User-centered Strategy for New Product Family

Business Challenge

In 2011, the Tektronix Logic Analyzer team had identified a class of problems which no existing instrument on the market could solve.

Intriguingly, the product line's core technology could serve as the foundation for the new solution, but much re-engineering would be required. No matter which way we looked at the problem, we would be creating an entirely new class of electronic instrumentation.

Because no such instrument existed, the product manager couldn’t rely on his usual market research to determine the product’s features, price point and feature set. Working as a team, we initiated research to support a new product strategy.

Results

Concept rendering of new instrument class.

Within a couple months of initiating the program, the team came back with a bold proposal that would disrupt the test and measurement market. 

Starting with our own internal management, the team honed its messaging, tightened its market projections and crafted a risk-reduced roadmap for the product's release.

With the General Manager on board, the team presented to senior staff at Tektronix, showing how this new product represented top-line growth. Of greatest concern was whether the new product would cannabalize existing products outside our product group. Of nearly equal concern was how much new technology would be required, and whether the time-frames and projected costs were realistic.

After significant review by senior staff, the project was given the go-ahead virtuallly unchanged from the team's initial proposal.

Process

Photo of table-top game including playing board and game tiles (various rectangles of different colors).

Board game to identify desired features of the new instrument.

Photo of an example circuit drawing with annotations.

Example of participant's circuit diagram drawing.

Technical drawing of a circuit diagram.

Aggregate circuit diagram from all participants' drawings.

Because the team was entering uncharted waters, few of the tools available to the Product Manager were going to help determine the potential market for this new solution. He and I collaborated to determine what approaches would get us actionable information at the least cost and in the shortest time.

Discovery

We decided on a qualitative research study for several reasons:

  • We had little time to put together a proper quantitative instrument
  • We were exploring new territory, requiring open ended questions
  • We needed to understand whether the problem statement, as we had defined it, was shared by our target users.

We stood up a tiger team comprising myself, the product manager, a hardware and software architect. Together we developed several game-based excercises in which we engaged 20 prospective users of the new instrument. The four of us attended every session, debriefed between meetings, and discussed, argued and ultimately came to consensus about what these users were telling us. The exercises included:

  • Having the participant draw a diagram of a recently tested circuit and then marking up that drawing with additional information of interest to us
  • A "board game" to design a new instrument based on specific features we were imagining
  • A pricing exercise to help position the value proposition of the instrument

 

Key insight that led to the entirely new class of instrument.

Definition

We analyzed the data in two different ways: A) on the road, between sessions, we discussed the key new information we had heard, as well as validating information from prior sessions, and B) after all of the sessions were complete, we went through the verbatims, diagrams and board game results to identify commonalities.

One of our biggest "ahas" came between sessions on the road. The hardware architect, whose idea this had been from the beginning, looked at us and blurted out an insight from the most recent session that completely revolutionized our understanding of the problem. It was a feature that had been "hiding in plain sight," which we hadn't considered until he brought it to our attention.

That insight became the seed of the new instrument and the core of the product strategy.

Collaboration | Contributions

Standard flow-chart used for new product introduction, pre-initiation stage. Redacted to preserve confidentiality.

This was one of the best cross-disciplinary teams I've ever had the privilege to work on. Having a hardware architect, deeply rooted in the acquisition technology, a software architect equally experienced in the software stack and a product manager with 30 years' experience in the test-and-measurement market all contributed to a rapid and nuanced result.

I was responsible for the research design, including the exercises, the protocol, the sample definition and the methods we used.

I contributed an outside-in perspective in forging the new product strategy.

I was responsible for the final product concept design, in collaboration with engineering teams.