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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Tagged competitive strategy, features, foresight, government, government policy, horizon scanning, law, legal policy, planning, predictability, prioritization, probability, prodmgmt, product management, product roadmaps, risk assessment, risk management, strategy
How do you know that your product or service is compliant with government requirements? As a product manager, I’ve had to investigate legal requirements for my products. I’ve had to comply with ADA disability requirements, financial law, and transportation law. I highly recommend building a relationship with people who work for the government. Here are some tips for making sure you know the government’s requirements as the law – and your products – inevitably change.
- Attend industry events. This is how you can hear about current and future regulations that will impact your market.
- Make government connections. You can make these connections at industry events, but sometimes it’s much trickier. Sometimes you need an introduction from someone else.
- When you have a list of a few things you want to confirm, ask to have a meeting with them. I’m in favor of scheduling a phone call, and including people who won’t take over the call.
- For the meeting, make a list of things you believe are the requirements of the law. Go in prepared and let them correct you. instead of making them explain what could be dozens of pages of legal policy.
- Send a script to them of things you are going to ask. Let them come to the meeting prepared, too.
- Include what you think their answers are going to be in your script. I like to say, “my understanding of x is…” They’ll correct you when you’re wrong, possibly before the meeting.
- When communicating with your government connections, respect their time. Stick to your script. Avoid tangents. Don’t invite colleagues who will make the meeting longer than it needs to be.
- When communicating with your government connections, don’t tattle on your competitors or their clients. It’s tempting, but your focus is on your client and your product.
- When communicating with your government connections, don’t ask how to cheat the system. Again…tempting, but even a hypothetical cheating question will make you sound like you’re trying to cheat the system.
- Document what you discussed in your meeting for internal stakeholders. This is where that script comes in handy, because you’ll be able to use it to communicate with your stakeholders.
- Don’t give your government connections’ contact information to your clients. You should want your clients to trust you as the expert, and not bypass you to talk to your connection.
- When clients question your interpretation of the law, insist that you’re right. Be the expert that they need you to be.
- Treat the government like another one of your clients. They have requirements you have to fulfill, and sometimes you need to talk to them to clarify. It can be a very similar relationship. And you’ll want to treat them with the same respect.
For more information on product management and UX, read the Product Guy Daily. I publish it every morning.