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Product Definition

"If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution." - Steve Jobs


As a CTO, have you ever wondered what it takes to define and prioritize product requirements effectively? The answer lies in understanding the market, customer needs, and business goals to create a product that is not only feasible but also desirable and viable.

In this chapter, we'll explore the challenges and techniques involved in product definition. By understanding the market, customer needs, and business goals, you'll learn how to create products that are not only feasible but also desirable and viable.

Product Definition

Product definition is about making choices. Product definition requires a deep understanding of the market, the customer's needs, and the business goals to define a product's features, functionalities, and scope, which can help the company succeed in today's competitive landscape. This process involves extensive research, analysis, and collaboration with other teams to ensure the product is feasible, desirable, and viable.

As a CTO, you must work closely with the product management team to identify the critical customer pain points, prioritize the features and functionalities, and develop a roadmap to deliver value to the customers and the business. Collaborating with the design team to ensure the product is functional, visually appealing, and intuitive would be best.

Product definition is a complex and challenging process that requires a multidisciplinary approach and a deep understanding of the business and the market. Keep a close eye on market trends, emerging technologies, and changing customer needs to ensure the product remains relevant and competitive. This requires continuous learning, experimentation, and iteration to refine the product and stay ahead of the competition.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." - Vincent Van Gogh

Product definition plays a crucial role in waterfall and agile project management methodologies. There are distinct differences between the two approaches when defining and refining product requirements.

Waterfall Requirements

In traditional waterfall project management, requirements are typically established at the beginning of the project and remain relatively fixed throughout the development process. This can make responding to changing circumstances or stakeholder needs challenging as the project progresses.

Approaches such as Prince2 or PMP follow a linear, sequential process that can be restrictive regarding flexibility. Many organizations use a more comprehensive definition of features to mitigate this, often stored in a product requirement document (PRD) or software requirement specification (SRS).

This approach allows for greater detail and clarity in the project requirements, helping to ensure that stakeholders clearly understand the development goals and that the development team has a clear roadmap to follow. By creating a comprehensive feature definition at the outset, project managers can better anticipate potential issues and make more informed decisions about structuring the development process.

Agile Requirements

Agile methodology is a project management approach that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and iterative delivery. It is designed to help teams produce high-quality products more efficiently by breaking the development process into smaller, more manageable sections. The iterative approach allows continuous improvement as each section is completed, with feedback from team members and stakeholders shaping the final product.

One of the critical strengths of agile is its ability to accommodate changes in product requirements. This is because agile teams work closely together and prioritize communication, allowing them to adapt to changing needs quickly. The flexibility of agile methodology will enable teams to pivot their approach, if necessary, without slowing down the development process.

In addition to its effectiveness in product development, agile methodology can foster a more collaborative and engaged team culture. By emphasizing communication and a shared understanding of project goals, agile teams can build a strong sense of camaraderie and mutual support. This can lead to better team dynamics, higher morale, and a more successful project outcome.

User Stories: In an agile environment, user stories are an essential component of the product development process. These stories are used to define product requirements in a way that is both concise and comprehensive. The user story is a simple description of a feature or functionality that describes what the user needs and why, making it easy for the development team to understand the user's perspective.

It is important to note that user stories are written from the user's perspective, which helps teams focus on the user's needs rather than just the technical requirements. This approach ensures the end product is user-friendly and meets the target audience's needs. In addition, user stories are designed to be flexible and adaptable, which means they can be modified throughout development.

Furthermore, user stories can be used to prioritize features and functionality based on their importance to the user. This allows the development team to focus on the most critical aspects of the product, ensuring that it meets the user's needs and delivers value. Overall, user stories are a powerful tool for any development team looking to create products that are both user-friendly and effective.

User stories typically follow a specific format: 'As a user, I want functionality, so that reason.' This format helps teams clearly understand who the user is, what they need, and why they need it. Using user stories, teams can break down complex requirements into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be easily prioritized and developed in sprints.

If it's helpful, experiment with replacing the word "requirement/feature" with "hypothesis." This subtle change will help your team understand that the success of any new idea is mere speculation until it makes contact with the end user.

Backlog Refinement: During the backlog refinement process, the team reviews each item in the backlog to ensure that it is well-defined and understood by everyone. This includes breaking down prominent user stories into smaller, more manageable ones and adding more details and specifications where necessary. The team also discusses the priority of each item and ensures that the most important ones are addressed first.

By refining the backlog, the team can ensure they are working on the right things at the right time. It also helps the team identify potential roadblocks or issues early on so they can be addressed before they become more significant problems. This process is crucial for the success of any project, as it ensures that the team is aligned on the goals and priorities and that everyone understands what needs to be done.

During backlog refinement, the team should review each item and determine its priority level. They should also break down more oversized items into smaller, more manageable pieces. This helps ensure that each item is well-defined and that the team clearly understands what needs to be done. By breaking down more oversized items, the team can identify dependencies and potential roadblocks early in the process.


Prioritizing involves identifying and addressing the most critical product design and development requirements. By prioritizing requirements, your teams can focus on the features and functionalities impacting user satisfaction and business success. This helps to save time and resources on less critical parts or functionalities.

There are several methods for prioritizing the requirements, such as ranking them based on importance or impact or grouping them into categories based on user personas or use cases. It's important to involve stakeholders in this process to ensure that everyone has a shared understanding of the priorities and trade-offs involved.

Feasibility: To ensure the successful completion of the project, it is essential to assess each requirement's technical feasibility thoroughly. This can be done by analyzing the existing platform and technology stack and prioritizing the needs that can be implemented with the available resources.

Consider the long-term implications of each requirement and the potential changes it may require in the existing infrastructure. Requirements that demand significant changes and resources to the existing platform or technology stack may be deprioritized to avoid unnecessary delays or complications. A balance must be struck between prioritizing requirements that can be implemented with available resources and considering the long-term implications and changes that may be required.

Impact: To ensure that all requirements are prioritized effectively, it is essential to thoroughly evaluate their potential impact on customer satisfaction, revenue, and market share. This will enable you to identify the most crucial requirements that should be prioritized.

When evaluating the impact of each requirement, consider all possible factors that could impact customer satisfaction, revenue, and market share. For example, a condition that seems insignificant on the surface may significantly impact customer satisfaction if it addresses a pain point that has yet to be addressed.

By thoroughly evaluating each requirement, you can ensure that you prioritize those that will have the most significant positive impact on your business. This will enable you to allocate your resources more effectively and deliver the best possible experience for your customers.

Priority: Assign a priority level to each requirement based on the feasibility and impact assessments. High-priority requirements are those that are both feasible and have a high potential impact on customer satisfaction or revenue. Medium priority requirements are those that are either feasible but have a lower potential impact or have a higher potential impact but are less viable. Low-priority requirements are less possible and have a lower potential impact on customer satisfaction or revenue.

Collaboration is a critical element in defining and prioritizing product requirements. By working together, teams can ensure that everyone clearly understands the requirements and can contribute their unique perspectives to the process. This helps to identify potential issues early on and ensures that the final product meets the needs of all stakeholders.

Online Tooling

Provide visual aids that help illustrate user requirements. This could include diagrams, flowcharts, or even sketches of potential designs. By providing a visual representation of what the end product should look like, stakeholders can better understand the user's perspective and make informed decisions about the design and functionality of the product.

When defining product and customer requirements, various software tools are available to assist you in this process. These tools provide functionalities that streamline collaboration, enhance traceability, and improve overall efficiency. Here are some popular software options to consider:

  1. ProductPlan: Known for its roadmapping capabilities, ProductPlan allows you to visualize your product strategy and create detailed plans. It helps in communicating product decisions and aligning stakeholders.

  2. Craft: Ideal for product strategy, provides a centralized platform to manage product requirements, prioritize features, and collaborate with stakeholders. It aids in defining and executing your product vision.

  3. Productboard: Focused on customer-driven product management, Productboard helps capture customer feedback, prioritize features, and ensure alignment across teams. It integrates customer insights into the product development process.

  4. Airfocus: An easy-to-use product management tool, Airfocus assists in prioritizing features and aligning them with business goals. It allows for collaborative decision-making and visualizes product roadmaps.


Alignment: With multiple stakeholders involved, ensuring everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives can be daunting. There are various techniques that teams can use to overcome this challenge and create a shared understanding of the product vision and priorities. One such technique is user story mapping, which involves visualizing the user's journey through the product and highlighting key user stories and their associated features. This technique can help teams identify gaps in understanding the user's needs and ensure everyone has a clear picture of the overall product vision.

Another technique that can be used is value stream mapping, which involves mapping out the entire product value stream, from the initial concept to the final delivery. This technique can help teams identify areas of waste and inefficiency in the product development process and streamline the workflow to ensure everyone is working towards the same objectives. By creating a shared understanding of the product vision and priorities, teams can ensure they deliver value to their stakeholders and work towards a common goal.

Scope Creep: In agile methodology, requirements are not fixed and are expected to change throughout the project lifecycle. However, ensuring that these changes lead to a manageable increase in scope is crucial, which can be a significant challenge for teams. Teams can use various techniques, such as backlog grooming or sprint planning, to address this challenge.



Product definition means meeting the needs of both the business and the customer. You can effectively define and prioritize product requirements by deeply understanding the market, customer needs, and business goals. This involves thorough research, analysis, and collaboration with other teams to ensure that the product is feasible but also desirable and viable. As a CTO, working closely with the product management team and design team is crucial to identifying key customer pain points, prioritizing features, and developing a roadmap that delivers value.

Staying ahead of the curve requires continuous learning, experimentation, and iteration. Agile methodology, emphasizing collaboration, flexibility, and iterative delivery, is highly effective in product development. By breaking down the development process into smaller, manageable sections, agile teams can quickly adapt to changing needs and ensure continuous improvement. User stories play a vital role in agile development, providing concise and comprehensive descriptions of user needs and focusing on the user's perspective.

To prioritize product requirements, evaluating their feasibility, impact, and priority is essential. Assessing technical feasibility, considering potential changes, and balancing resources are critical factors in determining feasibility. Assessing the effect on customer satisfaction, revenue, and market share helps identify the most crucial requirements. Assigning priority levels based on feasibility and impact ensures effective resource allocation.

Collaboration, visual aids, and online tools are essential in the product definition. Teams can create a shared understanding of the product vision and priorities. Visual aids like diagrams and sketches help stakeholders better understand the user's perspective. Online tools streamline collaboration, enhance traceability, and improve efficiency.


As a CTO ask yourself the following:

  1. How can you ensure that the product definition process effectively meets the needs of both the business and the customer?

  2. What strategies can be implemented to prioritize product requirements based on their importance and impact?

  3. How can you foster a collaborative and engaged team culture to enhance the product development process?


Your takeaways from this chapter:

  1. The importance of adequate product definition in meeting the needs of both the business and the customer.

  2. Prioritize product requirements based on importance and impact to deliver value to customers and the business.

  3. Foster a collaborative and engaged team culture to enhance the product development process.

  4. Continuously learn, experiment, and iterate to refine the product and stay ahead of the competition.

  5. Use user stories to define concise and comprehensive product requirements from the user's perspective.

  6. Utilize automated tools for effective communication, requirement management, and customer feedback integration.

  7. Overcome challenges like alignment and scope creep through user story mapping and backlog refinement techniques.

  8. Stay agile, collaborative, and customer-focused to create desirable and viable products in today's competitive market.



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