Why New Digital Product Ideas Should Start with an Opportunity Solution Tree

Jan 29, 2020 | Blog

Blue clear object text box with a check mark "Making the case with your boss for a new digital product, How to develop a compelling opportunity solution tree"

In the world of product development for IoT technology and data analytics, opportunities for new digital products are virtually endless. Yet some ideas for a new digital product are worth pursuing and some aren’t. The trick is determining a desired outcome for the product and weighing various ideas for how to achieve that outcome — with each idea being a solution to be scrutinized and validated.

The more critical trick is verifying the solutions that most effectively align with an identified opportunity. And there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

The wrong way is to jump directly to a solution with insufficient analysis. There isn’t enough data or input from customers to determine an idea’s effectiveness. Or analysis hasn’t involved the whole product team and other stakeholders to contribute ideas and compare thoughts. When there’s a lack of collective thinking, trying to arrive at the best solutions for a new digital product is a fruitless exercise.

Build an idea pool for your digital product

The best digital products emerge from different ideas and different perspectives. Ideas should come from all members of a product team: the product manager, the product owner, the product’s executive level sponsor, and engineers and developers. Resources like customer success managers and sales account reps can also contribute valuable ideas. One caution here, however. Be careful the ideas don’t get too numerous or broad in scope or it can diminish the solution.

Working from a pool of ideas, the product manager must decide which needs and solutions are worth focusing on. The intent is to get past lesser ideas, work through the obvious ones, and get to a truly innovative solution for the opportunity a new digital product is being targeted for.

Put opportunities in perspective

Especially for IoT technology and data analytics solutions, sorting good ideas from bad ones is the key to developing the right digital product. Opportunities generated from customers and potential users of the product are equally key. In all, opportunities should range from specific ideas to broader ones, although prioritizing them to determine the best ones can be tricky because they aren’t always like to like.

This is where mapping all needs and ideas against and in relation to one another comes in — and where an Opportunity Solution Tree becomes a product manager’s best friend.

(Credit Teresa Torres for introducing the Opportunity Solution Tree. For anyone in product development, her creation makes delivering things like digital products much easier.)

The Opportunity Solution Tree

An Opportunity Solution Tree encompasses the critical elements of product development we’ve discussed to this point, plus experiments:

Desired Outcome: What the product manager and team want to achieve.

Opportunities: The reason for a solution; one direction that could help fulfill the desired outcome.

Solutions: What the product team will create or do; a way of implementing the opportunity.

Experiments: All the ways a solution will be tested.

By its scheme, an Opportunity Solution Tree promotes structured, critical thinking among the entire product team to focus on opportunities and experiments. The scheme also ensures that the team is prioritizing customer and user needs and generating enough validated solutions to increase the probability of delivering a successful digital product.

Continuous focus

Again, it’s vital that the desired outcome is clearly defined. The desired outcome objective is what guides the thinking process throughout an Opportunity Solution Tree and the course of product development. As importantly for every idea, the desired outcome prompts the product team to persistently ask the question: What problem are we trying to solve? (Developing digital products for IoT technology and data analytics can raise a lot of questions.)

By laying out solutions and experiments next to one another within an Opportunity Solution Tree structure, the product team can focus on the problem to be solved in a continuous manner. This likewise keeps the focus on what’s best for the customer. For each idea from the product team, an Opportunity Solution Tree additionally helps create a solution type the product manager and all team members can delve into by way of experiments. If desired, product teams can devise tree-like workflows to combine various phases of experiments.

For digital products, the best solutions emanate from the experiments a product team runs and the feedback it gathers — and particularly from subsequent discussions among all team members, i.e., collective thinking.

A must-have for product development

Keep in mind, an Opportunity Solution Tree can be instituted at any point in the product development lifecycle. It’s preferable of course to structure and use an Opportunity Solution Tree from the start, although introducing one to drive the iterative development of a mature product is helpful too.

Need help?

ClearObject has worked with customers in industries of all kinds to help them develop their digital product ideas, often beginning with an Opportunity Solution Tree. Now we’ve put what we know into a checklist to help you develop an Opportunity Solution Tree on your own.

Checklist graphic for expected/desired outcome for business objective and key result

Download our checklist and put it to use.

Or contact us. We’ll help you get your digital product idea off the ground.

About the Author

Close up profile image of Derek Bleyle Product Manager for IoT and Data Analytics at ClearObject

Derek Bleyle is a Product Manager for IoT and Data Analytics at ClearObject. Including his stint for a “pre-eminent engineering company focused on innovation and world-class power and propulsion systems,” he has worked in digital product development for going on 12 years. He has also put together some incredibly effective Opportunity Solution Trees for our customers.

About ClearObject

ClearObject is a digital transformation leader in Internet of Things (IoT) Engineering and Analytics. As IBM Watson IoT and Google Cloud Business Partners, we deliver global embedded software development environments for our customers, and design and deliver unique data analytics digital products that help them recognize the value of their data. Our objective is clear: help the world’s best companies build intelligence into their products and gain intelligence from them. The future is clear. Do you see it?


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