6 Steps for Successful Product Ownership, Management, and Discovery

As anyone involved in product management and development knows, there’s far more that goes into a product than just a great idea.

In order to bring that idea successfully to fruition companies need to develop and adhere to a meticulous product strategy that maps everything from inception to release, and to do that they need to have the right roles and processes firmly established.

During his career, product management expert Marty Cagan, partner at the Silicon Valley Product Group, has performed and managed the majority of those roles, defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world in the process. Cagan shared some of the wisdom he’s gained in a multi-part video series for OpenView, detailing six steps required for successful product management.

Step 1: Define & Assign Product Ownership

Many companies still confuse product ownership (also known as product management) with either product marketing or project management. The product owner role, however, is very different and it has evolved considerably over the past several years – especially in commercial product companies. In this video, Cagan explains how the product owner is the person who is held accountable and responsible for the product the team will create, and why companies that have figured out the importance of this role are already one step ahead of the game.


Step 2: Define Your Minimum Viable Product

“This notion of minimum viable product — a lot of people talk about it, but I find a tremendous amount of confusion about the topic,” says Cagan.

Defining your minimum viable product will allow you to create a functional product without unnecessary features. The speed of the minimum viable production creation process allows companies to avoid getting bogged down at a crucial juncture during development. While achieving that speed is a challenge, Cagan explains why it’s well worth the investment. In this video, he outlines how you can define the minimum viable product and most importantly, how you should validate the concept with customers.


Step 3: Establish a Product Discovery Team

What is a product discovery team? In simple terms, it’s the group responsible for identifying the minimum viable product that a company can roll out. In this video, Cagan highlights the three primary roles of a high-functioning product discovery team and explains the responsibilities each person will have. Cagan adds: “All three are trying to identify that minimum viable product.”


Step 4: Develop a Prototype and Measure Customer Satisfaction

How can a company test its ideas in a way that’s fast, efficient, and cost-effective? Cagan reviews the two primary types of prototypes for the product organization — user and live data — and explains how they are meant to complement each other during the validated customer learning phase. The data that is culled from these prototypes is invaluable within the overarching product development process.


Step 5: Adhere to the Two-Week Rule

For product owners and designers, it’s important to get ideas out in front of customers fast. How fast? Ideally, no more than two weeks, says Cagan. In this short video, he explains the purpose behind the “Two-Week Rul”e in product development, and addresses some of the concerns you might have about letting the world see your product before it’s truly ready.


Step 6: Engage in User Testing

“I argue that a user test is probably the single most important thing a product owner does in their job,” says Cagan in this video. The objective of the user test – a crucial step in any successful product management process – is to answer two fundamental questions:

1. Can users figure out how to use the product?

2. Would they actually want to use the product — and if not, why?

The answers gathered during user testing will give you a clear indication of where your product stands with its targeted user base.

Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a video series recorded with Marty Cagan, partner at the Silicon Valley Product Group.


OpenView, the expansion stage venture firm, helps build software companies into market leaders. Through our Expansion Platform, we help companies hire the best talent, acquire and retain the right customers and partner with industry leaders so they can dominate their markets. Our focus on the expansion stage makes us uniquely suited to provide truly tailored operational support to our portfolio companies. Learn more about OpenView at openviewpartners.com.
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