A few years back, I had a conversation with a Product Owner (for non-agilists, similar to a product manager) who wanted to prioritize the convenience of order fulfillment staff over customers. “They’re [customers] placing an order already,” he reasoned, “We may as well ask for as much information as we can when they place the order so that inside sales staff never have to follow-up via e-mail or phone.”
I countered that bombarding customers with unnecessary details increased order abandonment rates, lowered company revenue and might drive customers to competitors. “Mutual convenience is better,” I followed, “but if one must err, err on the side of the customer.”
Though the Product Owner’s logic was sound by looking out for order fulfillment, his mistake was a common one. He’d created personas for the online storefront & order fulfillment product he was managing so he could better understand his users. He went one step further by segmenting his users, creating one persona representing customers, one representing inside sales and one representing accounting. But he failed in what was perhaps the most critical step – prioritizing each segment so trade-off decisions between features and design solutions could be made more easily. This resulted in him nearly making a poor decision.
Unfortunately, the problem of giving all user segments equal weight is a common one. The negative affects can be substantial, starting with customer attrition and ending with Jekyll-and-Hyde products that don’t satisfy any customers. I can think of at least two products that failed outright because of this mistake.
Fortunately, there’s a quick and easy way to solve this — the bullseye diagram. Bullseye diagrams have been used in many ways and the concept is simple — picture the bullseye target used in archery, where rings of red and white alternate from the center. The user segment at the center of the bullseye are the most valuable to hit; one’s further out are not.
Here’s an example of a bullseye diagram, made to describe how the US General Services Administration might prioritize users of SAM — the System for Award Management. Note that it is only hypothetical:
And, here’s how to make your own:
- Bring your product development team and key stakeholders together.
- Draw a series of increasing larger concentric circles on a piece of large flip chart paper.
- In the innermost circle, write the name of the MOST important segment of your target audience.
- If there’s not consensus, you, the Product Owner, make the final call.
- In the second circle from the center, write the name of your second most important segment.
- Continue doing this until you’ve place all of your segments in to a circle on your bullseye diagram.
- Place the bullseye diagram on the wall for everyone on your product development team to see.
Going forward, when making decisions about which feature to build first; or, when you and your product development team members are choosing among design options, look at the bullseye diagram and consider the needs of the center of your bullseye first. Only consider the needs of the progressively larger rings after the center’s needs have been effectively met.
If you have more than four rings on your bullseye diagram, there’s a good chance your product is not sufficiently focused. You probably can’t build a single product to satisfy all of these segments, much less have sufficient resources, so place everyone outside of the fourth ring into the outermost ring, and encourage the organization to consider creating products that will appeal to these users.
Sometimes, good decisions for one product in a portfolio of products are bad for another product. We want to discourage localized optimization, where we optimize one product at significant expense to another, so it’s a good idea for the portfolio manager to have her own bullseye diagram for the portfolio and make the trade-off decision when the respective Product Owners can’t reach consensus — guided by the portfolio’s bullseye diagram.
Surprisingly, this simple approach of bullseye diagramming your target audience segments aligns just about everyone on your product development team to focus on your most important users — typically your most profitable customers or core constituents — building a better product along the way. It also prevents feature drift, where new features are added to a product that appeal to low-priority users, often at the expense of high-priority users.
Consider giving it a try and reach out to me if you need some help.