Product Talk #10 “Turning Ideas into Business Cases” – Idea Generation

Brainmates hosted another lively session for Product Talks to discuss how to best approach transforming an idea to a business case.

We were lucky enough to have panelists from different industries:


The session had five sections:

  • Idea Generation
  • Do we need a Business Case
  • Starting a Business Case
  • Completing a Business Case
  • The case for a Business Case

We covered a lot of ground in the talks, so we’ve split each of these sections into separate posts.

Idea Generation

The panellists started the Talk by discussing sources for business ideas.

Kees discussed the importance of tapping into the voice of the customer, with the team striving to think about the customer’s needs in a few years’ time. He identified four key sources for ideas at the Bank of America:

  • The Customers – Product Managers in his team are scored on how many visits they have with customers
  • Sales staff
  • Tender Documents – a great source, as reading between the lines can identify future customer needs
  • New Staff – often give great insight into competitors’ products

Jen identified that for Publishing, often it was a matter of keeping an eye on other industries. Google, for example, often works as an inspiration in the fields of information delivery and information processing.

Nick discussed three sources that Atlassian use to gather product ideas:

  • Public Issues Backlog. Atlassian has a public register using its JIRA product (http://jira.atlassian.com) where customers can raise issues and product improvements, then discuss and vote for them.
  • Customer Interviews
  • Atlassian Bootcamp Program. All new starters at Atlassian are given the task of finding a new idea and implementing in their first six weeks at the organisation.

Irena Macri, an attendee, pointed out that Facebook was a great source of story ideas and functional change requests for the magazine publishing industry.

The role of Product Managers in the generation and validation of ideas depends on the industry and organization. Jen pointed out that the publishing industry is going through a period of change, moving from a model where the publisher steps back once a book is published, to a new model where a book is constantly being published. As a result, Product Management is being integrated into everybody’s roles.

For Nick and his team at Atlassian, the point at which Product Managers become involved is dependent on the engineer leading the project. As idea validation is the responsibility of engineers, the Product Manager team may get involved earlier or later depending on the individual engineer’s degree of experience with customer communications.

The process of idea validation was a hot topic of dicussion. In response to Brian Menzies asking about negotiating the divide between listening to customers and implementing their requested solution, Jen pointed out that

You don’t build to someone’s product idea; you build to their pain point.

Kees, Nick and Peter Haywood agreed. They pointed out that products should be built to a viable target market, not to a specific customer’s request. This can be validated by identifying patterns in feedback from multiple customers.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog.