Evaluating Product Ideas using One Pagers

Evaluating Product Ideas using One Pagers

Every product has room for improvement. Ideas on how to do it comes from many different sources.

1.The management team will have a list of ideas to achieve long term company objectives
2.You will have ideas on how to improve the product
3.Sales team will be listening and conveying improvements that prospects are looking for
4.Support team will bring to you ideas on how to solve recurring issues faced by customers

So which idea becomes a feature and which one doesn’t?

For this article our goal is to focus on how do you evaluate if an idea:

1.Is it worth investing?
2.How much time should you spend evaluating it?
3.How to present your finding in a simple and easy to understand format

Time Management is a challenge with evaluating Ideas

When I first started out, time management was a big issue for me. Its not something that only product managers face. We all feel challenged on how to best spend our time.  I realised that I used to spend a large amount of time researching ideas that the team got. Which is what PMs should be doing as it is one of the key aspects of the product managers job. Where I got stuck though was how much time I spent on an idea. Some mistakes I made early on:

1.I spent a lot of time on ideas “I” came up with
2.I spent a lot of time on ideas that seemed like a cool new addition to the product
3.I did not lean on the experience of my teammates before diving deep into research mode
4.My research often became so widespread that it was not possible to bring it to a logical conclusion

In one of the teams that I worked with we introduced the concept of one pagers for product ideas. This was built on the concepts of pragmatic marketing. We tweaked it to suit the needs of our company. It worked so well that I took it everywhere I went. Some places it was a success, others not so much. It remains an important tool in my arsenal. It helps me:

1.Piece together important information about the idea
2.Decide what next to do with the idea

What is a product one pager?

As the name suggests, it is a one page document. The salient features of the documents are as follows:

1.It is short and without any fluff
2.Contains information only relevant to the idea
3.Assumes that the reader might not know anything about the idea
4.Defines the problem and not the feature
5.Talks about what different solutions could look like
6.Describes what it means for the customers
7.How it impacts the business metrics

Who is it for?

It depends on who are the primary stakeholders for that area of the product. It could be:

1.The larger product team which looks at the relative priorities of all the product work in queue
2.The team that has submitted the idea
3.Sales team for updates that leads are looking for
4.Customer success and support team for changes that existing customers want on the platform

Anyone in the company should be able to read and understand the one pager. You should make it accessible to everyone.

What does the format of a product one pager look like?

The one pager has five different sections.

Describe the problem?

One paragraph that describes the issue. For example-I am not able to do “X” because of “Y”:

X- Issue
Y-Reason for the issue

Who is facing the problem?

List the users who are facing the problem. For example it could be:

A particular segment of customers
Prospect who is evaluating the product
An internal stakeholder

How can we solve this problem?

List out possible solution:

1.Solution 1:
2.Solution 2:

Be careful. Don’t end up describing the entire requirements here. Only state the solution, not its inner workings.

What is the development cost of solving the problem?

Provide a rough estimate of:


How large is the project(weeks). Tshirt sizing is a good way of providing initial estimates. It could be:

Small: Less than 1 week
Medium:1-2 weeks
Large:2-4 weeks
XLarge: More than 1 week

The above values will depend on how much time building and deploying takes in your company. In a startup you might be able to build faster than a larger company with lots of technical debt


Opportunity cost: What will we NOT build if this idea is prioritised and what it means for the business

What is the benefit of solving the problem?

Depending on the type of idea you could use different metrics here. Example:

1.Revenue increase by X%
2.Churn rate reduced  by Y%
3.Customer satisfaction rating improved by Z%

I do not write a recommendation in the one pager. It helps the reader make their own assessment without bias. You can tweak the format based on the unique needs of your team as long as the goal is being met. Lots of times the one pager leads to a healthy debate within the group and leads to a decision on what to do with the idea.

How do you roll out the one pager in your company?

There are three stages for rollout that we recommend. You might decide that given how your team is setup you are happy with only one or two stages.

Stage 1

In this stage you roll out the first version of the one pager. The goal at this stage is to:

1.Find out if you need to add or remove any information from the template
2.Get stakeholders into the habit of reading and using one pagers
3.Start using it to make go/no-go decision on ideas

Stage 2

Convert the one pager into a form that users fill out when submitting product ideas. They might not have all the answers, that’s alright! By going over the questions they will start thinking through ideas the same way as you evaluate them.

One pushback you might face is that it makes it harder for users to provide feedback on the product. And it’s a valid argument. So the implementation would depend on the unique culture of your organisation.

Stage 3

At the end of the day the one pager is a way to help us put our thoughts together in a logical way. Its use extends beyond product ideas. Other teams can use it for their own benefit as well. For example the marketing team can have a one pager for blog topics. This will help them decide which blogs to write before putting effort into it.

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