Product Strategy
How do you maintain coherence and product quality in ecosystem products?
Question from Sara
How do you maintain coherence and product quality in ecosystem products?
Answered by Victoria Young
COO of Outpace

Building and managing ecosystem products can be complex, and requires a delicate balance of both flexibility and consistency. As organizations expand their product offerings and integrate multiple interconnected products, maintaining coherence and ensuring consistent product quality is critical. Here, we dive into the challenges and strategies involved in maintaining coherence and product quality in ecosystem products. Discover how to navigate the intricacies of product development, design, and collaboration to create a seamless and impactful user experience across your ecosystem with the framework below:

Understand User Needs & Business Objectives To Define Vision & Goals

Begin by understanding the diverse needs of our users and the strategic objectives of the different products within the ecosystem. This involves close collaboration with stakeholders, market research, user interviews, data analysis, and competitive bench-marking.

Establish a clear vision for the Feed that aligns with the overall mission of your company. This can be complemented by specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that guide the product development or whatever other goal setting framework your company prefers. Goals should be flexible and subject to iteration. Regular review and adjustment of goals can ensure they stay relevant and responsive to changing user needs and market conditions.

Prioritize Coherence By Balancing Ecosystem Demands

Maintain coherence in the feed by ensuring that any content or features introduced are valuable and relevant to our users. Use an AI-driven personalized approach to content distribution to ensure the right content reaches the right users at the right time. Consider the requirements of other products within the company ecosystem. For LinkedIn, it may be Jobs, Learning, or Sales Navigator. For Instagram, it may be Reels, Stories, or Shopping. Integrate the features of these products into the feed in a way that adds value to the user experience and aligns with the overall vision for the feed.

Not all product goals can be given equal prominence in the Feed at all times. Balance and prioritization is key. This should be based on factors such as strategic importance, user needs and impact, and feasibility. All ecosystem goals should be centered around delivering value to users. This involves understanding and integrating user needs and feedback into goal setting and decision-making. Before implementing changes in the Feed, conduct a holistic impact assessment to understand potential ripple effects across the ecosystem. This should include potential impact on user experience, other product areas, and overall business objectives.

Balancing the representation of different products is complex task that requires a nuanced approach. Here's how you can tackle this: 

User Value & Relevance: Our priority should always be delivering value to our users. This involves understanding our users' needs, preferences, and professional goals, then offering content and features from our products that are most relevant to them. We need to leverage data to provide personalized experiences. For LinkedIn, this would mean that a user seeking job opportunities sees more job posts, someone interested in upskilling sees relevant courses from LinkedIn Learning, and so on.

Strategic Business Objectives: We must also consider the company's strategic objectives. If we're looking to grow a specific product or segment, we might choose to give it more prominence in the feed. However, this must be done carefully to avoid diluting the overall user experience or overshadowing other important features.

User Engagement Data: We should use engagement data to guide our decisions. Products that generate high levels of engagement could be given more weight within the feed, while those that do not might need to be reassessed or reworked.

Experimentation: Regularly test and iterate different configurations of the feed. A/B testing can provide valuable insights into what combinations of content drive the most engagement and user satisfaction.

Cross-Product Synergies: Look for synergies between products. For example, a user who is viewing job postings might also benefit from LinkedIn Learning courses that can help them improve their skills for those jobs.

Feedback Mechanisms: Establish strong feedback loops to understand user preferences and respond to them. This could involve direct user feedback, surveys, or user testing sessions.

By using a data-driven, user-centric approach, you can effectively prioritize different products for feed, while ensuring that we're delivering the maximum value to our users and meeting our strategic business objectives.

Establish Guidelines & Processes

Develop clear guidelines and processes for integrating new features or content into the feed to maintain a high-quality user experience. For cross-functional teams and other products in the ecosystem to be considered in new experiments within the feed, there should be a set standards for how each opportunity is evaluated in a way that is as fair as possible. Products and experiments that would like to be considered for feed should put together a proposal that: 

Explains The Business Opportunity & Hypothesis: Provide research and data showcasing the need or opportunity for a new feature or content. This should be based on user research, feedback, market trends, and business objectives. For every change, we need to set clear hypotheses that we aim to validate. This will help focus our testing efforts and ensure we’re capturing the most relevant data.

Showcases Clear Designs: Once an opportunity is identified, work cross-functionally with design, engineering, and user research teams to conceptualize and design the new feature. The feature should be designed with user needs in mind and in line with company's design principles. It's also critical to have working designs to help visualize the feature and gather initial feedback before development. It's even better to conduct user testing with the prototype and further refine and improve the feature.

Alignment with Business Goals: Ensure that the new feature aligns with company's overall business strategy and objectives. It should either address a current business need or pave the way for future strategic initiatives.

Develop & Integrate: Develop the feature according to the agreed-upon specifications and integrate it into the feed. This should be done in collaboration with the engineering team following the established development process.

Establish Key Metrics & A/B Test: First, we need to define the key metrics that will indicate user engagement and satisfaction. These might include session duration, frequency of visits, likes, shares, comments, click-through rates, conversion rates, retention, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and other metrics relevant to our objectives. Before the full rollout, conduct A/B testing to compare the user engagement and satisfaction. This involves creating two versions of the feed: one with the new feature/change (version B) and one without it (version A). In addition to A/B testing, multi-variate testing allows us to change multiple elements and understand the effect of each one. This approach can offer a more nuanced understanding of user engagement and satisfaction. These versions are shown to a statistically significant number of randomly selected users to compare performance. Use the defined key metrics to evaluate the success of the feature. Adjustments should be made based on these results. The team may also want to implement feature flag, which allow us to roll out features to a small subset of users to evaluate impact and performance before a full release. This method also allows for quick rollback if issues arise.

Full Rollout & Launch: If the results of the tests are positive, proceed with a full rollout of the feature. This should be accompanied by user communication and support to help users understand and use the new feature.

Post-launch Evaluation: After the feature is live, continue to monitor its performance. This can identify any issues early on and help in continually improving the feature based on user feedback and engagement data. Quantitative data from tests should be complemented by qualitative data from user surveys and interviews. This can provide valuable insights into user perceptions and experiences, helping to explain the 'why' behind the data. We can use advanced analytics and statistical tools to analyze the results of the tests. Here we'll confirm or reject our hypotheses, draw insights and make data-driven decisions.

Documentation: Ensure all processes, tests, user feedback, and iterations are thoroughly documented. Record results, learnings, and adjustments made for each test. This creates a valuable knowledge base for future reference. This helps to preserve knowledge and facilitates better decision-making in the future.

Iterate, Improve, Communicate: Based on the results, we'll make necessary modifications to the feature or approach, and repeat the testing process. Continuous iteration allows us to refine our products based on user feedback and engagement. Lead open communication to ensure alignment across teams, including regular syncs, shared roadmaps, and feedback loops to ensure testing insights are shared across teams to facilitate a culture of learning and continuous improvement.

Defining the product strategy will require synthesizing all this information and prioritizing the needs of the user. We've used data from user interactions, user research, surveys, and feedback to understand what our users want from their feed experience. For example, we know they value relevant, personalized content and a diverse range of content formats, which is why those factors are prominent in our strategy.

Observing the success of other social media platforms gives us insights into what features and interactions drive user engagement. Incorporating these learnings, we've proposed the test of new engagement features, increased use of video content, and offering feed sorting options, all prevalent trends in the market to align with the company mission. A/B testing new features lets us see what truly works for our users before full implementation.

While we're looking to improve engagement and interaction on the feed, we also understand the need to maintain coherence within the feed and ensure a seamless user experience. So, we're cautious about implementing features that might disrupt this balance, and should uphold the guidelines with a staged testing and implementation process.

This iterative and user-centric approach lets us stay aligned with our users' needs and expectations, understand how changes to Feed impact our users, allowing us to continually improve our products, drive engagement, and enhance user satisfaction.

About the author
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Victoria Young
COO of Outpace

Victoria brings years of operational experience from top companies, focusing on research-backed strategies and proven tactics.


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