Top Product Management Frameworks for 2023
A product management framework lends structure to the processes by which companies develop new products and manage existing ones on their portfolio through their life cycle.
They typically help businesses focus on one or more of the following aspects of product management:
- Discovery - this covers exploring new opportunities through a better understanding of customer needs, market conditions and so on, as well as validating ideas.
- Strategy - gathering data, analysing problems and making decisions about the next steps in a product’s lifecycle.
- Prioritisation - logically deciding the order in which tasks and projects will be undertaken.
Different frameworks focus on different aspects of product management. For example, some are focused on customer segmentation, while others are about prioritisation or time management. The point is, it is not a case of picking one and building your entire product management strategy around it.
Every one of the best product management frameworks we will look at is a valuable addition to any product manager’s toolbox. Let's go!
From the earliest civilizations, humans have been telling stories to convey messages. You see it in schools, in religious texts, in the anecdotes you hear from older family members and most certainly in product management.
We all sit up and pay attention when someone tells a story as long as it has the essential ingredients. It has a situational setting, which is your market, in which there is a hero or protagonist, your customer, with needs, conflicts and pain points. The story proceeds to a logical conclusion by introducing the product that helps the customer attain his goal.
Storytelling is an effective way to simplify the complex.
- It is a methodology that Apple has often used to discuss what is a complex and technologically cutting-edge product range in a way that everyone can conceptualise.
- Clothing retailer TOMS is another good example. This company has shared stories about their customers and in so doing created a community based around the brand.
A basic business axiom is that any tool that gives team members an excuse to get together and speak in pirate voices is a good tool. AARRR is even known as the “pirate metric” in some circles, and for obvious reasons.
The acronym stands for:
AARRR provides an ideal framework for A/B testing new product ideas. It was instrumental in making Grammarly the $13 billion company that it is today.
It was originally devised as a core product strategy for startups, but the basic framework is no less effective for a business in any sector that has been around forever if it wants to gain a better understanding of how customers interact with its product.
The framework follows the customer journey, and allows you to answer key strategic questions at every step. Questions like which channels customers are using to find your product for the first time, whether they are coming back for more and how often, which user actions are generating most revenue and so on.
Customer Journey Mapping
There is a perception that over recent decades, customer journeys have become more complex. That’s not entirely true - it would be more accurate to say that our understanding of them has deepened.
Once, sellers would have said the customer journey involved them stepping into the shop, choosing something, paying for it and walking out. Today, we understand that customer needs and expectations are more nuanced.
Customer journey mapping is a framework by which customer needs and expectations are clearly articulated. It is a great way of identifying both the pain points and the positive aspects of how customers interact with a brand, and as such, provides vital information for every stage of product development and management.
Spotify and Amazon are two of the highest-profile businesses to use customer journey mapping. It is easy to get started as dozens of different templates are available online. It is just a case of pulling out two or three and choosing the one that is most relatable for your business and then populating the different fields.
The Kano model is a prioritisation framework that product development teams can use to clarify what features or properties of a product really matter to customers. The model can be used to prioritise projects and also to prioritise different aspects of a particular product while it is under development.
The Kano Model was developed in the mid 1980s by Quality Management guru Dr. Noriaki Kano from the Tokyo University of Science. As well as guiding developers on which features matter and which do not, it also subdivides the features of importance into three categories.
- Basic features give the product its essential functionality. They will not cause customers to jump up and down with glee, but if they do not work as expected they can lead to dissatisfaction. An example of this would be the windscreen wipers in a car.
- Performance features - these give increased satisfaction in direct correlation to the amount you invest in them. For example, the more storage space there is in a smartphone, the happier the customers will be.
- Excitement features - these are bonus features that give a product extra pizzaz and can help differentiate it from competitors. If these features were absent, the chances are, nobody would miss them. But if they are there, they will increase satisfaction
Mapping these features against development costs also helps in the prioritisation process.
Minimum Viable Product
With a focus on the product development phase of product management, this framework stresses the importance of learning during development. It prescribes the development of a “bare bones” product in the first instance with just the minimum necessary functionality. This can then be tested, with lessons learned fed back to the development team to form a virtuous circle of continuous improvement.
The process is sometimes referred to as lean product development because it minimises wasteful time spent developing unnecessary features or going down blind alleys.
MVP is a framework that has been used to good effect in web app development services. In fact, it was instrumental in developing a number of the world’s best known software applications.
- and even Facebook.
Jobs to be Done
JTBD is a framework that identifies the value proposition of the product, or the need that it will fulfil, as opposed to the product itself. Approaching product development from this angle brings multiple benefits. As well as the obvious, that it better aligns product developers with customer demands, there is also an element of risk mitigation.
JTBD means businesses avoid falling into the trap of developing a fabulous solution and then searching in vain for a problem it can solve.
Alan Klement, the Godfather of JTBD, points out that the framework is highly agile as it deals with principles, which tend to remain consistent, instead of methods, which are easy to learn but became obsolete with time.
This framework has been used across multiple sectors by some famous brands. LinkedIn is a great example, as you can see the principle in action when you log on.
Look at the different membership tiers and you will see they are expressed in the form of jobs to be done, for example “search jobs with confidence and get hired” or “find leads more easily.”
This framework is another that can be used for prioritisation, but specifically to understand the wants and needs of customers. It splits these into four categories, and like all the best management frameworks, it is very simple.
- Must have - non-negotiable and essential product needs
- Should have - important factors or properties that add significant value
- Could have - “nice to haves” the omission of which will not have a major impact
- Won’t have - not important, at least at the present time
The MoSCoW method was developed in the 1990s by Dai Clegg, a software engineer at Oracle. Before diving into the MoSCoW analysis, it is necessary to agree on what are the factors that need to be prioritised. This preparation should include input from as many key stakeholders as possible, not just the product development manager.
MoSCoW is an elegant way of segmenting and prioritising, but it is easily prone to bias. To be effective, it must be used in conjunction with an objective scoring system.
Another highly effective prioritisation framework, RICE stands for the following four factors that must always be considered when discussing any product characteristic. To use this framework, the team allocates a score to each metric.
- Reach — how many people will the initiative reach within your predetermined timeframe?
- Impact — this is a straightforward rating between 0.25 and 5.0 of the feature’s impact or “wow factor.”
- Confidence — how certain is the team that the impact predicted above will be accurate. Based on what? Here’s a chance for you to get real and have a final look in the mirror. Express this figure as a percentage.
- Effort — this needs to reflect the overall time it takes to build a feature and the number of “person-months” that will be needed to get it to market.
The RICE score is arrived at by multiplying the first three numbers together and then dividing by the fourth - so RICE = (RxIxC)/E
The higher the RICE score, the higher the priority that should be dedicated to that factor, attribute or characteristic.
The RICE framework was invented in around 2014 by US communications software company Intercom, and has since become a go-to tool for decision-making. Yes, it is valuable in product management, but it is also one of the essential project management tools for software development and other areas.
The fact that it assigns numerical values to a range of choices provides a way of quantifying the unquantifiable, and makes it easier to demonstrate a rationale for a certain course of action when discussing with stakeholders.
Taking its cues from the design process itself, this iterative framework is described as a sprint, but it is perhaps more like a marathon as some exponents recommend taking a day per phase.
Either way, the idea is to provide steps by which the common pitfalls and risks associated with releasing a product can be avoided or at least mitigated.
It uses the six phases of Design Thinking, a framework that was first mooted in the 1960s and has been adopted in a number of areas of business, not just product management.
The phases are as follows:
- Empathize - take time to understand the user’s needs, wishes and objectives. This is best achieved through face-to-face real-time engagement.
- Define - identify the pain points in the user experience and define the problem that needs to be solved in terms of unmet needs that can be fulfilled.
- Ideate - with needs, objectives and pain points clearly identified, it is possible to start coming up with potential solutions.
- Prototype - put the ideas that were formulated at the ideation stage to the test, to see which are workable real world solutions.
- Test - how does the prototype perform when it comes to fulfilling the unmet needs? Are pain points relieved and user needs met?
- Implement - finally, the product is introduced to the market, with further checks that user needs continue to be met.
The Design Sprint concept was introduced by Bill Knapp of GV, back when it was still Google Ventures.
Although the name implies a linear progression from step to step, the reality is that each phase is more often iterative and cyclical as ideas are refined, feedback is received and additional needs or pain points come to the surface. It is not uncommon to revisit early phases, even after the product has entered the market.
Finally, another classic framework has its origins in the world of design. This one was originally developed by the British Design Council in 2005. The Double Diamond framework encompasses four phases, and its similar genesis to the Design Sprint is clear to see.
The BDC says the phases of:
- and Delivery
... can be applied to any creative pursuit.
Again, this is an iterative process. While the four stages need no explanation by now, the interesting aspect of the Double Diamond is that their use demands two angles of approach, divergent and convergent.
Specifically, divergent thinking is required at the development stage. This is when developers are encouraged to think outside the box to come up with diverse and novel ways to solve the problem that has been defined.
When moving on to the delivery stage, however, the approach becomes convergent, focused on the clearly defined problem and the data at hand in order to zero in on the optimised solution.
The Double Diamond framework has some big-hitting brands behind it.
- and Xerox are just a few of the companies that have implemented this framework as part of their product management workflows.
In this article we share a list of our preferred frameworks. We have worked with each of them, choosing the right one from case to case.
Our main recommendation: stay aware of what you're pursuing. Remember your goals and who you're creating your product for. And, if you're already here, why not to check our case-studies? Or, contact us if you have an idea to discuss.
What are product management frameworks?
A Product Management Framework is a set of processes that a business follows during the creation and lifetime of its products. The framework optimises the time it takes to design and develop products and helps ensure they meet customer needs.
What are the five stages of a product management framework?
Different frameworks have different stages. However, a thread that is common to most product management frameworks is a five-stage process of defining the customer need or desire, coming up with potential solutions, testing those ideas, arriving at a solution and delivering it. However, many frameworks also encompass additional aspects of product management, such as prioritizing and time management.