Horizon Scanning and Product Management

Horizon scanning is a technique for detecting early signs of potentially important developments through a systematic examination of potential threats and opportunities. Product managers can use horizon scanning to analyze what features would mean the most given several different possible futures for the organization.

 

Using horizon scanning for competitive strategy. Let’s say that I have a successful mobile product, and I’m creating a 3-year plan for it. The biggest driver for what I do is how competitor x performs in the market. Also, there is a patent lawsuit against competitor x that has a lot of focus from the executive team in my organization. I identify 5 futures that may happen, and 7 features that I want to consider. Then, on the second row, I assess the likelihood of each of the 5 futures (1-3). Next, on the third row and below, I plug in values of 1-3 for each feature, and my spreadsheet multiplies the value by the likelihood of the future. The column on the far right is a simple sum of the other columns.


What I find through the above example is that competitor x’s performance is more important than the outcome of the lawsuit, and I get a really good analysis from the face recognition feature across all 5 futures. Click here for the Excel version of the spreadsheet above, and feel free to use it as a template.

 

Using horizon scanning for proposed laws or industry standards. Horizon scanning is really useful when you’re doing an analysis of an industry that has different laws or standards that are coming in the next few years. Examples: when Canada added a new email spam law or when Europe added a new cookie law. In most countries, you won’t know for sure whether the law will become official on the date proposed, so you need to analyze several futures. Futures to consider with proposed laws:

  • Law implemented on time
  • Law implemented later than expected
  • Law struck down in court
  • Clause x added to law
  • Law canceled by government agency
  • Another country adopts similar law

 

I hope you enjoyed the post. Leave a comment on ways you’ve used this technique, and how it helped. For more activities for product management, read the Product Guy Daily. I publish it every morning.

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