Being consistent in delivering top-notch products is what builds your brand and lets you acquire loyal customers and brand advocates. And adopting actionable frameworks is what enables you to create a great product experience again and again.
In this article, we used our experience of a product design agency and the experience of well-known companies to describe fifteen product management frameworks that can make your work easier and more efficient.
For your convenience, we divided the frameworks into three categories: product discovery and design, prioritization, and teamwork.
But before we start discovering them, let’s quickly recap what a framework is.
What is a product management framework?
A product management framework is a collection of guidelines that a business uses to speed up the time it takes to create a high-quality product. Using the same techniques that other companies adopted to create their successful products can help you create a potentially profitable solution of your own.
Now let’s move on to our categories of frameworks, starting with product discovery and design.
Product discovery and design
Frameworks that fall into this category help product teams improve their ideas by deeply understanding real user problems.
Though all the methods described below have defined steps, they are not linear in any way. The team has to go back and forth iterating to discover the best solution to the problem.
Created by IDEO, design thinking is a user-centered approach to solving problems based on understanding customer demands, generation of innovative ideas, and quick prototyping.
This framework is used by the world's most admired companies like Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Intuit, IBM, and more. We should also state that the Eleken team applies design thinking in every project we work on.
The design thinking takes into account what users want and combines it with what is technologically feasible, and economically viable for your business.
Here’s a brief instruction on how your team may use the design thinking framework:
- State the problem. Think about the needs/challenges/wishes of the people, for whom you are building a solution.
- Conduct research to see if this problem resonates with your customers. Go to the real world to study the market and the users, analyze the information you’ll get to identify if there’s a need to build your solution.
- Come up with ideas. Based on the research you’ve conducted, generate possible solutions to the problem you’re trying to solve. Actually, there are great design thinking ideation techniques to help you cope with this task.
- Vizualize the ideas. Create prototypes to determine what ideas work well, and what don't.
- Test your ideas. Test your prototypes, evaluate the feedback, and iterate.
- Present your findings to the team. Once you've found a suitable solution, show it to your teammates, stakeholders, and customers.
Design sprint and design thinking frameworks have much in common as Jake Knapp, a former design partner at Google Ventures, was inspired by design thinking when developing this approach. However, the design sprint is used to solve specific problems, while the design thinking helps with general ones.
The design sprint consists of five stages (often represented as five days of the week) that aim to lower the potential risk associated with a product launch. Thus, before launching a product or feature, the team uses this framework to collaborate on quick understanding, designing, prototyping and validating of their concepts.
Double Diamond framework is a design process model, popularized by British Design Council, that consists of two big stages (diamonds) that stand for “finding the problem” and “finding the solution”. In their turn, these diamonds are divided into two stages each: discover, explore/define, develop/test, deliver/listen (see the scheme below).
This approach combines the divergent and convergent ways of thinking, helping you to join strategy with the right execution and let you eventually create a great product.
For instance, we used the double diamond framework when working on Cylynx, a graph visualization platform, to help us get a solid understanding of the software’s use cases and then define and synthesize this knowledge into insights to be confident we're designing the platform usable and valuable for the end-user.
Here’s a short description of the double diamond’s four stages:
- Discover — where we identify the problem area by conducting research.
- Explore/Define — where we analyze and structure all the collected data to receive a clear understanding of the tasks we’re about to solve.
- Develop/Test — where we generate potential actionable solutions to our problem and check if they work.
- Deliver & Listen — where we choose the best solution from the previous stage and receive feedback on it.
The CIRCLES framework, developed by Lewis C. Lin, is a method that assists product managers (PMs) in giving thoughtful answers to questions about product design. These questions, commonly used by interviewers to assess product managers’ skills, help you get a comprehensive understanding of what you should design and why.
Letters from the word “CIRCLES” represent seven steps that are described below.
The CIRCLE framework helps product managers to have a deep focus on customer needs, prioritize the product roadmap effectively, and sound more convincing to the stakeholders when explaining why your solution is worth building.
Jobs To Be Done
People choose to pay for the software not because it’s beautiful, exclusive, or has an interesting idea. They pay for it to cope with some problem, that is, to "have their jobs done". So, to build a successful product, you have to correctly define the customer's jobs.
The Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework assists in creating products that users want. It helps you to capture and categorize the customers’ needs and desires so that once you understand them, the product team will be able to figure out what solution you should build to satisfy those needs.
To apply the JTBD framework, you’ll have to conduct user interviews and ask questions like “What are you ultimately trying to accomplish?”, “What is the final output you’re looking for?” Once you’ve completed an interview, write down each Job To Be Done using the scheme down below (different user personas will have different JTBD).
For example, JTBD that would encourage you to design a banking app can be the following: When I can’t use cash because of the coronavirus outbreak, I want to have a secure and quick way to make online payments so that I can do my shopping online.
Developed by Google, the HEART framework aims at determining a project's objectives and measuring the effectiveness of the product’s/feature’s user experience using five broad categories:
- Happiness. Metrics of this category monitor user attitudes for things like user satisfaction or Net Promoter Score (NPS) and are mainly collected with surveys.
- Engagement. This category measures user behavior, like frequency or intensity, over a period of time.
- Adoption. Product adoption includes tracking the number of users who use a product/ feature, the number of new accounts created per week, or the daily usage of a feature.
- Retention. These are metrics that track the frequency at which current users return (how many customers who were active during a certain time period are still active at a later time period).
- Task success. Here, we refer to metrics like time to complete the task, the percentage of completed tasks, error rate, and so on.
PMs can adopt the HEART framework to establish measurable goals and make data-driven decisions concerning different aspects of their product.
Now, when we talked about product discovery and design Frameworks, it's time to move on to prioritization.
Frameworks from this section will help you cope with the never-ending challenge of narrowing down and ordering the list of demands and feature requests when building a product roadmap or working on a new sprint.
Kano Model is a framework that helps teams evaluate ideas based on how likely they are to satisfy consumers and how much they will cost to implement.
According to the Kano framework, all features are divided into groups based on user needs and expectations. Usually, these are:
- Must-be are basic features that customers can't go without in order to use your product.
- Attractive are features that customers don’t expect to see, but that will make them extremely delighted.
- Performance features give you a proportional increase in customer satisfaction as you invest in them. Users expect to find these features in your app.
- Indifferent are features that users just don’t care about.
To generate these categories for the product, PMs can conduct interviews or take surveys, where they ask users how they feel about the presence or the absence of a certain feature.
As a result, the team prioritizes the features evaluated as those with high customer satisfaction and low cost.
By the way, you can find a free Kano model template designed by Eleken’s team in our Figma community.
The RICE scoring model, introduced by Intercom, is widely used by product managers and product owners around the globe to prioritize feature releases or projects. To assist you in product planning, the RICE framework offers to evaluate each of your idea based on four criteria (reach, impact, confidence, effort), and then calculate the final RICE score.
Here’s what each criterion means and how to evaluate them:
After you assess the idea using all four categories, you can calculate the RICE score using the following formula:
Finally, it’ll be easy for you to rank all the initiatives using the RICE score.
The MoSCoW framework is used to put the user stories and tasks in order of importance and decide what to deliver first. MoSCoW is an acronym for Must, Should, Could, and Won't have (see the explanation below).
This framework is particularly useful when discussing workstreams and product requirements with stakeholders.
For instance, we used the MoSCoW method to correctly define the minimum set of workable features for Prift, a personal finance platform.
Known for its simplicity, the story mapping framework helps you to arrange user stories by outlining them in the customer journey map. This method allows you to see the big picture of how user stories fit within the overall user experience.
The map consists of two axes:
- The horizontal axis arranges the essential steps of a customer journey in chronological order. This lets you consider how users interact with your app, from registration, to building up a profile, to using certain features.
- The vertical axis contains individual stories that belong to each step. The team arranges those stories based on importance (from top to bottom).
This way, the story mapping method gives a logical picture of the user experience and makes it easy for the team to prioritize user stories.
Okay, that seems like all for prioritization, so let's talk about teamwork frameworks now.
The teamwork category includes the frameworks aimed at improving team effectiveness on projects, reducing management overhead, and as a result, delivering successful products.
Created at Intuit, DACI is a decision-making framework that helps your team make sound decisions timely by clarifying team responsibilities within the project.
Experts in product management, Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure, mention that because it emphasizes decision clarity, which matches with the Agile mindset well, DACI is particularly important to the product management process.
DACI stands for
- Driver — a person responsible for making sure the decision actually gets made.
- Approver — a person that makes decisions.
- Contributor — a subject area expert that weighs information and opinions.
- Informed — people, whose work might be affected by the outcome of the decision, but their opinion doesn’t really count.
When starting a new project or forming a new team, use this framework to specify the PM's duties and the appropriate ways to communicate with leadership, stakeholders, and other team members.
The GIST planning framework was invented by Itamar Gilad, a former PM at Google, as an alternative to product roadmaps aimed at simplifying planning processes, reducing management overhead, improving team autonomy, and, as a result, producing effective products.
GIST is an acronym that stands for
- Goals. You define long-term goals for a time frame of about one year and review them every three months.
- Ideas. Ideas that assist in reaching the goal are generated and prioritized non-stop.
- Step-projects. The team chooses ideas they want to work on and defines the steps they need to go through to implement those ideas and reach the goal. The list of steps is usually defined at the beginning of each quarter and is reviewed every two weeks.
- Tasks. According to the team's selected development methodology (for example, Scrum sprint planning), you plan tasks in 1-2 week iterations and update them daily.
The 4 Ds
The 4 Ds stand for Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate, and Delete (Drop). It’s a framework that helps PMs manage their time, stay productive, and focus their attention on what is really important.
By using this methodology, product managers can quickly decide what tasks are worth completing in the first place, what can be done later, what activities to do themselves and what to delegate, and which piece of work is better to remove from the task list.
By categorizing a task with this framework, you may better manage your busy schedule, and maintain focus on the things that are most important to you.
Working Backward is Amazon’s product development framework that promotes putting customers’ needs at the center when building a product. As the name implies, this method requires reversing the usual product development cycle and imagining that the product has already been built.
The first thing a product manager does is drafting a press release that addresses the end-user, announcing the launch of the new product. The release highlights the user's needs and problems, explains why existing solutions fail to resolve those problems, and describes how this new product is going to succeed where others have failed.
Here’s what the Working Backward framework looks like:
According to Ian McAllister, director at Amazon, this approach “keeps product development focused on achieving the customer benefits and not building extraneous stuff that takes longer to build, takes resources to maintain, and doesn't provide real customer benefit.”
OKR (objectives and key results) is a framework that helps companies set clear goals and track measurable results. OKR ensures the team is moving in the same direction by focusing you on the most critical issues in the organization.
The OKR method breaks the issue down into two parts:
- The objective. What do you need to achieve? This is a simple, clear, and action-oriented goal.
- The key results. What can help you to achieve the objective? It’s the verification for the Jobs To Be Done and it helps to keep your path to the goal specific, time-bound, and realistic.
The OKR methodology originated at Intel and is now used by enterprises like Google, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb, and more.
The framework is useful for product managers, as it helps them evaluate and prioritize feedback, and align stakeholders from different departments to work towards the same goal.
For example, Conor Walsh, the PM at Duolingo, managed to save the Duolingo Stories feature from disposal (the feature that allows users to learn language by listening and reading stories) with the help of the OKR framework. He decided to focus the team’s attention on a better understanding of the feature’s user experience.
Here are the objective and the key results that he set.
Following the OKR framework allowed Mr. Walsh and his team to identify users’ pain points and divide them into high, medium, and low impact categories. By focusing on the high-impact group, they managed to find actionable solutions to resolve the issues that matter most.
So, with OKRs project managers can set clear and reachable goals, and easily explain to everyone what the team is trying to accomplish.
How to choose an effective framework
Each business has a unique approach to product management that fits its requirements and needs. So, how to choose the one that will be effective for your particular case?
Well, test them! Try out several product frameworks and modify them according to the issue you are trying to solve. Define why a framework works well or poorly in particular situations to improve the way you use them.
And to make your work even more efficient, read our new blog post on product management best practices.