Updated overview of the product development process

Authors: @JosephKnecht
Reviewers: @afromac @DevOnDeFi @allan.g

Summary

We present an updated overview of the product development process. This update addresses gaps in the customer and market validation process and provides a comprehensive process overview.

Motivation

Developing world-leading products for decentralized finance requires a clear product development process with a strong customer focus. We provide an updated overview of Index Coop’s product development process with a significant upgrade on the customer and market validation process. In designing the updated process we aimed to balance simplicity and commercial rigor. We hope these updates improve the overall commercial success of our products. We look forward to questions, comments, and feedback.

Process Flowchart

The updated product development process is shown below.

Link to Miro board for Process Flowchart

Process Summary

  1. Originator completes Lean Canvas and Press Release for product. The Lean Canvas is a widely-used, customer-centric framework for describing the unique value proposition of a product. The use of an internal Press Release is taken from the ‘backwards method’ at Amazon. The backwards method provides a customer-centric view of the product’s value proposition and serves as a touchstone throughout the project.
  2. Originator submits the Lean Canvas and Press Release to Product Nest lead through the #product-intake Discord channel. The Product Nest Lead will convene a panel with Product Nest Lead and Growth representatives. The Growth representative mix will depend on the draft target customers for the product. The panel reviews the documents and issues a go/no-go decision.
  3. If go, the Product Nest Lead assigns a Product Lead and Market Research Lead (responsibilities below). The Product Lead then completes a draft DG Product Proposal based on the template. The Product Lead undertakes iterative refinement of the product proposal based on customer discovery, customer validation, and market feedback. If no-go, then the product is revised or killed.
  4. The Product Lead then submits the draft DG proposal (with only the Abstract, Market, Financials, Product Design sections) in parallel to the Engineering Nest lead for Technical Feasibility Assessment and to the Market Research Lead for Market Validation.
  5. If the Technical Feasibility Assessment and Market Validation are both positive then the Product Lead completes the DG proposal and posts it on the forum to queue an IIP vote. Otherwise, the product is revised or killed.
  6. If the IIP vote is positive then the product is developed to launch

Documents

  • Lean Canvas. The Lean Canvas is a widely-adopted framework for evaluating new business models using a customer-centered approach. For example, the fields include customer segments (ideally the 7 customer segments defined in the Product <> Growth Strategy), early adopters, the customer problem, value proposition, distribution channels, etc. It is strongly recommended that the Lean Canvas is completed with a representative from Growth. Here is the template and an example of an idea proposal in the Lean Canvas format.
  • Press Release.
  • Decision Gate (DG) Product Proposal. The DG Product Proposal is the central document describing a product proposal for an IIP vote. The template can be found here and below.

Decision Points

  • Product and Growth Assessment. The Lean Canvas proposal will be evaluated by a group from Product and Growth consisting of the Product Nest Lead (currently Cormac) and at least 3 of the most relevant members from Growth. For example, if the product is intended for DAO customers then there should be a Growth representative with the most relevant DAO business development experience. The group will make a go/no-go decision based on a majority vote. The vote will be based on initial technical feasibility and perceived market demand. The outcome of a ‘go’ decision is that the Product Nest will then assign a Product Lead DRI, a Marketing Research Lead (MRL), and an overall priority (High, Medium, Low). The Product Lead will be responsible for progressing the idea to a DG/IIP proposal. Note that the Product Lead is preferably the proposer or originator of the idea but this does not need to be the case. In cases where the idea was proposed from someone external, the Product Lead will still be internal since an external person would be unable to navigate the process. The Product Lead will most often be sourced from Product Nest. The product idea will then undergo an agile, iterative cycle of customer discovery and validation, and product refinement to optimize the idea prior to external market validation.
  • Technical Feasibility Assessment. The Technical Feasibility Assessment will be performed by the Engineering Nest Lead. The input will be the draft DG Proposal with the Summary and Product Design sections complete. A positive decision will advance the product to External Market Validation.
  • Market Validation. Ensuring our products address a market demand is key to the success of the DAO. The current process for market validation based on market surveys on social media is heavily flawed however. Market surveys on social media may poorly target the customer segment, and have substantial bias, inaccuracy, and lack of comparability over time. Also, it is unclear who is responsible for performing the market research. External market validation will be assessed by the appointed Market Research Lead (MRL). The input to the Market Validation process will be a draft DG proposal prepared by the Product Lead. The draft DG proposal will include only the product summary and commercial sections (ie, sections 1-2). The commercial sections should include secondary market research including on-chain data analysis, marketing analytics, and market research reports. The commercial sections should be reviewed by Growth. The MRL will then perform the external market validation using observational studies. Observational studies are widely considered the gold standard for market research for financial products, although the method is very labor-intensive. The observational studies could include, for example, asking respondents to invest a hypothetical amount across a range of products including the product under consideration as well as controls. It is expected that observational studies will produce more accurate market research results than the current practice of under-powered market surveys. The output of the Market Validation process is provided in Section 2.0 (Market Information) of the draft DG proposal.
  • IIP. The final decision to build and launch a product is executed by IIP.

Roles

Role Responsibilities Who
Product Lead DRI. Overall responsibility for the project. Complete Lean Canvas and Decision Gate Proposal Typically, Product Pod member (eg, Allan, Joseph, Sid, et al) but could come from any function.
Market Research Lead Lead market research activities. Make Market Validation go/no-go decision. Product or Growth contributor assigned by Product Nest Leader
Portfolio Manager Update product portfolios (Notion, contributor Discord server, community Discord Server). Provide project updates. Product Pod Leader (ie, presently Cormac)

Lean Canvas Template

Press Release template

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