Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dormant Problems

Some problems that exist in the marketplace are dormant. Dormant problems are those problems of which your customers are not aware, and to which they will be oblivious until you present them with a new way of doing things.

Before the advent of e-mail, few people or companies considered written communication to be inefficient or a problem. Yet imagine a company like Dell scrapping the use of e-mail and going back to using paper notes and memos for their internal communications. Not only would it be inconvenient, it would have a devastating impact on their bottom line. It was not apparent just how inefficient written communication had been until we started using e-mail. Inefficient written communication, therefore, was a dormant problem.

Dormant problems are a challenge for a product manager to uncover, as well. Facilitation is one tool a product manager can use to uncover dormant problems. You also have to persistently ask, "Why?" Putting yourself in your customer's shoes, via an ethnographic study, is also helpful.

Sometimes the most effective way to uncover dormant problems, however, is to use these methods after releasing a prototype. That way, prospective customers have a chance to experience a new way of doing things, which helps them become aware of the problems they faced all along.


Brandon said...

Slightly off topic but sometimes I wonder what the net productivity of email really is. Of course, there is SPAM. Then there is the occupational SPAM. If everyone had to send a memo there would be a lot less FYI emails... I know there is no going back but sometimes the technology that is suppose to help actually becomes the problem itself.

Agree on your main point though. Finding latent needs is job for a good PM.

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