Model features on real artifacts
One way you can be sure people are investing in a problem is to look for artifacts of use. Artifacts are real world objects that people use to get a job done. Think post-it notes surrounding a computer screen, a journal of meeting notes, a binder full of documents. Artifacts are objects that people create or curate in order to do something…they are evidence of caring about a problem and taking action toward solving it.
Artifacts can also be hacks, like placing clear scotch tape on an iPhone to protect the screen, or propping up a window with a book. By investigating artifacts you’ll often discover your real competitors. Many artifacts are simply Excel spreadsheets whipped up in a hurry to figure something out that become an ongoing part of the process.
So when you come across an artifact treat it like gold…and ask its owner to tell you all about it. Ask them what works and what doesn’t about it. Ask them how it could be better. Ask them what it solves and doesn’t solve. In asking these questions you’ll get to the root of the use case (the job-to-be-done)
Artifacts translate directly into useful features. That’s because the biggest hurdle of feature creation has already been solved…artifacts are something that is already being used so you can be sure the feature will be used as well.