Glossary of product terms

Just as teams need common methods and clarity of roles, common understanding of terms and clarity of language is key to successful communication. 

API (Application Programming Interface)

A technique for share information between multiple products. For example, Zapier leverages APIs to connect different products. For example, Zapier can add a new subscriber to your mailing list when a new subscriber signs up on your website.

Alpha test

A trial phase of a product’s launch where company employees test a release candidate in a customer environment.

Backlog

A product backlog is a list of the new features, changes to existing features, bug fixes, infrastructure changes or other activities that a team may deliver in order to achieve a specific outcome. The backlog may contain items that will never be built because they never achieve a high priority—which explains why “let me put that on the backlog” is not a commitment to deliver. The product backlog is the single authoritative source for things that a team works on.

Beta test

A trial phase of a product’s launch where customer employees test a release candidate in a customer environment. This is usually offered to a select group of early adopter users (and never sales prospects) and the product may still have bugs in it.

Bounce rate

The percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.

Buyer Persona

The archetype of people in similar roles who share common problems, challenges, and buying preferences.

CTR (click-through rate)

The percentage of people visiting a web page who access a hypertext link to a particular advertisement.

Churn rate

The percentage rate at which customers unsubscribe or don’t retain as users of a feature or product.

Client

Typically, an individual or organization who has purchased your product.

Conversion Rate

The percentage of visitors to a particular website who complete a desired goal (e.g., pay for a service).

Customer

The term 'customer' has two common meanings. In some contexts, customer refers to the market full of existing and potential clients—it’s a synonym for market. For others, it refers specifically to clients who have purchased the product.

Customer segment

A group of buyers. Customer segmentation is the process of dividing customers into groups based on common characteristics so companies can market to each group effectively and appropriately. Also known as market segment.

DAU/MAU

Stands for daily active users or monthly active users. DAU and MAU are metrics used to determine how many users are using a product on a regular basis. Generally, companies want high DAU/MAU metrics.

Design thinking

A human-centered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of the customers (based on human-centered design), along with technical feasibility, viability, desirability, and business success requirements.

Early adopters

These users use the product as soon as it is available. These are often the product’s most dedicated fans and are likely to be beta testers.

Epics

Large bodies of work that can be broken down into several smaller stories.

Feature

One capability or function within a product, designed to address a specific problem or requirement.

Friction point

A point in a workflow where users experience frustration or unnecessary work due to an inadequate or inefficient automation. This may be described by an epic or a user story depending on the complexity of the situation.

Go-to-market strategy

The launch plan for a product. Consider this the blueprint for delivering the product from the company into the users’ hands.

Impression

An instance of a pop-up or other Web advertisement being seen on computer users’ screens.

Initiatives

Collections of epics that drive toward a common goal. (Contrast with themes). Initiatives break into epics which break down into stories.

KPI (Key Performance Indicator)

Quantifiable measure of a company’s objective (e.g. KPI for growth might be an increased number of DAUs).

Kano

A framework to help support prioritizing capabilities based on the degree to which they are likely to satisfy customers. Product teams can weigh a high-satisfaction feature against its costs to implement to determine whether adding it to the roadmap is a strategically sound decision.

Launch

The beginning of a marketing project to prepare the sales and marketing team to connect with customers and prospects. Not all launches are aligned with a development release.

Low-hanging fruit

An easy product or feature change that can substantially improve metrics. For instance, adding a button to the homepage for users to purchase a product might be a “low-hanging fruit.” (Note: Low-hanging fruit is picked by amateurs. Experienced harvesters choose from the top of the tree, not the bottom.)

Market

A market (or marketplace) is the collection of all the buyers and sellers in the area or region under consideration. Some product professionals use market and market segment interchangeably.

Market segment

A market segment is a group of people or organization who share one or more common characteristics, grouped together for marketing purposes. Some product professionals use market and market segment interchangeably.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Early stage of a product or service, with just enough features to share with early adopters and garner insights for validation and improvement.

Mobile native

“Native” often refers to apps running on a smartphone or computer. Web apps are those that are accessed via a URL. For instance, the Facebook app is a native app. The Facebook.com on a mobile Google Chrome browser in one’s smartphone is on the mobile web platform.

Module

A module is a single-function programming unit within a software product. For example, spell-checking is a module in most word processing software.

North Star Metric

The single metric that best captures the success of your product. Of course, no metric will tell a full story, but the north star metric is the most important metric to guide product decisions.

OKR (Objectives and Key Results)

The OKR technique is a goal-setting tool used to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results. OKRs are how you track progress, create alignment, and encourage engagement around measurable goals. (See also KPI).

Offering

An offering is a grouping of products and services packaged to address a market problem. In some cases, offering is used to describe a one-time proposal for a client, such as described in an RFP.

Opportunity Scoring

There are always more ideas than resources. Opportunity scoring is a technique for comparing multiple projects to one another to select the one (or few) that will move to the next step of business planning.

Pain point

A pain point is a problem that prospective customers or users are experiencing. Pain point identification is helpful to generate targeted solutions.

Persona

An archetype of the typical buyer or user of a product. A persona definition usually includes a name and role, a description, and common problems they encounter.

Portfolio

A suite of products that are packaged for a specific type of buyer. For example, Microsoft 365 (ie., Microsoft Office) is a package containing software products such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook as well as services of Teams and OneDrive.

Preview

An early release of a product’s launch to validate the go-to-market efforts with customers and sometimes sales prospects. (Not to be confused with Beta Test).

Primary [Market] Research

Creating and interpreting new data using a method designed specifically to the research objective. The research instrument directly answered the hypothesis. Popular techniques include interviews, observation, surveys, experiments, and prototypes. (See also Secondary [Market] Research

Prioritization

Using techniques to determine which feature or project is the most important. A prioritization scheme usually incorporates some combination of value to client, value to the business, and effort to deliver. Popular prioritization techniques include Kano, RICE and BRICE, Weighted Small Job First (WSJF), and IDEA.

Product

In practice, a product is a set of functional capabilities or features that address a specific problem.

Product manager

A product manager identifies a customer need within the larger business objectives that a product or feature will fulfill, articulates what success looks like for a product, and rallies a team to turn that vision into a reality.

Product owner

As described in the Scrum Guide, a Scrum Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations and teams. There is considerable confusion in the industry about this role and its relationship to the product manager role.

Program

As it relates to “Project,” a program is an on-going effort to implement and maintain a product or project. Building a bridge is a project; maintaining the bridge is a program.

Program Implement (PI) Planning

Also known as “big room planning,” this agile method helps teams of all types and sizes align around goals, business objectives, and customer needs. Generally, it’s a quarterly gathering that brings everyone together — from software developers to stakeholders — to complete essential planning of a large project.

Project

An individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim. A project typically has a limited duration and scope. Building a bridge is a project; maintaining the bridge is a program.

Prospect

An individual or organization actively engaged in a sales process.

RACI

The RACI matrix is a simple but effective model for defining, assigning, and documenting roles and responsibilities in a project or task. RACI stands for Responsible, Approves (sometimes ‘Accountable’), Consulted, and Informed.

ROI (Return on investment)

The ratio between net income (over a period) and the spending necessary to deliver some capability.

Refactor

A restructuring of the existing computer code. There are a variety of reasons for a code refactor. Often, refactors are advantageous because they accelerate product development or reduce vulnerabilities.

Release

The end of a development project that results in a product that is ready for customers. Not all releases have formal launches.

Release plan

A project plan containing anticipated deliverables and rough date estimates.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

Also known as a Invitation to Tender (ITT), an RFP is request from a client to a number of vendors which lists their requirements to address a client problem.

Requirement

A description of a problem that will be addressed by a product feature or service. Some requirements are called non-functional requirements that include address issues related security, compliance, performance, or user-interface.

Responsibility Assignments

(see "RACI")

Roadmap

High-level summary of a product’s vision and direction over time. A roadmap is a visual prototype of your strategy with phases of work shown in a sequential pattern. Roadmaps should not contain features and dates.

SWOT analysis

A strategic planning and strategic management technique used to help a person or organization identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to business competition or project planning. [from Wikipedia]

Sales Enablement

The process of ensuring the sales organizations, both direct and indirect, have the knowledge and skills to successfully sell the product or service. Sales Enablement teams work with the sales organization to understand their needs and ensure the required content and training is created with the help of subject matter experts throughout the organization, particularly product management and product marketing.

Scrum

Scrum is a process framework used to manage product development and other knowledge work. Scrum provides a means for teams to establish a hypothesis of how they think something works, try it out, reflect on the experience, and make the appropriate adjustments.

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization. The primary role is coach of the Scrum method, not as a project or people manager.

Scrum Team

A Scrum Team is a collection of individuals working together to deliver the requested and committed product increments.

Secondary [Market] Research

Infer the answer to your hypothesis by leveraging data gathered without your research objective. That is, using other people’s data to guide your decisions.

Solution

A solution addresses a market problem. In a tech-enabled business, a solution is often a package of products and services designed to address a market problem. (See Portfolio).

Stories

Also called “user stories,” stories are short requirements or requests written from the perspective of an end user.

TAM, SAM, SOM

TAM, SAM and SOM are acronyms that represent different subsets of market demand. TAM (Total Available Market) is the total market demand for a product or service. SAM (Serviceable Available Market) is the portion of the TAM targeted by your products and services which is within your reach. SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market) is the portion of SAM that you can capture. These values can be measured in count (that is, number of potential clients) or revenue (amount of potential purchases).

Technical Debt

In software development, technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt) is the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. [from Wikipedia]

Themes

Organizational approaches to label backlog items, epics, and initiatives into logical groups of work. Themes should inspire the creation of epics and initiatives but don’t have a rigid 1-to-1 relationship with them. A theme for a rocket ship company might be “Safety First” while an initiative would be “Successfully launch into orbit.”

UI (User interface)

The means by which the human and computing system interact. UI most often refers to the design of the application or website.

UX (User experience)

The overall experience of the user’s use of the product from interest to purchase to usage. The user interface (UI) is a subset of the UX.

Use case

Use cases explain every possible use of a feature or capability. Each use case generally outlines a particular value proposition to the user. Use cases are commonly used in product specifications (not requirements).

Use scenario

A hypothetical scenario for how a user might interact with the product. A use scenario explains a common or typical usage of a product feature or capability.

User Story

(See “Stories”)

VOC

(see "Voice of the Customer")

Value Proposition

A value proposition explains why a customer would choose your product or service. It communicates the clearest benefit that customers receive by buying from you. Every value proposition should speak to a customer's challenge and make the case for your company as the problem-solver

Velocity

A metric often used in agile software development, team velocity measures how many units of work the engineering team is able to accomplish in a set period of time. Also commonly defined as "the rate of progress" of a team.

Voice of Customer

The practice of collecting and analyzing customer feedback, without bias, from surveys, interviews, and conversations, across the organization. Voice of the customer involves continuous research of the market to inform product and promotion decisions.