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[caption id="attachment_20016" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Customer Pain Customer Pain[/caption]

“Ouch, that really hurt.” “What was it?” my sparring partner replied. “The choke or the overstretching of the elbow joint?” “The quick throw, I had no time for proper fall breaking.” I replied. It happens in our sport, we try and experiment and try to find the best way to perform a technique. The goal is not to inflict pain but to figure out what works and what not. Knowing where the pain is and whether it affects the recipient is important beyond jujutsu and in fact is the core of Product Management. Let’s look at a handy visualization of customer pain to help Product Owners and Product Managers to prioritize.

In my book “The Product Samurai” I introduced the concept of a job map, or better said: a pain map. The underlying notion is that a customer doesn’t want your product; he or she just wants some sort of problem to go away: the bigger the problem, the bigger the need for your product. That is: if the customer is satisfied with the way the product solves the problem. There are various ways to visualize this. Frequently I will use a tabular representation. This leads to easy prioritization and a data driven approach of finding the product (features) that have the biggest effect on the product. Another way to look at it is by creating a pain graph:

[caption id="attachment_20020" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Pain vs Importance Pain vs Importance[/caption]

The X axis plots importance, the Y axis pain. Some things are annoying but just not that important. Like: its almost winter, the windshield on my car will probably freeze over a couple of times. So pain: yes, important: not really, the current solution is acceptable. The graph also shows some interesting opportunities. I’ve marked them in red, for easy reading. These represent features or “jobs” that our product is hired to do and fails miserably at it. Based on the jobs-to-be done theory from Clayton Christianson these represent the best place for us to innovate. So let’s go for a personalized UI and faster ordering handling right? Right? As Product Samurai we consider another variable: how often have we seen this? After all, how can we be sure that this feature will resonate with the majority of our target audience? How can we tell if it is pervasive enough? Fortunately Excel has a way to plot a third variable: the bubble chart (the things you can learn in blogs ;-)

[caption id="attachment_20022" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Pain vs Impact vs Evidence Pain vs Impact vs Evidence[/caption]

Sweet! Based on this new insight I would be inclined to select a different feature than on just impact and satisfaction rating. The Mobile App it is! It is really important to our users, they are not too happy about it and we know this for sure. So let’s work on that right? So in summary: prioritize by looking at

  • Impact (how important is this)
  • Pain (how good is the current solution or how willing is the customer to pay for this)
  • Pervasiveness (how often have we seen this, REAL data please, leave your opinions at the door.)

Right? There is another way to look at this: how efficient are we in solving the customer’s problems. Let’s look at the effort we make to satisfy the customer:

[caption id="attachment_20023" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Pain vs Impact vs Cost Pain vs Impact vs Cost[/caption]

Hmm, Mobile App is cool, but expedite shipments are expensive to maintain. Based on the lifecycle of the product it would make sense to balance between making the product more attractive (mobile App) and making sure we don’t loose customers (expedites shipments.) Prioritizing is always hard, but a pain map can help to visualize what makes sense and what does not. Explaining to stakeholders why you make choices goes a long way in driving your product vision. Figure out what works for you!

Want to learn more about agility, martial arts and product management? Go order the book from bol.com if you are in the Netherlands or Belgium or sign up to get the international edition. The Product Manager's guide to Continuous Innovation


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