel tracks: discovery and delivery. The discovery track focuses on generating, testing, and validating product ideas, while the delivery track works on turning those ideas into an actual product. This approach enables development teams to be confident that they're building the right things and allows product teams to work on research and product development simultaneously.
In the discovery track, activities may include stakeholder interviews, persona and user story development, and market research (e.g., surveys, user interviews). The delivery track, on the other hand, focuses on converting validated product ideas into software ready for the market.
Dual-track Agile aims to combine the goals of agile development and UX design, ensuring that both tracks operate in harmony and lead to excellent products. This framework enables product teams to balance both discovery and delivery tracks, allowing the development team to work on one set of improvements while the discovery team figures out what the next set should be.
Benefits of dual-track agile:
- Faster and improved product development
- Better alignment between product ideas and market needs
- Continuous learning and adaptation to user feedback
- Enhanced collaboration between product, design, and engineering teams
The agile track empowers teams to build quickly while the planning track gives executives confidence in the road ahead. Dual-track agile is key for scaling agile methods in large organizations.
The true measure of effective product management is results. At the end of the day, your products exist to drive tangible business outcomes.
Good measurement provides critical feedback loops to refine strategy, priorities, and execution. Without clear metrics aligned to goals, you’re just shooting in the dark hoping to hit your target.
The frameworks covered in this section will help you:
- Identify the key metrics that matter for your product and business
- Track effectiveness from acquisition to loyalty
- Set strategic goals and map metrics to those goals
- Communicate metrics and progress to stakeholders
Aligning on metrics for success creates focus and accountability. And measuring guides the way forward based on real customer value versus opinions and guesswork.
Product Market Fit Engine
Rahul Vohra is the founder and CEO of Superhuman, a startup that aims to provide the fastest email experience in the world, helping users save time and increase productivity. In his quest to achieve product-market fit for Superhuman, Vohra developed a systematic approach to measure and optimize product-market fit, which he calls the Product Market Fit Engine.
The Superhuman Product Market Fit Engine is based on a survey that asks users a simple question: "How would you feel if you could no longer use our product?". By measuring the percentage of users who respond with "very disappointed," Vohra can gauge the level of product-market fit. The key to this approach is segmenting responses based on customer types to identify which customers are most satisfied and focusing on what is holding them back from responding with "very disappointed". These insights drive the product roadmap and focus, helping the company optimize its product to better serve its target customers.
By applying this systematic approach, Superhuman saw its product-market fit score increase from 22% to 58% over several quarters. Vohra's Product Market Fit Engine offers a practical model for startups to measure and improve their product-market fit, turning passive users into superfans.
The AARRR framework, conceived by startup advisor Dave McClure, provides a model for tracking key metrics from acquisition to revenue.
The five stages are:
- Acquisition - New users acquired
- Activation - Engagement post initial signup
- Retention - Ongoing repeat usage
- Referral - Existing users sharing and inviting others
- Revenue - Monetization and sales
Tracking metrics for each stage of the customer journey reveals how well your product converts visitors to loyal, paying customers.
For example, common AARRR metrics are:
- Acquisition - Traffic, visitors, signups
- Activation - Onboarding completion, early engagement
- Retention - Churn, repeat usage, resurrection
- Referral - Sharing, referral signups
- Revenue - ARPU, conversions, sales cycle
Analyzing your AARRR funnel exposes strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to improve. It highlights where leakage is occurring in the customer lifecycle. Addressing weak areas drives sustainable growth.
The HEART Framework, developed by Google, is a set of user-centered metrics designed to evaluate and improve the quality of user experience (UX) in software products. The acronym HEART stands for the following five core UX metrics:
- Happiness: Measures user satisfaction, often through surveys and feedback.
- Engagement: Evaluates the level of user involvement with the product, such as the frequency and depth of interaction.
- Adoption: Assesses the number of new users adopting the product or feature.
- Retention: Monitors the rate at which existing users continue to use the product or feature.
- Task Success: Examines the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall user experience in completing tasks within the product.
The HEART Framework can be applied to a single feature or an entire product, helping teams focus on specific aspects of the user experience they want to improve. To measure progress in these categories, the Goals-Signals-Metrics process is used, which involves defining goals, identifying signals that indicate progress towards those goals, and selecting appropriate metrics to track.
By using the HEART Framework, product teams can make data-driven decisions that are user-centered, ensuring a better overall user experience. The framework is flexible and can be tailored to the specific needs of a project, with teams choosing the most relevant metrics based on their end goals.
North Star Framework
The North Star framework helps you define an overarching metric that captures your product's core value and guides strategic decision-making.
A strong North Star meets several criteria:
- Aligned to customer value - Measures the key customer problem you solve
- Strategic direction - Captures the desired business objective
- Actionable - Influences priorities and decision making
- Accessible - Easy to communicate and understand
For example, a ridesharing company's North Star metric could be average rides per customer per month, since frequency of use indicates value.
Benefits of the North Star approach:
- Provides focus for product teams and cross-functional partners
- Quantifies customer experience and business value
- Illuminates strengths and weaknesses to address
- Grounds discussions in what matters most
A North Star is like a guiding light that helps you make better product decisions aligned to overall success. It translates your vision into a concrete measurable goal.
Building great products
The journey of building great products is challenging but rewarding. While there is no singular formula for success, leveraging proven frameworks provides a strategic advantage.
They distill decades of lessons learned into models for asking the right questions and making smarter decisions.
At the end of the day, no framework can replace creativity, vision, and tenacity. The human elements of curiosity, empathy, and integrity are irreplaceable. But combining inspired leadership with structured approaches unlocks the full potential of product innovation.
Approach your work with optimism for what's possible. Stay eager to learn, grow, and serve others. Build partnerships on trust and transparency. With patience and grit, you can bring ideas to life that positively impact people worldwide. Pursue work that matters - to your customers, your team, and yourself.
Keep exploring, creating, and improving.
The products you build today will shape tomorrow.