How To Identify The Right Thing To Build

How to use opportunity mapping to identify targeted solutions

The thing that makes a great product builder is not that they are better at building necessarily, it’s that they are better at knowing what to build.

Figuring out what to build to solve a problem is hard. There’s no two-ways about it. That’s why it’s so difficult to be a successful a Product Manager; the entire job is oriented around identifying the right problems to solve and then figuring out how to solve them.

My favorite way to solve hard problems is to break them down into their individual sub-problems using a process called “opportunity mapping”. An opportunity map is a tree-styled breakdown of an objective into all of the sub-drivers of that objective. Using this method allows you to structure your thinking by breaking down the problem to its most granular pieces and strategizing around those pieces.

You may recall my first article on preventing involuntary churn; let’s build on the concepts I discussed there. If we want to reduce payment-failure churn as much as possible, how do we go about doing that? Let’s use a simplified opportunity map to help guide us:

Now that we have broken down involuntary churn into the lower-level problem nodes, we can work to come up with solutions for each. For example, for billing cadence, what are all the ways you could upsell more users to annual plans so they are billed less frequently? For bills occurring, are there ways you can incentivize users to prepay for time so bills occur less frequently?

Now that we have our potential solutions, we can model out the impact that each one will have on the metric we care about most; involuntary churn. We can then take those estimated impacts and use them to inform your roadmap for which features you are going to build and when.

Approaching a problem this way is a great way to brainstorm around how to solve each of the leading indicators of the problem you’re trying to tackle. By solving for the leading indicators, you ultimately see the positive impact in your lagging indicator as well. It’s a structured way to approach accomplishing your high-level goal.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. As always, reach out to me on twitter @benlkatz if you have any questions.