At Amazon, the concept of "working backwards" is deeply ingrained in their product development process. Instead of starting with an idea for a product and trying to fit customers into it, they begin by working backwards from the customer. This approach is especially important when developing new products or features, and it has become a hallmark of Amazon's success.
The working backwards approach involves starting with a clear understanding of the customer's needs and problems. This requires extensive research, including customer interviews, surveys, and data analysis. Once the customer's needs are fully understood, the product team can begin to develop solutions that address those needs.
One of the key tools in the working backwards approach is the internal press release. When starting a new initiative, the product manager will typically write an internal press release that announces the finished product. The target audience for this press release is the new or updated product's customers, whether they are retail customers or internal users of a tool or technology.
The press release is focused on the customer problem and how current solutions, whether internal or external, fail to adequately address the problem. It then goes on to describe how the new product will solve the problem and blow away existing solutions. This approach helps ensure that the focus remains on the customer and their needs throughout the development process.
The internal press release is also an iterative process. The product manager will continue to iterate on the press release until they have come up with benefits that are truly compelling to customers. This approach is much less expensive and time-consuming than iterating on the product itself, and it allows the product team to ensure that they are developing a product that truly meets the needs of their customers.
In addition to the internal press release, the working backwards approach involves a range of other tools and techniques. These include customer journey mapping, user stories, and wireframing. All of these tools are designed to keep the focus firmly on the customer and their needs.
Ultimately, the working backwards approach is a key reason for Amazon's success. By starting with the customer and working backwards, Amazon is able to develop products and features that truly meet the needs of their customers. This approach also helps ensure that resources are focused on the most important problems and opportunities, which is critical for any successful product development process.