Including Stakeholder Feedback in Product Updates
As organizations embrace the concepts of iterative design and perpetual beta, the traditional waterfall approach has been replaced by more agile processes. For most teams, this shift has brought a positive change to the quality and speed that a product can be released and updated. However, while production teams focus on how to develop their product, they often forget to ask themselves why they are making these updates in the first place. At the heart of any production plan must be feedback from all stakeholder groups. Speaking to the right stakeholders can have a big impact on everything from prioritizing features and functionality to achieving cross-organizational goals. To help, I’ve put together some of the most common stakeholder groups that product managers should speak to and what information to get from them.
Whether you create websites, apps, software, or digital platforms, your users should always be your primary focus. Your existing users have a vested interest in your product and want it to work well, so reach out to them to find out how it can be improved. They’ll give you the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that honesty will help you figure out what updates to include in your pipeline. Also, speak to prospects about what updates they want to see. Their insight could help you improve your product and increase conversions at the same time.
Your sales team works hard to generate new leads and they’ll have feedback on how your product could improve their process. They’ll be able to tell you the functionality that prospects are asking for and what updates could keep your product competitive. By speaking to your sales team, you’ll have a better understanding of what would help sell your product to more potential customers. You’ll also be able to align your production plan with the sales team so they can start talking about future updates as a selling point.
The customer service team is on the frontline of keeping users happy, so integrating their feedback into your production plan will not only help that team, it will also help strengthen the relationship with your users. Customer service representatives and support staff will be able to tell you what your users complain about the most and what confuses your users. You may also be able to learn how users get around an issue, which could offer insight to a possible solution to a problem. Knowing the most common pain points will help you prioritize what to fix while also reducing the workload for your customer service team.
Your organization’s management team will have its own set of goals that may include things like increased sales, brand awareness, or reach. These goals probably won’t include a specific list of updates to add to your product, however you’ll want to keep them in mind as you prioritize new features and functionality. If an update can improve the user experience and help to achieve a goal that upper management has set, then that update is should be higher on the priority list than one that does not help your organization reach those internal goals.
Digital Production Team
Your team of UX designers, developers, content strategists and QA specialists work with your product on a daily basis, so they know it better than anyone else. They should be able to rattle off a list of areas where it could be improved and suggestions on how those updates should be made. There’s a good chance that the digital production team will have a degree of emotion about every nook and cranny in your digital product, so they may not be the best at neutrally prioritizing the fixes, but their insight will help product managers form the initial list of desired updates.
Although a marketing team isn’t traditionally involved in creating a production plan, it may have some useful insights to offer. Consider asking these team members what messaging resonates most with audiences. If there is a particular feature that attracts users, you may have an opportunity to grow that feature even more. Conversely, if there is something about your product that the marketing team stays away from because it isn’t as well developed, then that would suggest an opportunity for improvement. Your marketing team should also be able to provide you with insights on competitor products and how your product matches up. Do their products include functionality that yours doesn’t? Is that worth adding? This team will also be able to provide you with any new visual assets or design styles that need to be incorporated into an update so your product matches future marketing material.
If your organization relies on partnerships then you’ll need to consider these relationships in your production plan. Your organization will most likely have internal liaisons that nurture these relationships so speak to that team to learn what updates would be important for them. These requests probably won’t be as major as those from other stakeholder groups, however partner relationships change all the time and new requirements may necessitate content changes, information hierarchy or even updates in functionality (eg: changing form options to include a new partner). By including this team’s needs in your plan, you can help them strengthen their relationships with your partners.
Getting Stakeholder Feedback
Knowing who to speak to is a step in the right direction, but you also need to figure out a way to gather that feedback. Here are some recommendations:
Set up a workshop: Workshops are a great way to get all your stakeholders in the same room to have a focused discussion. Stakeholders will be able to discuss their needs together, which will help improve ideas and consolidate requests. I recommend inviting 1-2 members of each internal stakeholder group since that will give you enough insight into their needs without getting too many people involved. If possible, try hosting a second workshop specifically for existing users and prospects so they can voice their opinions in a neutral setting.
Interviews: If a workshop isn’t possible, then schedule interviews with key members of each stakeholder group so you can ask them what updates they would like to see implemented on your production plan. I suggest asking everyone the same questions so you can find common trends within the answers. If you are doing this manually, then set up a spreadsheet with all the questions and answers so you can compare the answers side-by-side.
Send out a survey: Surveys are a great option if you want input from more people than workshops or interviews will allow. Use a tool like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to streamline your survey and consolidate results. Keep your survey as brief as possible but make sure to ask the essential questions. It’s a good idea to include a field at the end where users can add comments about a subject that you didn’t ask about. Sometimes that is where you get the most useful insight.
The key to successfully scheduling updates for your digital product is to first understand what needs and opportunities exist. By speaking to different stakeholder groups, you’ll have a more comprehensive picture of your product and how it impacts everyone involved. You can then begin the process of prioritizing these requests for your team’s sprints and launches.