SaaS Product Management Process and Steps

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Behind a successful SaaS business, there must exist a process for managing the SaaS product that exists to ensure its success of the SaaS product. Implementing an effective product management process is key if you want to create the best product with features that meet your customers' needs.

The product management process includes steps to initiate new products and features or iterate on existing product features and involves a series of tasks associated with each phase of the product lifecycle. It is a process of continually making assumptions, experimenting, improving experiences, etc., and learning from them to build real products.

As a SaaS product manager, you balance user experience, business goals, and technical feasibility in the product management process. This involves working with various teams and stakeholders, including customers, business leaders, designers, R&D engineers, marketers, customer support, and more.

Implementing an effective product management process helps the business and others quickly understand the product's value and clearly explains what will be sold and how the developed product will be converted into revenue. A good product management process maximizes the chances of success, quickly validates different product solutions, shapes the development around the core needs of the user, and brings together corporate resources.

The main phases of the SaaS product management process include the following:

·Identifying customer problems.

·Developing problem-solving assumptions.

·Developing a roadmap.

·Prioritizing features.

·Delivering to various teams.

·Analyzing data.

All of these phases take place in a cycle until the end of the product lifecycle.

For different companies with different product projects and corporate strategies, the product management cycle may vary, and the steps to implement the product management process may also vary, making it difficult to generalize. Usually, the SaaS product management process steps will divide into the following steps: idea generation, idea screening, market and user research, strategy development, product development, testing and feedback collection and product improvement.
I. Idea generation

Everyone must admit that coming up with new ideas is complex, and there is no way to find new ideas in a flash. To get good ideas for SaaS ideas, you need to change your focus.

Most people focus too much on "finding ideas" in the idea-generation process and ignore the problem. This approach not only makes it challenging to find the right and valuable ideas, but it also makes it easy to get caught up in your selfishness. If you're focused on finding a SaaS idea that will blow up the industry and be the first in the industry, then you're probably not going to find it.

What you need to do in the idea generation phase is to focus on finding the problems people are having, not on finding ideas.

Every industry has problems, and as a startup, it is essential to invest more time in problem identification and product idea generation. There are two ways to identify and find problems that can be effectively implemented quickly.

1) Collect and research. Focus on an industry or field, look for trends, growing industries or products with a high return on investment, collect this information in advance and analyze those needs and problems that have not been solved. 

2) Brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming is a kind of divergent thinking style meeting. You need to create an atmosphere of idea development and refuse to criticize. No point of view is right or wrong, and one should not carry out the meeting with criticality. Brainstorming meeting participants should preferably be a mixture of people from different professional fields or different backgrounds is best, to be able to explore issues and ideas from different dimensions and promote innovation.
II, idea screening

When you have finished collecting the generated product ideas, you need to define the specifications. You can use the doorway management process to filter all the ideas by "pass or fail" and "score" and select the top 3 ideas you want to develop from the many product ideas. Then you can use SWOT (situational analysis) to filter out the ideas that seem attractive but are not achievable and select the ones with the highest revenue and the best investment cost.

In the product idea screening phase, you must describe your product idea in one clear sentence and answer the following questions.

·What problem am I trying to solve?

·How do I define its (the product idea's) success?

·How do I want my users to describe my product idea?

·Will others be willing to spend money on my product idea?
III.Market and User Research

I once spent some time analyzing and studying some failed startup cases and found that the first reason for failure in most of the failed startups was to create products without market demand.

This shows that market research and user research are one of the most core product management steps. Market and user research is critical to the success of your product. Market and user research allows you to identify the market situation, what your competitors are doing, trends in the industry, and what market gaps your product may fill.

Market and user research can be done using primary research and secondary research. Primary research is the study that collects data from scratch to get the answers you need, such as raw data for analysis from first-hand research methods like questionnaires, in-depth interviews or focus groups. Secondary research is based on data originally collected by others, such as various research journals, papers, newspaper clippings, annual statistical reports, and online sources.

The main elements of market research:

·Assessing the size of the target market

·Exploring competitors

·Analyzing competitive strengths and weaknesses

·Finding room for improvement

In addition to market research, you also need to focus on the second point: user research. User research is often neglected by product managers because most product managers focus more on product design and operational data and are more passive about user research and analysis. In conducting the user research phase, the output is a user portrait prototype, your user portrait prototype role contains the respective user attributes and characteristics, but there are two key points you must present: the user's needs and user desires.

In the market and user research process, we usually use secondary research to reach a qualitative conclusion and then conduct primary research based on this qualitative conclusion. This has the advantage of reducing unnecessary time and cost investment while aggregating problems and finding solutions more.
IV. Strategy Development

When we decide what product to develop, we do not immediately conduct product feature development but should prioritize product strategy development. Product strategy development is a plan based on implementing the route objectives of the R&D theme. The R&D article is what shapes the product vision, while the product strategy is what defines the steps you plan to take and tells the story of how you are going to achieve the product vision as time progresses.

The best way to break down strategy development into execution steps is to create a product roadmap. A product roadmap is a tool that provides teams with a framework with timelines and specific actions that illustrate the vision, goals, and current status of product development. A complete product roadmap must include the following:

Business goals and objectives.

Areas where the product belongs.

Product features.

Order of priority of matters.

Critical continuation indicators (KPIs).

Strategy development is a dynamic and continuous expression of a company's thinking about market competition, and product roadmaps need to be adjusted and updated dynamically regularly as well. As the competitive landscape changes, customer preferences are adjusted, or planned product features are modified for implementation, it is important to ensure that the product roadmap continues to reflect the status of current efforts and the importance of long-term goals. Typically, the product roadmap is updated weekly or bi-weekly so that the team can access accurate sources of facts.
V. Product Development

Product development begins with SaaS developers evaluating and selecting the optimal technology stack (programming language, platform, software, and tools), usually using a technology ecosystem that the company or team is familiar with. The selection of the technology stack prioritizes the scalability, versatility, reliability and security of the future SaaS application.

SaaS technology stack selection principles.

·Mainstream technology languages. For example, java, python, etc.

·Low learning curve

·Consistent with the technology strategy, S-curve growth trend and the existence of long-term value.

SaaS startup teams must be adept at using Build Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to validate the market. MVP only has the core functionality to effectively deploy the product, creating immediate value for users at the lowest cost for the basic core functionality to get helpful feedback from early adopters, a strategy designed to avoid building products that customers don't want and seeking to get the most information about customers for the least amount of money.

Startup SaaS teams must focus on two things during the product development phase.

1. If you outsource your SaaS product to other service providers for development, you must prioritize recruiting and deploying at least one R&D staff for project follow-up and collaborative action. Many startup teams, in the beginning, do not have the means to invest enough R&D resources and costs in R&D, so they can only choose outsourcing service providers to commission R&D. If you use outsourcing, please make sure to recruit one or two R&D personnel to work together to ensure that your team can quickly keep up with the subsequent iterative development or optimization after the outsourced product is delivered, to avoid the situation of being "stuck" by the outsourcing service provider.

2. Give priority to value rather than functionality. In the product creation stage, it is best to focus on value. Most startup teams in the R & D stage will fall into the R & D "can't stop the car" situation. The more features, the more complex the focus of R & D at the functional level rather than the product's value to the user point.
VI. testing and feedback collection

After the initial successful development of the product, do not rush to release it to market. You should first find the early core users for a free trial. Through the core user trial, obtain user behaviour data and feedback to determine whether the product idea meets market expectations and whether the solution can accurately hit the user's core requirements.

SaaS product testing evaluates whether the application hosted on the web meets customer needs and achieves the expected performance of the solution. The most common types of testing are performance testing, usability testing, security testing, business workflow testing, and more. This includes evaluating the functionality of the software solution to determine if it meets its objectives.

User feedback collection helps you anticipate future user needs and proactively solve problems before they become a problem. a SaaS product is a customer-centric product and service created based on customer needs, and it is through continuous iteration of the product's service capabilities and problem-solving improvements that you can get users to buy and recommend your product to others.

Use the Bclinked help desk and let your users help you make your product better.

We typically use live chat, customer site visits, simple questionnaires, and social media tools to collect user feedback. Live chat and customer site visits are a way to communicate directly with your customers. You can plan to categorize specific real-time questions or ask questions about using the product to interact with users.

Simple questionnaires make it easy to quickly learn about user impressions of your product and service experience, such as user satisfaction surveys. Share this feedback with the sales team to provide them with use cases so they can better position features when selling them to new customers.

Social media is an excellent platform for people to express how they like to feel. While it may not be as meaningful and constructive as direct feedback, you will be able to find some valuable feedback through other social media platforms.

We can try to imagine the user as a white person in the design of the product, but remember that in the process of collecting user feedback, we should think more about why the user would ask such questions or feelings and put ourselves in the user's shoes to think about the problem, especially for most of the B-side user feedback, which usually raises the problem and then gives you some "suggested" solutions. "solutions, product managers should look at this type of solution rationally, and carefully make decisions.

This type of solution is likely inadequate because most B-side users use the product scene, and the perspective is narrow. You can not make him from the system or the business of the overall view to give you good advice, which is what we often ask the product manager when you receive a user's needs, to understand what his job responsibilities (from the user's point of view), you will know why he proposed the problem and such a proposed solution.
VII. product iterative improvement

Product iterative improvement, also known as iterative software development, is not just a buzzword but brings excellent practical benefits to our SaaS industry or Internet software products. For example
1. better software quality

SaaS product development uses an agile development mindset, and iterative and incremental development is the best practice for agile development. We divide the product into small, well-defined units rather than large modules and large ungraspable features. By delivering a small number of features quickly, we ensure that each delivered version can be fully validated and tested to ensure the quality of the product delivery.

In addition, this way, if a problem occurs after the product version is delivered online, we can quickly locate the problem and fix it in time to reduce the impact of the problem on users.
2. Faster delivery and implementation

We use rapid iterative development to continuously and rapidly improve the features that can help users solve their problems within a short release cycle.
3. More efficient development

Dividing development work into smaller deliverables that are delivered as quickly as possible reduces the risk of miscommunication and misspecification of requirements. The agile, iterative approach allows software development teams to plan, design, check and adjust iterations. In contrast, frequent releases force development teams to expose their work to reality more quickly, help resolve faulty specifications early, and respond more easily to change requests.

Working through iterations, project teams go through a cycle where they evaluate and determine what changes are needed to produce a satisfactory final product at each iteration.
Final Words

Although the software product management process is not the endpoint, the product management process at this stage is not just a set of steps that SaaS companies and product managers need to follow. Each phase should have a purpose and a goal, not just an execution. The final focus of product management needs to shift again to optimization and efficiency. Consider possible ways to scale, improve operations, and maintain business results while minimizing costs and optimizing efficiencies.

It is important to remember that product development is not a linear process. As the founder or product manager of a startup, you need to remain flexible and develop resilience in yourself and your team.