The product manager's guide to proactive risk management

How to mitigate risk from building the wrong thing, poor technical planning, and bad process

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Evaluate product viability

The risk of building the wrong thing

Engineering managers often focus purely on the manufacturing aspect of product development, such as counting escaped defects, page load times, and other metrics. While useful, they do not provide sufficient information to ensure proper product-market fit.

  • Does the product solve the identified challenge?

  • Was the business aligned on the onset?

  • Is the business still aligned to the same goals?

  • Is the success of the product measurable beyond ambiguity?

Product viability risks can be managed by starting with a product management technique called service design. Service design maps out a given service offered by the business not only in context of the customer but also through the organizational dependencies, impacted departments, pain points, manual workflows, etc. For more on the topic, check out our white paper.


The intent of service design is to identify areas of the service that could benefit from a digital product. Similarly, design research is used to survey impacted parties, analyze associated tasks, interview customers, and perform observational studies.

The combined findings from service design and user research should provide the product team enough contextual information to establish a Product Canvas to guide production and use as an antidote to ambiguity.

An effective Product Canvas includes established product goals. Due to the ambiguous nature of new products, goals often run the risk of being loosely defined. Set specific, measurable, and achievable product goals to remedy ambiguity. Then, implement a product analytics tool like Mixpanel™ or Adobe Analytics to collect real data from the field throughout the iterative development process.

Product goals need to be specific, measurable, and achievable.

The combination of service design and a Product Canvas help keep the team aligned. Product goals enable the team to adjust product direction, while analytics data validates or disproves assumptions conceived along the way.

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