What are Opportunity Solution Trees?

In this article

We'll take a deep dive into Opportunity Solution Trees

If you're looking for a practical guide on how to create OSTs in Delibr, we recommend this article.


In this article, we'll introduce the concept of opportunity solution trees. You will learn what they are, what components they are made up of, how to create them, and why they are an awesome tool for any product team to use in their discovery workflow. 

Let's take a stroll through the fascinating world of the Opportunity Solution Tree, or OST for short. Imagine it as a treasure map, guiding us toward our coveted treasure – the desired outcome. The OST unfurls like a majestic tree in our product management garden. At its crown sits our shining star, the Outcome, a singular goal that keeps our eyes on the prize.

Nestled beneath the Outcome are the Opportunities, like hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These are the user's pains, needs, and desires. Each time we soothe a pain, fulfill a need, or grant a desire, we inch closer to our glittering Outcome.

Next, we have the Solutions – these are our creative blueprints, our ways to turn Opportunities into reality. Some like to call these 'bets' or 'features,' adding a bit of adventure to our quest.

And finally, at the roots of our tree, lie the Experiments. These are our tools of exploration – customer interviews, A/B tests, wireframes, risk mapping, you name it. Each Experiment helps us confirm if a Solution is truly our golden ticket. So, let's embark on this journey, with our OST as our guide, navigating the exciting path from idea to outcome.

Hands-on example

Setting the stage

Picture yourself as a Product Manager at Delibr, where our mantra is to help product teams think better, together. It's like being a part of a brain trust dedicated to enhancing teamwork and creativity.

Within Delibr, there's a constellation of five product teams, each orbiting around one of the pirate metrics (AARRR). Your team? You're the champions of Activation, the second 'A' in our AARRR. Your mission: to be the welcoming committee for new users, helping them find their groove in Delibr.

Now, every mission needs a beacon, and yours is a shining KPI: the percentage of new teams hitting the activation milestone within their first week. Think of it as your Northstar metric, guiding your team's journey. 'Activated' here means a flurry of 50 in-app activities – a sign that new users are not just visiting, but really settling in.

So, there you are, in the heart of Delibr, crafting an app that's not just a tool, but a collaborator. Your focus? To spark that initial magic of activation, helping teams not just use Delibr but truly embrace it as their thinking partner.

Defining our desired outcome

Think of the desired outcome as the X marks the spot on our treasure map. This goal could be a towering business objective or a dream our customers are chasing. The Opportunity Solution Tree is charting the course to any goal, big or small.

Let's dive back into our Delibr example. Right now, we've got 5% of new users turning into activated treasure hunters in our app. But our business telescope is set on a more distant star – boosting this to 7.5% to keep pace with our growth sails for the upcoming year.

So, we could set our desired outcome as: 'Increase the percentage of new teams that become activated by 50%, by the end of the year'. It's a bold quest, full of twists and turns, but with our OST in hand, we're ready to navigate the uncharted waters to reach this ambitious destination.

Identifying opportunities

Imagine opportunities as buried treasures hidden within the user experience. They're the pain points, uncharted desires, or unmet needs of our users. When we spot and address these effectively, we set sail closer to our goal. These treasures are almost always discovered through a treasure hunt of user interaction. It could be user interviews, diving into data seas, or sailing through user surveys. Each of these explorations is a step deeper into the rich opportunity space.

In our Delibr adventure, let's say we're setting up camp to chat with those who signed up but didn't reach the 'activated' island. We're on a quest to uncover why a whopping 95% don't hit that mark of 50 in-app activities. During these interviews, we're not just talking; we're treasure hunting, digging up insights about their journey. Every piece of feedback, every unmet need, or unfulfilled desire we unearth, we plant as opportunities in our OST. It's like mapping out a constellation of user experiences, each star an opportunity to make our product not just a stopover, but a destination.

In the interviews, we heard the following things:

  • "I never completed the signup process because there were too many steps. I just wanted to see the tool, not answer questions about myself" 
  • "Our current notes, documents, and user flow life in Confluence and Miro. I didn't find a way to import this to Delibr, and it would be too cumbersome to migrate it manually, so I left" 
  • "I didn't understand where to start. The first page of the app was overwhelming and I felt lost"

We take these opportunities and add them to the OST, as in the example above. As we continue to talk to users we will likely uncover adjacent opportunities. To make the OST manageable, we recommend that you start grouping insights into categories as you uncover more like we've done under "Import to Delibr" below. 

Coming up with solution ideas

Think of solutions as the keys that unlock specific opportunity chests. Sometimes, one master key can open several chests at once.

Here are a few tips to navigate the world of solutions:

  1. Variety is the Spice of Life: Aim to have a bouquet of solutions for each opportunity. And remember, if a solution is a Swiss Army knife that addresses multiple opportunities, don't hesitate to list it under each relevant one. 
  2. Team Brainstorms: The More, The Merrier: When it comes to cooking up solutions, two (or ten) heads are better than one. Tap into the collective genius of your crew - engineers, designers, business folks. Each brings a unique compass to the problem-solving journey.
  3. Weighing the Treasure Chest: Remember, building things isn't free. There's the time to construct and the ongoing saga of maintenance. Sometimes, the best solution might be about removing or tweaking existing structures, rather than adding new ones.

Back to our Delibr saga: let's say we gathered our brave crew for a workshop to chart out solutions. We've got a bunch of ideas now - so let's anchor these solutions in our OST, right where they align with the opportunities they're set to conquer.

Behold our treasure map, now dotted with opportunities - each a clue leading us towards our coveted goal. Not all these clues hold the same weight; some are like glittering gems, more valuable in guiding us to success. Our advice? Shine a spotlight on these sparkling opportunities.

But how do we pick these jewels from the rest? Collaboration is key. Gather your crew – your team, external stakeholders – and dive into a roundtable of discovery and discussion. And for an extra dash of strategy, consider employing a treasure-hunting tool like the RICE framework or something similar. It's like using a compass to navigate the seas of decision-making, helping you score and prioritize opportunities with precision.

By following this course, you're not just wandering on your quest – you're charting a deliberate path towards achieving your goal, with every step calculated and every move meaningful.

Reduce risk and cost with experiments

Experiments in our product management world are like exploratory missions, each one designed to uncover whether a particular solution is our golden ticket or a wild goose chase. Let's look at some of the tools in our experimental toolkit:

  • Conducting deeper user interviews to delve into the solution's terrain.
  • Sending out surveys like message bottles, seeking insights from afar.
  • Showcasing wireframes to gather initial reactions.
  • Mapping out assumptions, charting the knowns and unknowns.
  • Validating risks, like checking for hidden traps in a treasure hunt.
  • Simply engaging in conversations with key stakeholders, gathering wisdom from the experienced sailors.

Revisiting our Delibr saga, where we're trying to bridge the gap between Miro boards and Delibr, we've pinpointed three potential solutions. Now's the perfect time for another round of user interviews, this round zooming in on those who've abandoned ship after trying to import Miro boards. This fine-tuned exploration lets us unearth specific, valuable insights. Imagine creating wireframes for each solution and presenting them to our users – it's like drawing maps and getting immediate feedback on the routes we're considering.

And why are we embarking on these experimental voyages? Because they're like scouting trips – much less costly than the full-blown journey of building the solutions. Through these expeditions, we can smartly navigate away from risky bets and sail towards more promising horizons, all without breaking our treasure chest. 

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