How to Level-Set with edTech Product Stakeholders throughout the Discovery Process

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

You’re about to design a brand new edTech product, and you know the first step is to align internally with all the product stakeholders.

Easier said than done, right?

After all, you still have to:

  • Get the right product stakeholders in the room
  • Identify your most pressing user challenges
  • Prioritize your project goals
  • And use the right visual tools to keep everyone focused.

Read on to discover how spending more time on stakeholder alignment during the discovery process will save you time, money, and heartache—all while setting you up for success once it’s time to launch your new learning tool!

Which Product Stakeholders to Invite to Discovery Meetings

There’s an old saying that gets thrown around in product design. You know the one: “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

But the discovery process is the time to throw as many “cooks” into your kitchen as possible. 

Otherwise, you risk uncovering information too late in the process to course-correct without spending lots more time—and money.

These are the four types of product stakeholders we recommend inviting into the discovery process as early as possible:

  1. Your CTO
    The Chief Technology Officer closely considers how your new edTech product fits into the bigger picture of your company’s technology infrastructure. Maybe they’ve already developed services you can take advantage of, like handwriting recognition, speech recognition, or API integration.Because these services will creatively shape your project early on, your product owner must be in lockstep with the development schedule. For instance, how long will it take to create a dev environment where you can develop and test your designs?
    CTOs are also the decision makers when it comes to building tech solutions internally, versus acquiring a new technology or company that supports your product goals. The sooner you invite them into product discovery meetings, the sooner you’ll have a clear picture of your budgetary parameters regarding tech.
  2. Your VP of Sales
    When it comes to attending early discovery meetings, your head of sales might be the most resistant. They’re busy, and they’re not typically involved in product design. However, the sales team has real insights into user expectations and buyer needs that can clarify your goals and feature requirements quickly. Your VP of Sales is a great person to invite to discovery meetings in which you present findings from qualitative interviews with your users. Because they regularly address service issues, they can shed light on user interviews and speak to the customer service element of redesigning edTech products or rolling out new ones.
  3. Your VP of Marketing
    The VP of Marketing will be intimately familiar with key features of your existing products. They can shed light on your early list of feature requirements and help with feature prioritization as that list is refined.They also know which features resonate with customers. Even in the early stages of product design, they can outline the story of your product in order to set your sales team up for success.
  4. Other C-Suite Stakeholders
    In edTech product development, your Chief Knowledge Officer offers a critical editorial perspective about the learning content in your digital tool. They have the best insight into how teachers use technology as a teaching tool. They also understand the importance of meeting pedagogical standards via content or maintaining fidelity to an original print curriculum.

    Your Chief Executive Officer is the person at your company who aligns the vision for your edTech product directly to business goals and company strategy. If your CEO is really good at delegating, you likely won’t work with them regularly in product meetings. Still, you’ll need their input and approval for products to move forward.

With high-level input from your major stakeholders, it’s time to diagnose your user or product challenges. 

Diagnosing User Challenges with edTech Product Stakeholders

If you’re hiring an outside consultancy to diagnose the challenges users have in your edTech product, there’s a good chance you’re in need of a fresh perspective.

By staying open to solutions, your team can solve challenges in both service and product design. 

For example, if school administrators or other buyer personas don’t understand the value of your tool, it might be time to hunker down with your sales team. Or, if your product team is invested heavily in a specific model of product design, it might be time to update that process.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You still have to align on what the problem is.

Step 1: Getting Everyone to Agree on the Problem

As always, this is easier said than done. Begin by getting buy-in from your internal product stakeholders that diagnosing your problem will be a part of the process.

Whether you’re identifying user pain points through competitive audits or in the wider edTech market, conducting enough user research to identify real user needs takes time.

The real problem may not even emerge until you conduct qualitative interviews! Which is why your next step is to talk directly with edTech users, including teachers, students, and administrators.

Step 2: Talking to Your Users and Presenting Their Feedback

User feedback is one of the best ways to identify product challenges. The teachers and students who use your edTech tools every day will have critical insights about their needs. 

You may also wish to get feedback from users who aren’t familiar with your product. These users often have helpful insights about high-level UX patterns. They can also evaluate how valuable your new product might be to them.

Before you present user feedback to your stakeholders for analysis and discussion, we recommend establishing the role of user interviews in your product design process.

How do you plan to strike a balance between what your users want and what your stakeholders think is best?

Step 3: Resolving Tensions Between Business Requirements and edTech User Needs

The clearer you are about the role user feedback will play in your design process, the easier it will be to resolve inevitable conflicts between business requirements and user demands.

For example, you may find that using your edTech product demonstrates tremendous efficacy among students, but teachers aren’t completely sold. 

If your data is persuasive enough, you’ll likely bring teachers around. But that solution only works if your stakeholders decide early in the process that prioritizing student outcomes is a crucial design goal.

Once this decision is made, you’ll go into the design and sales process knowing the importance of using data to persuade administrators and teachers of the value of your product.

How to Help Product Stakeholders Align on the Goals and Outcomes of Your Project

Now that your product stakeholders are in agreement about your biggest user challenges, it’s time to set project goals that will meet the day-to-day needs of teachers and students.

Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Establishing Your Primary User

In order to take advantage of an opportunity in your market, appeal to edTech buyers, or begin to prioritize your features, your product team must first establish who your edTech tool serves.

Use existing personas, your competitive market audit, and other user data to examine what you already know and align on new insights. 

  • How does your solution relate to what your competitors are doing? 
  • Are your stakeholders willing to be innovative and take risks to take advantage of market opportunities?
  • How can you “right size” your edTech product, so it addresses your users’ needs by fitting into their day-to-day?

As you tackle these questions, you must also consider who your product appeals to from a sales perspective.

In edTech, especially, your end user isn’t necessarily your buyer. How will this affect your list of prioritized features or your eventual sales narrative?

The better you understand your primary edTech persona, the easier it will be to address your buyer later in the process. 

Step 2: Aligning on Your Sales Models and Ideal edTech Buyers

It’s crucial to establish how your sales and revenue goals and models will impact strategic product planning.

If you don’t establish these KPIs early in the planning process with market research, you risk designing a product that can only be supported by a sales model that won’t generate returns. 

For example, your early commitment to a subscription model for your product might overlook your users’ resistance to paying a high annual price. Does a subscription model align with how school districts make software purchasing decisions? Do you also need to build a sales model that accommodates individual teacher purchasing? 

Ultimately, your market research should help you draw a clearer picture of how to sell your edTech product now. Year-over-year student data may point to different solutions, such as the need for an enterprise-level product rather than an individually licensed learning tool.

Step 3: Deciding How Engagement Data Will Affect Future Business Decisions

In addition to sales and revenue models, build regular product engagement and analytics check-ins into your timeline. At some point, your teams will be able to speak to the efficacy of your digital tool. This narrative will become part of your marketing and sales materials. 

Engagement data also affects your business decisions and future product improvements. This way, your internal UX team can continue to improve products in ways that aren’t based on anecdotal evidence alone. 

For instance, if data shows that teachers aren’t using your professional development library, you’ll be able to make business decisions about that feature more easily. You may also be able to identify opportunities to build in marketing or upselling features directly into your software.

Step 4: Discussing Your Post-Launch Strategy

We know, we know. When you’re in the beginning stages of product planning, you’re not always ready to think about launch strategy.

However, the sooner you decide how you’ll roll out your product or what your technology team will have to do to maintain your tool, the better.

Discussing your post-launch strategy will also help you define your budget and product road map. Do you really have enough money to roll out an agile product over time? 

Which features didn’t make it into the minimum viable product (MVP) but are big value-adds for users? Use internal data and pricing information to help stakeholders prioritize these post-launch enhancements.

You should also plan for how to respond to user feedback. Once the product launches, you’ll use data analytics to support real user needs, train your sales and customer service teams, identify technology upgrades, and continue to optimize your learning tool.

The Best User Experience Research Tools for Product Stakeholders 

edTech product planning begins once your team agrees on the process for achieving your goals. In order to move forward, you’ll need the right people in the room, including stakeholders who approve outcomes.

The best tools for ensuring internal understanding among product stakeholders aren’t just bullet points or pro/con lists. They’re visual user experience artifacts that can help you guide conversations and create actionable to-do lists.

  • Your site map will help stakeholders understand the scope and definition of the project. How big can the product be right now? How might it grow over time?
  • Your user journeys help stakeholders imagine how your edTech product fits into your user’s day. When do teachers need to use your product? How often do they use product outputs to interact with students, parents, or school administrators?
  • Your user research findings or user test results can drive which features you prioritize.

If your product team has generated a robust amount of discovery material, you may need to synthesize your findings into executive summaries or slide decks. This will surface items that require immediate decisions directly to your stakeholders, without bogging them down in your research findings.

Finally, building a rapid prototype of your edTech tool is always a good way to build consensus and facilitate discussion. If your team is stuck and looking for more consensus or research, making a lightweight version of your tool will shake the next pieces of the puzzle loose.

A skilled edTech product team leader is a strong communicator. They help their entire team synthesize ideas and build consensus, all while addressing product stakeholder concerns about business and product outcomes. 

It can be helpful to have an external UX team facilitate this process for you in order to align quickly and seize opportunities in the market. After all, edTech is a fast-moving field. If you’re not offering a new learning tool that’s as good or better than what’s already out there, you’ll check the boxes but fall short of a roaring success.

Are you about to redesign your edTech product or roll out a brand new one? Contact us below to find out how we can help your product stakeholders align throughout the discovery process.

Let’s build the future of digital products together.