Product People Strengthens Continuous Discovery to Allow for User-Centric Product Development

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The Client: Smallpdf

Smallpdf was born in 2013 in Switzerland and provides a simple, secure, and reliable answer to the world’s PDF challenges with over 20 tools that allow for creating, editing, converting, and signing PDFs. The platform is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, with a focus on simplicity and efficiency.

During these 10 years, they have helped over a billion users in 195 countries (even in Antarctica!), and are available in 24 languages.

Some of the key features Smallpdf offers include file conversion, PDF editing, compression and protection, E-Signatures, and Optical Character Recognition (Image to Text Conversion).

Smallpdf's services are available for free, but there are also premium features that require a subscription. For example, premium subscribers can access features such as batch processing, which allows users to convert or process multiple files at once, and offline access, which allows users to work with PDF files even when they are not connected to the internet.

The Mission: Interim Product Manager

We joined as Interim Product Managers on a team that was working on improving the end-user experience when it comes to the usage of certain tools within Smallpdf. The intricate details of our mission remain concealed due to the nature of the work being done and the importance of remaining a stealth project until officially launched.

Given that the team did not currently have a Product Manager since its inception, our goal was to bring about a user-centered approach to informing the strategy and roadmap. We were tasked with conducting continuous discovery in order to better inform the team’s work and ensure long-term success.

Smallpdf welcomed us on board, and we instantly started working on the team’s Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) for the upcoming quarter. In order to understand processes and obtain as much information as possible, we worked with several teams in parallel to plan the discovery. Finally, we collaborated closely with the engineers and the product team of Smallpdf to finalize the roadmap of the product.

Our Main Quest: Strategic Planning & Continuous Discovery

Planned OKRs

During our onboarding, we worked with the team to draft the Objectives and Key Results for the upcoming quarter while making sure that the OKRs aligned with the broader goals of the company.

OKR planning kicked off by defining SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals focusing on what we wanted to achieve as a team for improving customer satisfaction and increasing revenue. After defining objectives, we brainstormed key results ensuring that they indicated progress towards our objectives.

Our efforts didn’t end on defining Objectives and Key Results, we also prioritized objectives to focus on the most important things along with assigning ownership to make sure everyone involved understands their role in achieving objectives and key results.

Conducted Continuous Discovery

We wanted to make sure we know our customers’ pain points that could be solved with the product we wanted to work on. For this purpose, we planned the Product Discovery process which involved a series of steps:

  • Defining Goals: It started by identifying overall goals for product discovery and determining a timeframe for the process. Our objective was to prioritize and define opportunities and outcomes as opposed to building based on outputs.
  • Market Research: To better understand various trends and use them as a foundation for comparison in our research, we examined all the market research that was performed for Smallpdf as well as conducted additional desktop research by analyzing data on Looker.
  • Competitive Analysis: Once we had enough internal data, we started to identify and evaluate our direct and indirect competitors and performed a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to gather concrete information to understand the competitive landscape.
  • User Interview Template: Prepared an interview template to better understand the pain points and needs of our end users. This was handed over to the incoming full-time Product Manager who then conducted the interviews in collaboration with the UX Research team.
  • Creating an Opportunity Solution Tree: While conducting our research, we were also developing the OST (Opportunity Solution Tree), which involved identifying all of the opportunities, creating a backlog for them, coming up with potential solutions, classifying them, and prioritizing them to inform our roadmap.
OST Draft
SWOT Analysis

Created a Product Roadmap

For the purpose of generating product roadmaps and distributing the team's plans, Smallpdf adopted ProductBoard for Product Managers. With ProductBoard as our platform, we developed a thorough roadmap with a clear vision. It had nicely segregated items in order of prioritization with proper labels and owners. All of the product development efforts were ultimately configured to follow the Product Roadmap for the team.

Discovery Mini-Missions: Our Side Quests

As Interim Product Managers, we supported our team at Smallpdf with multiple side missions:

  • Optimizing Documentation Space: we took the time to update outdated documentation in order to allow external teams to better understand our team’s goals and progress. We worked on articulating complex, technical topics into simpler, easy-to-digest documents and created a FAQ page for common questions with simple answers for better understanding.
  • Onboarded Incoming Product Manager: we created a detailed and precise handover document for the full-time Product Manager. We set up multiple onboarding sessions to provide them with an understanding of the company, team, and roadmap. Then, we shadowed as the Product Manager took over in our last few days resulting in us successfully handing over in less than 2 weeks.

Mission Achievements: Delivered Outcomes

💡 Prepared and executed a discovery strategy that consisted of analyzing up to 5 competitors, identifying up to 30 opportunities out of which 3 were prioritized for the short term, and preparing a user testing plan to validate the remaining ones.
💡 Defined short-term objectives & key results and prepared a long-term roadmap.
💡 Successfully onboarded the full-time Product Manager within less than 2 weeks.

In the Client's Own Words

Space Crew of this Mission

Senior Product Management Consultant
Product Management Consultant
VP/Director/Head of Product

For Clients: When to Hire Us

You can hire us as an Interim/Freelance Product Manager or Product Owner

It takes, on average, three to nine months to find the right Product Manager to hire as a full-time employee. In the meantime, someone needs to fill in the void: drive cross-functional initiatives, decide what is worth building, and help the development team deliver the best outcomes.
If you're looking for a great Product Manager / Product Owner to join your team ASAP, Product People is a good plug-and-play solution to bridge the gap.