Growing up, I dabbled in archery. My dad bought a cheap fiberglass bow and showed me how to shoot a target on to of a stack of hay bales. When I started bow hunting again in my twenties, archery became a renewed passion. I attempt to shoot my bow every day; and slowly but surely, I’m hitting the center more and more consistently.
This is no easy task. A perfect shot requires your bow’s sight to be properly tuned and exactly aligned when you release. Your bow must be drawn back to the same spot each time, and released in the same exact motion. Most of the time, one of these variables is off, and your arrow doesn’t hit the center of the target. If you want to improve your next shot, you have to figure out what to adjust.
Product teams are also trying to hit a target. We’re aiming to deliver the right product to users – one that will solve their unmet needs and empower them to achieve their goals. Finding the right target to aim for is challenging enough; but do we always look to see if we hit the mark? Do we have the feedback we need in order to adjust? Do we even take a second shot?
It’s all too easy to become content with the act of releasing… to feel satisfied because the feature was shipped. While completing a project is an accomplishment, it’s likely not the original goal. We shouldn’t lose sight of why we built the feature in the first place, which was to improve the value that our users get from the product and their experience using it. If we want to be effective, we need to determine if we achieved our original goal.
Here are four practices product teams can learn from archery to make sure they’re hitting the mark:
Identify Your Target
Every project should start with a clearly articulated problem. The team needs to know what they’re aiming for as they create a solution. Create a product brief with details about the problem, people, context, and the desired outcome (a metric for success). In the case of mobile banking, a desired outcome might be minimizing the time it takes to create a transfer each month, or minimizing the effort required to calculate an important figure. The Intercom team does a great job of this with their intermissions.
Make Your Shot
Archers have a mental checklist they go through before releasing every arrow. Product teams can also ensure they take several important steps before they ship. Did we validate our solution with users to reduce assumptions? Do we have the right feedback mechanisms in place to determine if we achieve our desired outcome? Is the communication in place to inform stakeholders and users about the new feature? These are just a few. Find what works for your team and follow your own checklist before you release.
Measure the Gap
Releasing is great, but don’t stop there! Effective teams measure how closely they come to hitting their mark. They review analytics and user feedback to determine if they were successful or if they need to adjust and try again. To paraphrase Peter Drucker, “You can’t improve what you can’t measure.” Without this discipline, teams will have a harder time determining if they shipped a better product, or just a busier one.
Depending on the maturity of the company or product, this can be easier said than done. Sometimes it’s difficult to prioritize another immediate iteration on the solution you just shipped. You may have to live with a slight improvement for the time being, but effective teams will find the time to make an adjustment and take another shot.
The difference between good products and great products often lies in how well teams understand the value they’re providing users. By defining clear targets, using good technique, analyzing feedback, and making adjustments, product teams can start hitting their mark more consistently. Here’s hoping these four practices help your team deliver more value and joy to your users.
Nick Wellner is the Senior Product Manager for Banno's consumer applications. With nearly a decade of UX and product experience, he brings a design-thinking approach to discovering the unmet needs of users and defining how products evolve to meet them.