Profiling product teams & predicting research needs | by Dave Hora | Feb, 2024

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We can build a simple profile to predict where, and what kind, of research support our teams will need.

10 min read

17 hours ago

A spectrum with the four stages of evolution: Gensis, Custom, Product, and Commodity. In the stage order is the advice, “advise and avoid” for genesis; “embed and explore” for custom; “partner and coach” for product; and “like and subscribe” for commodity.

To make sense of an organization, we need to know the work that it’s carrying out. This work surface area and its adjacent boundaries are the largest frames for determining where and how research will provide value to different product teams.

There is one aspect of particular importance to us here: the evolutionary stage of a product team’s work. Is this team working on something novel and experimental, something extremely well-known and expected, or some kind of functionality in between?

For any product team, at each stage, there are predictable patterns of work and kinds of activities that the team will need to take on in the course of product development.

With evolutionary profiling, we can anticipate teams’ needs and the kinds of research that might best serve them before they’re aware of it themselves. We can shift our work from reactive provider to proactive partner.

In organizations where user and UX research are deployed, the kind of work we’re interested in is carried out in the scope of teams, task forces, functional groups, and initiatives. It may be packaged as a project or live in a workstream.

That work has a core focus that centers on some kind of activity, practice, data, or knowledge. And the heart of that work area can be represented on a lifecycle of evolution, a decades-long journey of innovation from cobbled-together ideas to well-understood and required components of the larger ecosystem.

Take the mobile phone, for example:

Pictures of the first mobile phone labeled “gensis” and two android smartphones labeled “commodity.”
The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X In 1983 (left); Android phones photo by Masakaze Kawakami on Unsplash (right).

In 1983 was an emerging technology slowly moving towards productization. ~40 years later the mobile phone itself is a commodity: if someone does not have a mobile phone it’s shocking, or a willful (mindful?) rejection of the norm. What’s most valuable now isn’t the phone itself…

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