Sara Nguyen My greatest career achievement was when I was recognized as "GIF Master" for my GIFs in the company Slack channel. A close second is that I've written over 600,000 words in the past two years.

6 tried and true product management frameworks you should know

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6 Tried And True Product Management Frameworks You Should Know

Product management frameworks provide a process for product teams to make strategic decisions, prioritize features and backlog items, and discover product ideas or problems.

When considering which product management framework to adopt, you should select the one that’s best suited to boost profitability, keep products relevant to the consumer base, and help streamline processes.

In this guide, we’ll go over a selection of frameworks designed to help PMs improve and refine their approach to product development.

Table of contents

Why do companies develop and use product management frameworks?

Product management frameworks are developed and implemented for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is that the product manager’s role covers a wide range of responsibilities and functions, both internal and external. Keeping track of constantly changing variables is a necessary but sometimes stressful and resource-intensive process.

Product management frameworks can make it easier to keep pace with changes in the market and consumers and provide opportunities to develop new products to fill gaps. These approaches also help lower the risk of product failure because strategic decisions are based on thorough analysis of hard data.

3 types of product management frameworks

Generally, product management frameworks are broken into three categories:

  1. Strategic frameworks that are designed to help product managers gather data, analyze problems, revisit their product strategy, and make decisions for the future of the product
  2. Prioritization frameworks that help your team determine the order in which to work on features and backlog items
  3. Discovery frameworks that aid in the discovery process, which can include exploring new opportunities for the product, validating ideas, and solving problems

Let’s review six of the most popular product management frameworks — two for each category described above.

Strategic frameworks

AARRR metrics

AARRR, also known as the pirate metrics, captures data from each stage of the customer journey. It tracks the following metrics:

  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Referral
  • Revenue

While this framework is geared toward startups, any company can benefit from learning how its customers are interacting with their products.

Diagram Showing The AARRR Metrics Product Management Framework
Source: Product Frameworks

Dave McClure, the founder of 500 Startups, developed the AARRR framework after noticing that startups tended to focus on meaningless metrics such as how many likes their latest social media post received. The AARRR metrics were strategically chosen to help startups lead with a product-growth focus.

By following this framework, product managers can answer questions like:

  • What channels are customers using to discover the product?
  • Did people enjoy the first product experience?
  • How often do customers come back?
  • What user behavior is earning revenue?
  • Are customers sharing the product with their colleagues?

The framework follows the customer journey and measures the success of each stage. It monitors user behavior and can help organizations determine where they are losing customers. Running A/B tests can help organizations discover which strategy works best for their customers.

Working backward

Amazon is credited with developing the working backward method, first introduced in Colin Bryar and Bill Carr’s book Working Backwards.

As the name suggests, this framework encourages product managers to work on the final step of releasing a product first. You start by writing a hypothetical press release announcing the release of a new product or feature you’re looking to develop. The act of writing a press release should help you determine whether that thing is worth building.

Diagram: Working Backwards
Source: Jamie Mill

Working backward forces product managers to think of the customer’s reaction to what they want to build. A press release often contains newsworthy information, such as how a product will solve a particular problem and what value it brings to the consumer. If you can’t write a compelling press release, you should consider scrapping the idea.

Amazon aims to develop products that are easy to understand as a core principle. Writing a press release is a great way to focus your product idea and tighten the way you present it to company leadership, the development team, and, eventually, the customer. If it’s difficult to describe in the early stages of development, it will be difficult to market and sell the product to consumers.

If you can come up with an enticing press release, the product team should approve the idea and subsequently start building the product.

Prioritization frameworks

MoSCoW prioritization

Product leaders and stakeholders frequently use the MoSCoW method to prioritize user stories and tasks. It can help stakeholders understand the importance of which backlog items are being worked on.

Initiatives are grouped into four categories:

  1. Must have features that are non-negotiable and are required for the project to be completed
  2. Should have features that add significant value but are not required for successful project completion
  3. Could have features that are not part of the core; while it may be nice to have these features included, they aren’t necessary for the product
  4. Will not have low-priority features that won’t be built for the next release but may rise in priority for future releases

The MoSCoW prioritization method helps teams and stakeholders focus on how tasks fit into the overall product strategy and goals.

Diagram: MoSCoW Prioritization Method

There are a few drawbacks to using the MoSCoW method. If not conducted properly, it can lead to the wrong features being prioritized.

It’s important for product managers to have an objective scoring system, include all key stakeholders, and share the results with everyone. This will make it a transparent and reliable process for prioritizing features.

RICE scoring model

The RICE model is a scoring system designed to help product managers prioritize items on the product roadmap and improve the decision-making process.

Diagram: The RICE Scoring Model
Source: Intercom

Under the RICE model, there are four factors to consider when discussing potential features for a product. Each factor receives its own score, then the RICE formula is used to determine the final score.

The four considerations for RICE scoring are:

  • Reach the number of people an initiative will reach within a given timeframe. The higher the number, the higher the score
  • Impact the expected impact of the feature (scores range from 0.25 to 5)
  • Confidence the team’s certainty of the impact score; you should consider scrapping anything that scores lower than 50 percent
  • Effort based on the number of “person-months” or how long it will take to build a feature. For example, if you estimate two months, your score is 2

Once you’ve gathered all the scores, the final score is calculated using the following formula:

(Reach * Impact * Confidence) / Effort

The RICE scoring model provides a concrete strategy for making objective and complex decisions. It’s especially useful when presenting evidence to support why a feature should be prioritized.

Discovery frameworks

Double Diamond

The Double Diamond model originated as a design process model before evolving into a general innovation framework.

Diagram: The Double Diamond Model

The Double Diamond process has four phases:

  • Discovery This phase involves interacting with and surveying customers to discover their problems and pain points. Bringing an open mind to this phase will help you learn what is missing in the marketplace
  • Define Using the insights generated during the discovery phase, develop ways to solve problems
  • Develop Utilizing cross-functional teams, members can brainstorm solutions identified earlier in the process. This development phase will need to gather feedback from customers to quickly determine which solution is deployable to the masses
  • Delivery Once feedback is collected, a solution is chosen and is fully developed for the product

The Double Diamond model helps product teams focus on customers and collaborate to deliver the solutions they need. Customer feedback can go a long way toward ensuring your features or products are addressing users’ pain points.

Dual-track agile

Dual-track agile is designed to help organizations validate product ideas in the quickest and cheapest way possible.

There are two workflows in the dual-track agile framework: discovery and development. The discovery workflow focuses on validating product ideas while the development workflow turns those ideas into products.

Diagram: Dual-Track Agile
Source: Jeff Patton

This process stems from the agile development methodology, which suggests that iterative and quick developments lead to better products. While the team is cross-functional, certain members have different focuses under dual-track agile.

The discovery workflow includes tasks such as performing market research, conducting interviews, and developing user stories. Once an idea is validated, it is moved to the development workflow. Then, the development team builds prototypes, gathers user feedback, and conducts testing.

Dual-track agile can help you improve the speed of product development. Work in this framework is collaborative and nonlinear, which enables cross-functional teams to work together successfully.

Choosing the right product management framework

There are dozens of product management frameworks available. Depending on your company’s needs, one framework may provide the result you need while others may not be the right fit.

Keep in mind that just because a framework is popular, it doesn’t mean it’s the best approach for your product team. You may want to experiment with a few different frameworks to find what works best for your team members’ preferences.

Product management frameworks can help you consistently put out great products and build a loyal customer base that is willing to refer to your product friends, family, and co-workers.

Featured image source: IconScout

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Sara Nguyen My greatest career achievement was when I was recognized as "GIF Master" for my GIFs in the company Slack channel. A close second is that I've written over 600,000 words in the past two years.

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