What is feature mapping useful?
The exercise of feature mapping is a means of deriving features from outcomes or goals. It’s an important way of arriving at a set of features that you may want to deliver in order to better your product because it forces you as product manager to ensure that all of your features are geared towards achieving your desired outcomes and goals.
All to often when we brainstorm or try to identify new and wonderful ways we can enhance our products we simply splurge out ideas that we think are cool or exciting or that we’ve seen others deliver as part of their product offering. We validate these features, put them in front of users and deliver them to a happy user base, however all to often we realize retrospectively, “I was trying to increase active users but it seems like I’ve gone and delivered an great new features that only benefits those who are already through the door and already active…doh”.
In many companies and organizations you simply can’t afford to launch something just because it’s cool or even satisfies a user – you need to launch something that does that yeah, but while really targeting what it is you’re trying to achieve. So for instance, let’s suppose you have a pretty average checkout experience and some bright spark says, “Hey, let’s launch a capability which allows our CM’s to pay by Facebook” – sounds cool huh? However what if your pouring crazy amounts of money into servicing guests through your telephone channel because they’re unsure if their orders successfully went through.
In the case described about although it’s easy to get carried away and pursue features that have that cool factor I would suggest your outcome is to reduce call volume and from that you may derive features such as ‘immediate email confirmation upon payment’ or ‘simplify and unify nomenclature through checkout process’ to more effectively tackle the real goals you’re trying to achieve. In this instance giving people more payment options is less important than giving them a good payment experience – you have the custom and they’re trying to pay you, they’re just struggling.
What is feature mapping?
Feature mapping is an activity that I find is very powerful when it’s done with the whole product team and people not familiar with the product so you can get a fresh perspective. Feature mapping starts with an outcome or goal – what is it that you want to achieve? Some examples may include – increase the customer satisfaction of early tenure users, because you know early tenure users have high attrition. Or maybe your outcome is to increase the conversion of your e-commerce funnel i.e. the adding a debit card process, the adding address process etc. Start with one outcome on the left hand side of a canvas or wall.
Next you create a column to the right of the outcome and this column is the ‘who’ – who can help us achieve this outcome? This is important because it focuses us to make sure we’re really thinking about the people who are important to the success of our product. So let’s suppose we’re a gaming app start up, who can help us to achieve our goal of more active game users? Well the users themselves for one, the developers, bloggers, companies with establish apps etc. This is the trickiest part and sometimes a step some people choose to avoid altogether as it sometimes makes the thought process too granular. However I find it important and here’s why – you will notice when you do feature mapping that people will start ‘solutionizing’ and jumping steps i.e. telling you how that user can help or by saying we can achieve this by offering X feature. The beauty of this exercise is that it forces the participant to think about things in a different mindset – instead of constantly jumping to the feature we constrain them to think about the user, think about how they can help us and if you enforce the participants to not jump steps you really do get a ball rolling when you get over the initial inertia.
Ok, so step number 3 – how can these users help us? What capability does that user possess that can help us achieve our goal? Let’s think about this. An existing user may help us by socializing our app or by recommending us to a friend or they could leave us a rating in the app store. Ok cool, so there’s a load of way a user we’ve identified can help us.
So what’s the final step – well the feature of course! So let’s take a flow from the tree link structure we’ve just built. We want to increase the number of active users of our app game and we think our existing users can enable us to do this by socializing our app. OK, so maybe we can create a leaderboard to allow existing users to challenge their friends on Facebook. We could also incentivize existing users by enabling a feature, which rewards them for every friend they sign up.
What you end up creating is a funnel shaped map of features aligned against your product goals and outcomes that you’re aiming to achieve. As a result of following this process you ensure you recognize those who can help you achieve your goals that, realize the ways you can help you achieve them and establish the features and capabilities you can deliver to realize all of this.