To create successful products, product managers spend months understanding their target audience, identifying pain points, and creating prototypes.
Product management frameworks — from ones focused on strategy to design to features prioritization — help streamline this complex process. Frameworks can guide teams from ideation to execution, standardize various processes in a product’s life cycle, and make it easier to get everyone on the same page.
Product Management Frameworks
Product managers use product management frameworks as foundational tools to build out an effective product strategy. It helps them across different parts of product management, from identifying profitable opportunities to building out a product vision.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) created this framework — AKA the growth share matrix — to help companies categorize businesses based on their growth and market share. The four quadrants include:
- Star: high growth, high share
- Question mark: high growth, low share
- Cash cow: low growth, high share
- Pet: low growth, low share
The matrix can help product managers outline different business opportunities based on their profitability. Stars and cash cows, for example, indicate profitable and sustainable product lines.
Product Vision Board
A product vision board brings together your vision, target group, needs, product requirements, and business goals into one place. It helps create clear objectives that guide the organization through product development.
Product managers should work on this board early in the process, as it acts as the basis for your overall product strategy.
Venture capitalist Dave McClure created a five-step framework to help companies understand their buyer’s journey. AARRR stands for:
- Acquisition: How are buyers finding our product?
- Activation: How are buyers engaging with our product?
- Retention: Are buyers using our product consistently?
- Referral: Are buyers referring our product to others?
- Revenue: What are buyers willing to pay for our product?
This model provides product managers with guidelines for collecting customer feedback after launch.
Three Horizons Framework
Consulting firm McKinsey created its three horizons framework to help identify and assess areas of growth. The framework features three different horizons:
- Horizon one: core parts of the business that bring in the most profit and cash flow
- Horizon two: emerging opportunities likely to generate substantial profits in the near future
- Horizon three: ideas for profitable growth opportunities further down the line
Product managers can assess the three horizons and identify opportunities in each. For example, defending your core business could come down to improving the responsiveness of a feature.
Product Strategy Canvas
Product manager Melissa Perri created the product strategy canvas to bring together an organization’s vision, its challenges, a key metric to aim toward, and the current state of affairs.
Product managers can use the canvas to figure out their first objective as it relates to their vision and challenge. For example, your app might have an issue with loading times (i.e., the challenge), and your target condition could be reducing the homepage’s loading time by five seconds.
Product Prioritization Frameworks
Product managers view prioritization as one of the most difficult aspects of the job. It requires them to take a list of ideas, pick the best-of-the-best, then build them out. Prioritization frameworks attach numbers and assessments to rankings, making the selection process more methodical and intentional.
User Story Mapping
User story mapping enables product managers to visualize the journey their target audience takes. This exercise helps keep the user at the center of development, focusing on the steps they take and how the product design can reduce friction along the way.
User story mapping usually starts with activities, then steps, and ends with tasks. For example, when a customer considers searching, they then type into the search bar and, finally, search using a specific keyword.
The RICE Scoring Model reduces prioritization down to four components:
- Reach: How many people will the product or feature reach?
- Impact: How impactful will the product or feature be for each customer?
- Confidence: How accurate are your estimates?
- Effort: How many resources will the product or feature take?
Then, product managers assign values to each component:
- Reach: people per time period (e.g., number of customers per quarter)
- Impact: 3 ("massive impact"), 2 ("high"), 1 ("medium"), 0.5 ("low"), 0.25 ("minimal")
- Confidence: 100% ("high confidence"), 80% ("medium"), 50% ("low"), <50% ("total moonshot")
- Effort: "person-months," or number of workers multiplied by time committed to the project (e.g., if six people work on a project for two weeks, their effort score equals 12)
After figuring out values for each feature, plug them into the following formula: (Reach x Impact x Confidence) / Effort = RICE Score. The higher the score, the higher the feature is on your prioritization.
The MoSCoW prioritization method ranks features using four categories:
- Must-haves: vital, core parts of the product
- Should-haves: important, but not necessary
- Could-haves: good attributes, but has minimal impact if left out
- Won't-have: absent, no need to prioritize at this time
Product managers rank attributes by placing them into each category, then building out their strategy and roadmap accordingly.
The Kano Model categorizes features based on how much they delight customers. The model breaks features down into three areas:
- Must-haves (or basic): essential product components customers both expect and need
- Performance: attributes that provide a proportionate increase in satisfaction when improved (e.g., app response time)
- Delighters (or excitement): features that produce great customer delight and excitement
After placing features into these categories, product managers can prioritize features, building out the must-haves first, which will decrease customer satisfaction if absent. Then, they can add as many performance features as possible, and any delighters they can invest in.
The framework also helps product managers figure out the creation’s differentiating factor (i.e., the “wow” factor). If an idea falls outside of the three categories, then the product manager knows to scrap it.
Product Design Frameworks
When all the planning is done, product managers and their teams need to build out plans to develop the product. There are numerous design frameworks that can help organizations figure out how to build their vision.
Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product that only has essential features; it’s primarily built to collect customer feedback and data. An MVP could include any of the following:
- Landing pages
- Explainer videos
- Crowdfunding campaigns
- Marketing emails
- Single-feature products
Product managers can create MVPs by only including the most prioritized features. MVPs help validate product ideas and can offer guidance on iterating the design of the product.
Double Diamond Design Process
The British Design Council developed this process to connect critical thinking to design principles. It includes four parts:
- Discover: gathering insights to better understand their target audience's problems
- Define: narrowing down gathered data into a clear definition of the problem
- Develop: building out prototypes and MVPs to explore solutions
- Deliver: launching the final product while continuing to gather feedback
Though the original framework featured a linear progression, an updated one encourages teams to jump around each part. For example, if a product manager wants to gather more information after developing a prototype, they can return to the discover and define stages.
- Task success
Product managers look at the goals, signals, and metrics of each category. For example, you could have a broad happiness objective of increasing user satisfaction. An uptick in five-star reviews could signal progress toward that objective. You could measure progress via user ratings.
Product managers use the CIRCLES method to test their understanding of design-oriented questions. It helps answer the question: How would you design this product? There are seven steps:
- Comprehend the situation: What goals does your product have? What constraints do you have? What’s the context of the product or feature?
- Identify the customer: Who are your buyer personas?
- Report customer needs: What does your persona need or want?
- Cut through prioritization: What features matter most? Least?
- List solutions: How will you address customer needs and wants?
- Evaluate trade-offs: What are the pros and cons of your solutions?
- Summarize your recommendation: In short, what is your product design recommendation?
Overall, this framework helps product managers understand the why, how, and what behind their product’s design.