Product Inception: Defining the Who, What, Why, and How of a Digital Product

Adriana Campoy
February 26, 2019

Every product should begin with a problem that needs to be solved. Product Inception is the process by which we pin down the problem in concrete terms and determine how we are going to solve it—all before writing a single line of code. Representatives from the design and development team as well as stakeholders must be present throughout the process in order for Product Inception to be effective. By the end of a Product Inception session, everyone should be on the same page about where we're going, why we're going there, and how we are going to arrive at our destination. In our series of posts, we explore different aspects of the Product Inception process in order to demonstrate how we do things here at sophilabs.

Why do we believe in Product Inception?

Product Inception is crucial to developing a product that truly solves the problem we intended to solve and helps users meet their goals. Even if a problem seems obvious, there are always multiple perspectives to consider; there may be aspects of a problem we can't see until a stakeholder brings it to our attention. In addition, everyone may have a different idea about what an effective solution looks like. Product Inception, then, brings everyone to the table so we can come up with a unified vision for the product and agree on a road map to take us there. The collaborative nature of Product Inception ensures that we include everyone's point of view, thus allowing us to produce ideas that are even better than what each of us could have thought of individually.

How It Works

Product Inception involves a series of exercises that helps us define why we are building the product, how to best fulfill users' needs, what features the product will include, and which parts of the product are high priorities. The different phases of Product Inception that we'll explore in this series include:

  1. Defining the main problem and solution with a Product Vision Board. This exercise enables us to articulate what exactly we want to achieve with this product.

  2. Ensuring the product is relevant and identifying which product attributes to prioritize through Stakeholder Analysis. Here we explain helpful exercises like an Interest vs Influence chart and Trade-Off Sliders.

  3. Understanding users' goals and related needs through Persona Analysis. We take a look at user personas and how their skills, concerns, goals, and level of technological literacy affect what they want out of our product.

  4. Visualizing the functionality of the product, identifying necessary features, and planning the first release with a Story Map. Here we'll walk through how users can fulfill their goals with our product, identifying user stories and determining which features to prioritize.

Sophilabs has often utilized these techniques and exercises to successfully reach a consensus on a product vision and road map. Our highly productive session at Amgen is a recent example of how we led a Product Inception session and came out with a well-defined idea of what we were going to achieve and how we were going achieve it. We even made important discoveries along the way that saved our client valuable time and resources. We consider Product Inception a critical part of software development because it allows the development team and stakeholders to be aligned on the goals of the product, ensuring that we're on the right track to creating something that both the client and users will love.


  1. The Agile Inception Deck by Jonathan Rasmusson

  2. Inception: Getting to rapid alignment on team vision and goals by Philip Rogers

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Making A Story Map: How to Shape the Big Picture During Product Inception

Making A Story Map: How to Shape the Big Picture During Product Inception

In the final installment of our Product Inception Series, we walk through how to create a Story Map, a great tool for prioritizing features, determining scope, and planning the first release.

The Product Vision Board: The First Step to Discovering a Successful Software Product

The Product Vision Board: The First Step to Discovering a Successful Software Product

In the first installment of our Product Inception Series, we explore the Product Vision Board. Read on to find out more about defining your product vision and starting off the product inception phase on the right foot.

Stakeholder Analysis: Another Key Piece of Product Inception

Stakeholder Analysis: Another Key Piece of Product Inception

In this second installment of the Product Inception Series, we explore the various techniques we use to conduct a thorough Stakeholder Analysis, including Stakeholder Mapping and Trade-Off Sliders.

Persona Analysis: Understanding Users to Build the Best Possible Product

Persona Analysis: Understanding Users to Build the Best Possible Product

We continue our exploration of Product Inception with an in-depth look at user personas, which allow us to build a product that will truly help users meet their goals.

How We Converted the Expectations of 30+ Stakeholders Into a Unified Product Vision and Roadmap

How We Converted the Expectations of 30+ Stakeholders Into a Unified Product Vision and Roadmap

We recently conducted an on-site product inception workshop at Agmen's headquarters in Thousand Oaks, California. In this workshop, not only did we create a unified vision of the product, but we discovered that a bulk of the planned work not necessary for a successful product. Instances like these are why we champion product inceptions as a way to save time and resources.

"Product Inception: Defining the Who, What, Why, and How of a Digital Product" by Adriana Campoy is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Jamie Street under this license.

Categorized under research & learning / agile.