How the Opportunity Solution Tree Can Transform Your Product Strategy

How the Opportunity Solution Tree Can Transform Your Product Strategy

In the thick of building our product, every feature feels like it could be ‘the one’ to push our product into the limelight. It’s an exciting place to be, but let’s be honest, it can also be a bit overwhelming. We’ve all chased that new feature high, but at Whitesmith, we’ve learned there’s a better way to steer the ship: the Opportunity Solution Tree, a concept we’ve embraced from the insightful Teresa Torres.

Understanding the Opportunity Solution Tree

This tool isn’t just about shifting focus from churning out features to achieving real, measurable outcomes; it’s about taking a step back to understand and explore the opportunity space. We dive into users’ pain points, desires, and needs (and let me tell you, I love this stage) before we even consider solutions.

The Opportunity Solution Tree is composed of:

  1. Desired Outcome: The ultimate goal your product aims to achieve.
  2. Opportunities: The potential pathways that could lead to that desired outcome.
  3. Solutions: The ideas that best align with those opportunities.
  4. Experiments: The strategies for testing those ideas.

While engaging with this exercise, we reinforce crucial behaviours for product builders:

  • Constantly learning about our customers and the market.
  • Exploring solutions beyond our team’s biases.
  • Ensuring solutions are directly linked to specific opportunities and outcomes.
  • Thinking of the easiest, simplest, and most cost-effective ways to test the solutions.

The advantages of the Opportunity Solution Tree

There are several advantages to doing this exercise, both for our clients and us.

For Our Clients:

  • Clarity in direction: It can be easy to get lost in a sea of features and possibilities. The Opportunity Solution Tree helps our clients to focus on what truly matters—their desired outcome. It brings clarity to the product development process, ensuring that every feature and function is tied back to a core goal.
  • User-centred solutions: By identifying opportunities based on user needs, we ensure that the solutions we develop are not just innovative but genuinely user-centred. This approach leads to higher user satisfaction and retention.
  • Resource optimization: Startups must be mindful of their resources. The Opportunity Solution Tree helps prioritise efforts, ensuring that time and money are invested in areas with the highest potential impact.
  • Risk mitigation: By validating solutions through experiments, we reduce the risk of building something that doesn’t resonate with users. This iterative process helps us fail fast and learn quickly, saving resources in the long run.

For us, embracing the Opportunity Solution Tree enhances our collaboration with clients, merging expertise and industry insight, while streamlining our processes for a more efficient and effective journey from concept to launch. It also helps us empower our clients, building trust and ensuring the products we deliver are true to their vision and goals.

At this stage, we can learn from our clients’ experience in the market and the industry while we share our knowledge in building products.

Real-Life Applications

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. We’ve had clients who approached us with a laundry list of features but were stumped when we asked what problems these features were meant to solve. The Opportunity Solution Tree illuminated the broader context, clarifying how their proposed features might (or might not) address real user needs and impact the metrics they aimed to influence.

Here is an example: 

Opportunity Solution Tree Example Chart

After identifying the opportunity we want to cover and the experiment we want to validate, we have a north star that allows us to guide all the effort into those. The laundry list that usually is really long at the beginning is trimmed and more often than not goes to the backlog or is deprecated because it no longer applies to the opportunity we are tackling.

There is another situation where we applied this:

We saw this in action with a client who was dead set on adding a new “game-changing”. However, by using the Opportunity Solution Tree, they discovered other ways to solve their problem that actually were more aligned with their users’ real needs. The client also changed their approach from wanting a list of features built towards running experiments to validate that they were tackling the right problems.

Besides finding alternative ways to solve a problem, instead of chasing every idea, this method helps narrow down your choices, turning a wish list into a focused to-do list - whatever is irrelevant goes to the backlog or gets deprecated, as it no longer applies to the issue we are faced with. 


The Opportunity Solution Tree is more than a tool; it’s a compass that guides you to make decisions that are truly aligned with your vision, a journey from feature-obsessed to outcome-oriented. 

At Whitesmith, we’re all about the journey, and we’re eager to share this path with fellow explorers. Let’s venture into the opportunities together and craft products that truly resonate and make a difference.

#product-development #startups

Maria João Ferreira

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