3 ways to research an Opportunity

I know I am not an entrepreneur but I do know a thing or 2 about intra-preneurship. Working in technology company, every now and then you come across new cool things. Being product manager in my prior incarnation, I have been called a buzz kill  when it came to taking out the “coolness”  from the shiny new thing (Although I must confess I do enjoy working with cool things too). 
          When I am look at cool technology especially since I am in the business of selling software. I have to ask myself the following questions:

  • Does this new solution or cool technology solve a pressing problem?
  • Is the problem big enough that a potential customer is willing to pay for it ?
  • Does the opportunity match with my ability or my teams ability to deliver a solution?
  • Are the profits worth taking the risks?
Granted that one cannot be a complete expert in everything but that is where your ability to research comes in  and I am not talking about going on the internet and searching on the topic.  The internet is one of the few tools in your quiver that you use. 
The first thing you need to do is a frame the problem by asking yourself the following question:
What is the problem you are intending to solve ?
By answering that question you have identified the problem area/s you are going to research (It is critical for any venture actually_ .  Once you have identified the problem then  these are the following 3 areas that I would look at to evaluate the opportunity further:

1 – Meeting with Clients about a potential problem to be solved

Clients will tell you what their specific problems they are facing without even prompting and also the jobs they want to get done. Some might go to the extent on how you should help them to get their job done.  To me clients are a great source innovation. Now if you believe the Henry Ford’s old adage (which I do) “If I had asked my clients what did they want ?  They would have said faster horses”. But when working with your client base, the framing of the question needs to be different   instead of asking them the opportunity problem ask them the kind of work they are trying to accomplish. You may find some surprising inputs that might validate the opportunity at hand. Too many people expect their clients to just get it and understand the problem space they are going after or intend to go after.

2 – Meet with your Business Partners and Sales force

Both of these constituents are hungry to look at new opportunities and they are usually one of the few sources of validation. Business partners are useful because their business depends on you being successful and they also have access to first hand knowledge of why they are being employed by your clientele. 
Your sales force is the other constituent (if you don’t have a sales force then you should go back to doing #1). Sales always wants to win and as they should. They are one of the strongest advocates of  your products/solutions and they would be first one to let you know why they are losing on certain opportunities

3 – Internet based 3rd party research

The internet is truly a boon to doing tertiary research. You can get access to papers written by some well established analyst at a large analyst firm or you can take the simple route of trolling websites where your potential user base gets together to exchange and share ideas. I would go as far to say that trolling forums is just as effective as reading up on analyst papers (there is an art to it, but it can be done). It is called social listening. What do I mean by social listening ?  Well in the “internet of things” there are congregations of people in the virtual world building relationships especially on forums like “Linkedn” or even “Twitter” for that matter. Sometimes, all you have to do is join the right group or follow the right hashtag and you can get your answer/validation of the opportunity at hand. The analyst paper will probably give you a better idea of the market size but these two efforts combined provide a winning combination.
Let me assure you these are not fool proof activities and sometimes no matter how much research you do you may deliver a dud sometimes (just do it fast enough, so that you can course correct early on).
What are some of your ways to research an opportunity ? Appreciate any insight you can provide.
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments
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