Inside Panorama’s MVP Success: An Interview on Mastering Product Discovery
With Roxanne Lessard, Founder of Panorama
Hey everyone, Francis here 👋
This week, I am thrilled to introduce Roxanne, the founder of Panorama, a platform that makes governance and board meetings less painful. Panorama simplifies the organization and documentation of board meetings for private businesses and non-profit organizations.
The company was founded in July 2022. Since then, Roxanne has been busy diving deep into the world of governance to understand the reality of board members, their pains, and the challenges they face.
In her article, Roxanne shares her experience on how she mastered the art of product discovery and a few techniques she used to build the perfect first version of Panorama. Whether you're a product manager, an entrepreneur, or a curious reader, I think you’ll find her story fascinating.
So, without further ado, let's hand it over to Roxanne!
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Hello everyone 👋 I am Roxanne, the founder of Panorama.
Truth be told, I’m not a Product Manager. I started my career in business development and communication.
After being a general manager of a tech startup and attending a software development boot camp, I discovered my passion for tech. I decided to co-found IWN Studio, a product development studio where we built Panorama.
Let’s start with a bit of history.
The Story of Panorama
As someone who sits on several boards of directors, I have experienced many problems that are recurring across different boards. One of the major issues I identified is the lack of structure and processes to support healthy governance practices.
What I have seen often is people join boards without fully understanding what is expected of them, their legal rights and responsibilities, and the company's overall situation.
To me, this was a ticking time bomb. At some point, someone would get in trouble.
Additionally, I experienced administrative tasks to be cumbersome and paperwork not always being completed correctly or accessible to all board members.
Technology ought to help!
Picking the right problem
Our team at IWN Studio had explored developing other solutions, and in doing so, we built a list of criteria to determine which problems we should focus on.
The list includes:
Unfair advantages - We needed to know or have something that others didn’t. Here, it was my position with multiple board members.
Purpose - We needed to be driven by the problem. The vision of us solving the problem needed to excite us and fit our values.
Audience - The problem is experienced by a group of people that is easy to identify, and we can reach them.
At this point, I had a pretty good feeling that we had found a problem area worth investing time in, but we needed to have further validation that the problem was systemic; that is was experienced by many.
Narrowing Down the Problems
There’s no better way to validate an idea than to talk to potential customers. So, we dove right into a series of customer interviews with board members to get a better understanding of their pain points.
When we first started to reach out to people on LinkedIn and in our contact book, it was great to see that so many people wanted to talk to us about their problems. This was the first validation of the problem we were trying to solve.
After a few discussions, it was clear that many problems existed, but they were not clear in the minds of our customers, nor were they in my mind and those of my employees.
To tackle this challenge, I created a one-pager/brief to synthesize the problem, the audience, and the risks/missed opportunities of the project. This helped us to clearly define the problem and communicate it to the team.
From there, we organized a fire brainstorming session. The goal was to share with the team the one-pager, which has a clear description of the problem, and let them come up with solutions.
During this session we:
Listed various solutions.
Evaluated our team's capacity to build them, along with the level of effort required.
Scope the solutions down to focus on the most essential features that would solve the problem.
See below for the template we use for this session.
What we learned
One thing we discovered through our customer interviews was that document management was a major pain point.
During our fire brainstorming session, we realized that competing with document management platforms like Google Drive would be challenging. So, instead of trying to compete head-on, we decided to focus on complete workflow management for board governance.
This meant starting from creating the event, creating the agenda, structuring the minutes, making edits and reviews, sending for signatures, and populating the books. By doing this, our assumption was that we would be able to streamline the process with healthy governance practices and eliminate low-value workloads and back-and-forth emails.
The end goal would be that board members would trust that the administrative tasks would be completed and in compliance with the best practices.
How we continue to learn
When it came to planning out the development of Panorama, we didn't want to get bogged down in a super detailed plan. Instead, we focused on putting the major milestones down on paper, with the intention of continuing customer interviews and constantly updating the plan as we went along.
We evaluated each potential feature against three criteria:
Is it essential to solving the problem?
Does it differentiate us from our competitors?
Does it bring in revenue or traction?
Once we had a clear list of 3-5 features to build. We started the development.
But one big question was looming over our heads: how would we know that we built these features right? At this point, we didn’t have any customers.
Build the community first
We were lucky to have a group of initial people that agreed to talk to us, but looking for new people to talk to was very time-consuming. We needed a way to build a feedback loop with real potential users that didn’t require us constantly chase new people.
For this reason, we launched a program called "Healthy Governance” to facilitate and accelerate user interviews. This program allows our team to develop the Panorama in collaboration with 10 organizations (non-profit and private companies).
The program was simple. We invite board members to join the program in exchange for benefits such as:
Preferential pricing plan after launch;
Sharing insights on governance, and the
Opportunity to have their feedback integrated into the app.
We met with the participants four times throughout the first four months of the program. Each meeting was an hour-long Zoom session.
This program allows us to test our UX, business logic, and revenue model and refine our plan as we go along. Overall, by focusing on the most essential features and constantly engaging with our customers, we have been able to build a platform that truly meets their needs.
Tools for Product Discovery
To gather insights, record interviews, and categorize them with tags, we use EnjoyHQ.
We also use staple platforms such as Figma, Github, Google Workspace, and Google Chat.
Currently, we heavily rely on user interviews. While we do have MixPanel, we are still thinking about our analytics strategy to enable scaling our operations.
Challenging Scoping Decisions
At the moment, our main challenge is growth.
Our platform responds well to our customer's needs, but we need a fair amount of manual work to set up new accounts. This helps us stay close to our customers, but it is time-consuming and costs us a lot.
In the past, we prioritized launching new features to meet customer needs, but now we need to change our strategy to prioritize automation features to reduce manual work.
Advice for Product Leaders
With the team at IWN Studio, we explored building many other platforms before Panorama. One key element that differentiates Panorama from the other ideas is that we are solving a real problem. Emphasis on the word, real.
Finding creative ways to talk to potential customers, like through social media ads, cold outreach, networking, and word of mouth, has always been the top priority of our team, and it pays back.
Honestly, just reach out to people... there are many people who like and want to help; we’ve often been surprised by this.
It allowed us to validate that :
The problem we're trying to solve is genuine,
The solution is effective, and
The customers are willing to pay for it.
Constant discussion with customers is key.
I truly think it’s the superpower of our team.
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And that's a wrap!
Thank you so much, Roxanne, for sharing your insights with us today. Your journey and experience building Panorama are truly inspiring.
Customer interviewing always pays back. It helps to pick the right problem, scope down the problem, validate assumptions, and ultimately refine the product.
Thanks again, Roxanne, and to all our readers; see you next week!