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Product Management Process: You can build the wrong product faster than ever

In a recent survey, 47% indicated that process was the biggest challenge for product management in their company. The top issues: Ad-hoc process. Ill-defined process. Inconsistent process.

Today’s products seem to get released through individual heroics, despite the process. It feels like team members push the product out despite the company’s best efforts to prevent it. In fact, you must often plot your own path with little to guide you.

Just as you have a process for development and for selling, you need a process for defining which products and features to create… from idea to market, from problem discovery to launch into the market.

And, no matter what others may think, it’s not factory work. Ideas don't just come by on a conveyor belt, one after another.

Creating software—or any technology-based product—requires creativity. It’s more like writing a book. It’s not like manufacturing a car. This factory approach leads to building a lot of features, but you don’t always end up a product that people will buy and use.

With today’s methods, you can build the wrong product faster than ever.

So you need some process. Something more than a conversation or a cocktail napkin. You need a way to go from idea to product to success in the market.

Here's what happens when teams realize they have a broken process. They put together a team and they come up with something like this— a phased approach or a stage process where you do this and do this and you do this and they do that. And in each of those stages we have a bunch of forms to fill out, and all these meetings and ceremonies. They assume a lot of people will participate and everybody has all the information they need, and nobody has a political agenda.

And in most processes, research —that is, learning—happens only at the beginning and the end of this long process.

Lean Startup encourages you to BUILD, MEASURE, and LEARN. But this isn’t really a process; it is more a philosophy. Yes, you should build and measure and learn. And yet, there’s so much more to product than BUILD.

Introduction to the Quartz Open Framework

Let’s recast this as more of a process. We need to discover important problems to solve, describe those problems as well as the personas who have them, then deliver solutions to market successfully. Here are the six steps necessary for creating innovative products.

Product management process: Quartz Open Framework

Steve Johnson walks through the key phases of the product management framework in this video.

DISCOVER important problems to solve, gain COMMITMENT from leadership with business deliverables. DESCRIBE those problems as well as the personas who have them, work with development and design to CREATE innovative solutions, and work with sales and marketing to DELIVER to the market. Then CONNECT with the market using programs that drive growth in adoption and revenue.

And at the center is continuous learning. That’s where product management really contributes to product success. At each stage, we measure and adapt. We learn what’s working and what isn’t. We help all teams adapt to new market conditions. We learn whether we have achieved product-market fit. We learn that a feature implementation is or is not solving the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. We learn whether the market messaging is resonating with buyers. We learn what sales and customer tools are needed to reduce friction in the buying process.

That’s the Quartz Open Framework for product management, showing the phases of a modern product life cycle.

DISCOVER problems and COMMIT to solve them DESCRIBE and CREATE winning solutions, and what's missing from many frameworks is DELIVER and CONNECT with markets for customer success. And then LEARN continually.

The Quartz Open Framework leverages your existing investments in professional development. It embraces many methods — it's a methods of methods. For DESCRIBE and CREATE, methods you may already be using, such as design thinking, story mapping, and agile development. For DELIVER and CONNECT, the various sales and marketing methods such as account-based marketing.

But here’s the elephant in the room: You know what drives executives crazy? They lose sleep at night wondering,

  • Can we sell what we’ve already built?

  • Can we build what we’ve planned?

And the really scary one:

  • Have we planned the right products for the future?

The phases of the Quartz Open Framework focus on these three product-related goals. Have we planned the right products? Can we build what we’ve planned? Can we sell what we’ve built?

The Quartz Open Framework provides a structure for defining your process. It introduces a phased approach to creating products that people want to buy and use. And not just software. This framework helps with any type of product—digital or otherwise.

The Quartz Open Framework canvas can help you define your process. For each stage, what are your deliverables? What are the artifacts? What are the meetings? What are your handoffs and connections to other methods?

The core ideas for the phases of the Quartz Open Framework: Discover problems, Commit to solve them, Describe the problems to your creation teams, Design and develop solutions, Prepare the customer-facing teams, Connect with the market with effective sales tools and marketing campaigns. A nimble idea-to-market process with strong emphasis on personal experience with customers.

The process is explored in the Fundamentals of Managing Products course. Deliverables and connections guided by the Quartz Open Framework:

Product Management process using Quartz Open Framework

Starting at the top and going clockwise:


  • Review market feedback

  • Conduct problem discovery

  • Isolate problems and personas

  • Create product vision canvas


  • Engage the leadership team

  • Create business deliverables

  • Define success criteria

  • Get go-ahead for next steps

  • Then engage technical teams


  • Describe personas and problems

  • Define acceptance criteria

  • Roadmap initiatives or epics


  • Prioritize deliverables

  • Formalize acceptance

  • Communicate status

  • Minimize interference and change


  • Engage go-to-market teams

  • Determine launch activities

  • Develop readiness plans

  • Prioritize deliverables


  • Monitor success metrics,

  • Monitor market feedback

  • Monitor customer usage

  • Perform process retrospectives

The Quartz Open Framework provides a logical structure for creating and launching products. Use the Quartz Open Framework canvas to document your current process. Explore ways you can be more efficient. Look for extraneous documents and unnecessary meetings to eliminate.


Turn Ideas Into Products by Steve Johnson leads you step-by-step through problem discovery and market validation, agile business planning, and release and launch of technology products based on the QuartzOpen Framework. Steve has helped tens of thousands of product professionals understand the fundamentals of product management, first as an executive and instructor at Pragmatic Marketing, and now at Product Growth Leaders.


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