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A Guide to Product Metric Reviews

Do you want to use data to make better product decisions? Of course, you do! Companies that make product decisions based on data outperform their competitors on average, but how do you embed this data-centric product culture at your company? 

I’ve found the best way is to establish regular product metric reviews. If you don’t have consistent product metric reviews in your company, I highly recommend you set them up. Through this article, I’ll show you how.

Why Have Product Metric Reviews?

There are three primary reasons for having product metric reviews:

  1. Establish a data-driven culture.
  2. Create transparency & accountability.
  3. Improve product team intuition.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

Establishing a data-driven culture

Few product companies would admit they don’t use data to make decisions. Unfortunately, I have found this is rarely true when I see how teams are operating.

Most of these teams have no shortage of data, but it isn’t central to their decision making. Sometimes they don’t look at the data regularly enough. Some of them feel they can’t trust the information they have. And many can’t connect the metrics they care about to the companies business objectives.

Product metric reviews solve these problems. They force stakeholders to review the product metrics regularly and create a forum to discuss any challenges. Over time the quality of the product metrics will improve as will the connection between them and the business goals.

Creating transparency & accountability

I believe that transparency is one of the most import characteristics of a great product organisation. It’s essential if you want to avoid surprises and if you value organisational learning.

Product metric reviews provide both transparency and accountability. They allow regular monitoring of progress, the sharing of learning, and help to establish team standards.

Used correctly, they also create a culture of introspection that improve performance across the whole team, providing a forum to evaluate what didn’t work openly and honestly. Over time this will build trust and increase team engagement.

Improving product team intuition

Well executed product metric reviews provide product managers with the chance to see what’s going on within your company and outside in the market. In these review sessions, you hear about the experiments people have run, the analysis of the results and an explanation of the trends they have found.

Over time you start to get a collective feel for what works and what doesn’t. I refer to this as product intuition. As your intuition grows, you will begin to make better bets, prioritisation decisions will become easier, and ultimately you will be able to leverage your time more effectively.

What Metrics Should You Review?

Product metric reviews are about measuring real value creation, not activity. You shouldn’t be discussing work completed. Instead, focus on the value generated for your company through the completion of this work.

To understand what is creating value for your business, you need to break it down. Start with the business goal you are trying to achieve and consider the metrics that need to change to achieve the goal. You can then break these down further until you get to an actionable leading metric. I’ve found the best format for this is a tree structure.

Lean Value Tree

The tree is useful because it helps you think about the levers that affect your business. By breaking down the goal using clear metrics, you can understand which of these levers have the highest potential for impact.

How To Run The Review Meeting?

Before your first metrics review meeting, you need to decide who should attend and the cadence of these meetings.

Attendees

Ideally, all the main stakeholders in the business and those that influence the metrics within the tree should attend. Generally, this would include leaders from product, design, engineering, sales and marketing. You’ll also want someone from finance in attendance if you need updates on the trailing financial metrics within the tree.

Depending on your company, it may not be possible to start operating product metric reviews at the exec-level immediately. If this is the case, don’t worry. You can still benefit from these review meetings. In your case, the top of your tree will be the metrics owned by the most senior person in attendance.

Cadence

It’s best to have your metric review meeting weekly or bi-weekly. Any less regularly and it is tough to create a data-driven culture. Of course, the cadence depends on your product initiatives. You need the ability to make product changes and measure their impact before the next meeting. Then you can discuss the shift in metric and repeat the cycle.

Activity in the meeting

The meeting should ideally happen in-front of the tree so everyone can see the metrics and what any changes influence.

I usually start the meeting by walking through the tree and asking for updates. Each metric within the tree should have a clear owner, and they will give the update. They should speak about any change in the number and a headline reason for this. There is then an opportunity for discussion before we move to the next metric in the tree.

I’ve found the real value is in the discussions that happen after the update as this is where the real learning occurs. If the owner can’t answer a question, they can take it away and give an update in the next meeting.

Once you have established a regular cadence of review sessions, you may want to add in a product strategy review session as well. These should happen less regularly, I do them once a month, and can be used to discuss significant product strategy changes.

Starting and sustaining product metric reviews is not easy. It takes time, data resources and leadership engagement to be successful. But the benefits can be significant. I try to establish regular product metric reviews at the companies I work with to gain these benefits and instil a data-driven product culture. After reading this, I hope you have the knowledge and the motivation to do the same.