Product Transformation: Why Prioritization Is Critical

Rohit Karanam

Senior Director, Product Management at Seismic



We live in a fast-paced world where user needs can change overnight. Once a stellar win that served user needs impeccably now needs an overhaul. Transforming an already existing product is anything but easy. Users usually have expectations based on their previous interaction with the company, and needless to say, every target market is different. Knowing what to prioritize and being able to get the first version of a transformed product out the door quickly is one of the main concerns product leaders have.

When Apple came out with the iPhone, it was still widely considered a computer or iPod company. iPhones not only transformed their products, but their company, and I dare to say the industry itself. What were the users telling them, and what made them change their focus to what they were doing before? I am sure that every product leader deliberated over their strategy, asking themself what Apple prioritized when making this historic move: did they prioritize on design, features, user experience, or technology.

Actions taken

Before taking any actions, one should reflect and understand why they are undergoing transformation. You should be able to establish what are the three key reasons that triggered the transformation. One of the reasons could be that the existing product is not good enough for a certain target segment. Or perhaps, customers raised too many concerns that the existing product couldn’t solve. Understanding the Why of doing something and dissecting that Why into various pieces is a cornerstone of any successful transformation. Only then should one move from the Why to What and start taking action to address each of those pieces.

We should understand that transformation is all about bringing to life something new. We have to keep the baggage of the old product aside and not burden the new product with it. Sometimes we look at the new product wearing the lenses of the old product. When we do that, we are trying to solve all of the problems of the old product with the new product. That is frequently not needed because user needs are changing all time. Sometimes we need to step back, take the baggage off, and come up with something brand new that resonates with the present.

Lessons learned

-- If you are transforming a product, catering it to the same user base, be aware not to end up regressing the user experience. You should take prioritization seriously, based on extensive research that should point out what you should keep and what needs to be revamped. To set yourself up for success, prioritize smart! The question is not how to balance between important and unimportant things but between high and the highest priorities.

  • PMs need to be comfortable knowing that there will be times when they won’t get it all. They should not be emotional, because once they do, they will be losing control over the situation. During the transformation, emotions run high, and you should be able to remain calm and take it one step at a time. Also, during the transformation of a company or product, most of the things were already needed yesterday. There is not much time, and people are responding differently to these constraints.
  • A lot of times, people jump into implementation without much thinking. It is our human nature that drives us toward solving the problem even before we understand it. Sit down, keep emotions aside and try to understand why you are undergoing a transformation in the first place. Once you know the Why, keep dissecting what needs to be done into actionable items.

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Rohit Karanam

Senior Director, Product Management at Seismic

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