Product Research: Budget To Build From Scratch
Microsoft fmr Product Lead on Product Research (Part 2)
Sometimes, product managers actually have some budget at their disposal to conduct product research! This is especially important when it comes to building a new product from scratch. Ultimately, you need to have as much perspective from your target customers as possible.
I’ll share an example from my time at Microsoft that fits into the “have budget, no product” category. Fortunately, Microsoft gave our team plenty of budget to conduct qualitative and quantitative research for a new server-based solution. Yes, servers used to be “hot” back in the day. Clearly, times have changed – but the problem that we set out to solve is still very much a reality today.
Specifically, that problem is consolidating multiple products into a single easy-to-access platform.
Back then, every core Microsoft Office product required its own server for enterprise operations. For example, Excel had a unique server – as did Word / Powerpoint / etc. As you can imagine, requiring a customer to have upwards of seven servers to perform functions that tied into one suite of products was not very efficient. With this, we set out to create a solution to consolidate Office’s suite of products into fewer than one server per application.
As you can imagine, product research is critical for validating changes that impact key business partners. In this case, we made sure to use insights from both qualitative and quantitative research to come up with our final product. This is a very important factor in utilizing product research correctly – as the qualitative side is frequently overlooked. Typically, most companies will only invest in quantitative research. The assumption is that quantitative research “doesn’t lie” and is more objective.
However, the problem with approaching product research purely from an analytical perspective is that you lose “the soul” of why people respond to product features. Said differently, you don’t have much context by looking at results without understanding the personal drivers that led to people choosing those options. Ultimately, product research at its best combines pure data and personal insights to generate recommended product solutions.