Case StudyEcosystem Team: Tracking Strategic Outcomes - Evaluating Product Success Across Ecosystems

The American Marketing Association (AMA) faced a significant challenge in continuously evaluating and innovating their established products. The organization, known for its credibility and long-standing history, had products running on autopilot with a hesitance to make changes due to the lack of a structured process. The primary issue was the absence of a systematic approach to assess in-market products, which resulted in a fear of modifying long-standing customer offerings and an inability to determine the optimal time to sunset products. The need was to establish a process that could help the product team evaluate existing products effectively, maintain relevance, and adapt to the rapidly changing market dynamics influenced by technological advancements and shifting customer expectations.

Evaluating Product Success Across Ecosystems

The Solution

The AMA developed a comprehensive business review process tailored to their specific needs to address this challenge. This process involved several key steps:

  1. Addressing Biases:
    • Context: The initial step in the process was to confront biases and assumptions that team members held about the products. This was critical to ensure objective evaluation.
    • Activity: The team
      engaged in an exercise called "Assumption Island" where they documented all their preconceived notions about the product, both positive and negative. These assumptions were then set aside unless substantial data validated them during the review.
  2. Mapping the Current State:
    • Context: Understanding the current landscape of the product was essential before diving into evaluations.
    • Activity: The Business Model Canvas framework was used to map out the existing business model, including customer segments, value propositions, and necessary resources. This visual tool provided a clear picture of the product's current state.
  3. Framing Good Questions:
    • Context: To guide data collection effectively, it was important to frame specific, relevant questions.
    • Activity: Using the Business Model Canvas as a reference, the team formulated questions that directed their data gathering efforts, ensuring the focus remained on critical aspects of the product’s performance.
  4. Data Collection:
    • Context: Data literacy varied among team members, so equipping them with the right tools and support was crucial.
    • Activity: A data toolbox was created, listing all the platforms used for data collection (e.g., MailChimp, Salesforce, Qualtrics) along with access details. Reviewers were paired with data experts to facilitate data extraction and interpretation.
  5. SWOT Analysis:
    • Context: A structured evaluation was necessary to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
    • Activity: Reviewers conducted a SWOT analysis using the data gathered, guided by the framing questions to ensure a thorough and focused evaluation.
  6. Presentation and Recommendations:
    • Context: Communicating findings effectively to stakeholders was the final crucial step.
    • Activity: Reviewers compiled their analyses into a standardized Google Document template, summarizing the current state, SWOT findings, and actionable recommendations. This ensured consistent and impactful presentations to senior leadership and other relevant teams.

Outcomes achieved

Implementing the business review process at AMA yielded several positive outcomes:

  1. Improved Decision-Making:
    • Context: The structured approach facilitated better strategic decisions regarding product management.
    • Outcome: Senior leadership was able to make informed decisions, often agreeing with and implementing the reviewers’ recommendations, such as conducting additional research, expanding product features, or even sunsetting underperforming products.
  2. Enhanced Data Literacy and Empowerment:
    • Context: Varying levels of data literacy among team members had previously hindered effective evaluations.
    • Outcome: By providing a data toolbox and expert support, AMA empowered its team to handle data more confidently, leading to more accurate and comprehensive reviews.
  3. Continuous Product Innovation:
    • Context: Stagnation of long-standing products was a significant challenge.
    • Outcome: The business review process fostered a culture of continuous evaluation and innovation, ensuring that AMA’s products remained relevant and competitive in the market.
  4. Personnel Development:
    • Context: Participation in the review process served as a developmental opportunity for team members.
    • Outcome: Team members reported improved skills in data-based decision-making, strategic thinking, and innovation frameworks, contributing to their professional growth and enhancing the overall capability of the organization.

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