Today’s complexity of launching a product in the marketplace and delivering value to your customers cannot be managed as a linear set of phases, with little space to incorporate customer focus and adjust the plan along the way. It needs an iterative and adaptive development process.
Companies cannot afford to manage projects as a sequential list of phases. Product development should be managed as a cross-dimensional project to break the silos between each phase and reduce the risk of dependencies. Projects should not only be cross-dimensional, but also employ cross-functional teams to break their organizational silos. Product managers cannot work on one dimension at a time, move on to the next one when ready, and hope that everything flows nicely. They should employ a 5-Dimensional vision of their product. This requires looking at a product from the 5 Dimensions of:
Discover, Design, Develop, Deploy, Deliver TM
Download the 5D Canvas or learn more about the 5 Dimensions of Product Management.
The 5 Dimensions of Product Management
To properly understand customer needs, build a solution, and deliver a customer experience that satisfies those needs, product managers need to have a full vision of their product. This is what we call the “5D vision of Product Management”.
Much like you see an object in the real world from a variety of different angles, the product’s 5D vision allows you to view a product across a variety of dimensions as it moves from ideation to launch. Each dimension covers a specific stage in the product development process and includes the elements needed to create a product and deliver a great customer experience. Only by covering all five dimensions can product managers plan and launch successful products in the marketplace
Product managers need to consider, plan, and execute in all 5 Dimensions to create great products. None of these dimensions is isolated from each other, and they may not even happen in linear order. In fact, you may return to any dimension at any time, and continue iterating through them, as you move forward in your ideation and development activities.
The Discover dimension focuses on understanding the problem and customer needs, or identifying an unmet opportunity. Much like an explorer of old, the product manager uses the tools available to explore new areas, learn the terrain, and identify new opportunities. The goal of this exploration is the identification of a clear problem and opportunity worth solving.
The Discovery of a new opportunity may come from a variety of sources including technology advancements (e.g. R&D in new battery technology at Tesla), a market change (e.g. financial incentives for Solar installations), a human need (e.g. social networking in Facebook), or the re-invention of an entire industry (e.g. Uber and Lyft’s transformation of the taxi industry).
At the core of Discovery is the understanding of the needs, aspirations, and challenges of customers, and this places ethnographic research methods like Empathy Interviews and Observations at the center of this dimension.
The Design dimension is dedicated to identifying a solution to the problem or need discovered in the previous phase. The goal is to validate an idea for problem/solution fit. Often, there is not a single, clearly defined solution, but rather there are multiple possible solutions. Prototype Testing and Design Thinking help you ideate solutions, narrow the possibilities, and validate your ideas using prototypes and user feedback.
The Development dimension is when you work with your technology team to create your new product or feature. This is when the hard work put into the Discovery and Design phases come to life, in the form of an actual product that your users can interact with.
The key activity here is to minimize risk and the cost of change by building the product in iterations and enabling your end users to inspect and provide feedback. Plans may adapt along the way, and you may pivot to Discover or Design a new idea if necessary. This kind of agility in development reduces the cost of change, and creates the foundation for a more successful end product.
To help the team develop the right product and in the right way, at this stage you should focus on prioritization and keep your technical debt in check. If your goal is to launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in the shortest time and with the fewest resources as possible, work with your cross-functional team and identify the key elements of your overall customer experience, including what you need in Deploy and Deliver. Focus on these elements, and delay everything else.
Launching a product in market is probably the most exciting time for a product team. Deployment is a carefully orchestrated set of activities that happen in a particular order and that involve multiple teams. Deployment is not only the job of IT Operations, but is a cross-functional team effort. Team members from Marketing, Training, Customer Support, Sales, and other departments come together to orchestrate a successful launch of the new product.
By focusing early on the Deploy dimension you can identify what you need for a successful launch across your multi-disciplinary team. You can start planning in the Design and Development phases, and in Deploy everything comes together as the cross-functional team works as a unit for a successful launch.
The goal of a new product is to bring to life the initial promise set up by the product’s vision and satisfy customer needs and expectations. Just having a product in market does not represent success. Only when you can measure and validate the customer experience your product delivers, can you can measure success. The goal of this phase is to validate your market-solution fit through measurement and customer feedback.
Because Delivery is the end goal of product development, the activities in this phase cannot be an afterthought. Proper planning in earlier phases for how you are going to measure and validate your product’s success is key to deliver a great product that customers love.
The 5D Canvas
There are many tools and methodologies product managers and their teams can use at each phase in product development. The 5D Canvas provides an at-a-glance view of the 5 Dimensions of Product Management and the tools and methodologies to employ for each. It also provides space for you to plan what activities and methodologies to employ for each Dimension in your product development journey.
Use the 5D Canvas to identify the activities you may want to conduct at each phase in your product development. Having visibility into all the activities you need to do — even if at high level — allows for better planning and prioritization of the overall process.
In particular, don’t wait until your product is ready for launch to think about who your target customers are. Instead, use the 5D Canvas to plan holistically across all 5 Dimensions as you go. For example, think about Go to Market Strategy during Design. Why? Because there could be features that you may want to incorporate in your product to support your launch. It’s better to plan ahead rather than figuring it out at the last moment. The Zones of Value is another framework that could help you do that.
The canvas also has a space in the back to jot down your action plan and describe how you are going to bring your product to life.
To use the worksheet, identify the following for each Dimension:
Needs: These are activities, data points, and artifacts that you need to do, collect or create. For example: “Understand who my target customers are” in Deliver, “Implement a regression testing platform” in Develop, “training manual” and “customer support” in Deploy. Mapping these out early in the process and across all 5 Dimensions helps to bring clarity on what you need to do.
Challenges: What obstacles or difficulties do you expect to have to satisfy the needs listed before? Having clarity on your challenges helps in finding ways to plan solutions and choose the right tools to solve them. For example, if you don’t have clarity on who your target customers are or how to market to them, you may identify that as a challenge and list it under Discover (research potential customers), Design (understand who they are) or Deliver (measure results delivered).
Tools: Based on the challenges identified before, what tools and activities can you use and do to solve them? You can refer to the other side of the 5D Canvas, “The 5 Dimensions of Product Managements”, for a list of suggested tools and activities for each Dimension. “Empathy Interviews” to learn about your customer needs, “User Personas” to define who your target customer is, or “Attend a training class” to learn more about Agile and Scrum.
As you proceed through your product development process, you may revisit the 5D Canvas and update it with new learnings, add new challenges, and delete those you have already solved. In this sense, the 5D Canvas is a living document that accompanies you through your product journey. It provides a high-level map of how you plan to bring your product to life.
If you plan on developing your product in multiple releases, for example starting with an MVP and then following up with Version 2.0, etc., you can repeat the 5D Canvas using a different sheet for each release.