Product Design Framework (I4C framework)


During my preparation for an interview, it was interesting to update my knowledge with new information about product design frameworks. I found the well-done and customer-centric view in product design frameworks of Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Lewis Lin (Value Proposition Design, and CIRCLES.)

However, in the interview meeting, an interviewee obviously has around 5-20 minutes for the product design. You can realize how quickly time goes by, so it’s necessary to use assumptions and coarsening of the information supplied. In my opinion, Value Proposition Design, and CIRCLES frameworks may be too heavy for the short-interview timing. So I mixed it and made an adaptation especially for short iterations.

Structure of the I4C framework

The framework compares 5 steps.

  1. Comprehension and expectations defining
  2. Identification of the customer
  3. Creating hypotheses of value propositions
  4. Cutting and prioritizing
  5. Checking the expectations

I want to say, that this framework is useful not only for an interview but in real life too. If you’re going to create an actual product, several iterations can help you clarify the proposal. You may repeat the iterations until crystallization of sufficient level of quality for your product or additional values. During the iterations, you are probably adopting the expectations, creating a new value proposition and change priorities for the hypotheses many times.

For an interview, the one iteration should be enough to show the conceptual ideas for interviewers.

Comprehension and expectations defining.

I am sure that it’s a good idea to start by clarifying the situation. If, for example, nobody understands what the success is and who stakeholders are, it’s better to admitted in the early stage. In ather way, it causes the high level of risk. If the interviewee may have another understanding of the basic ideas and expectations than an interviewer has; It’s the easiest way to crash down the interview.

For clarifying situation the interviewee may use 4W&H questions. Here they are:
– What is it?
– Who is it for?
– Why is it available?
– When is it available?
– How does it work?

Also, it’s important to know about the company’s mission and other products, that can directly influence your product. If there is enough time, the interviewee may clarify information about Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to business competition or product planning too. SWOT analysis is important, but it is not a critical point in the I4C framework.

Customer identification

Customer identification is the key point in the framework. It’s critical to understand customers, defining their jobs, pains, gains, ambitions.

Because of interview timing, the product manager should use the flair for identifying primary groups. Usually, an easy way is creating a superficial description of two/three groups of customers or business segments defining.

Of course, organizations also can be selected. As you probably know, organizations are customers that are composed of different stakeholders who all have ambitions, jobs, pains, and gains. Alex Osterwalde defines stakeholders within the business. I find hard to use it in the short timebox. However, I decided to bring this here:
– Influencers
– Recommenders
– Economic buyers
– Decision-makers
– End users
– Saboteurs

Create User Stories/Value Proposition

In this steps, the primary goal is creating the best value propositions. And present to the interviewer why it is true =). Product Manager mostly is very creative and can generate as much as she/he can :-). But I recommend focusing on three-five hypotheses. Otherwise, it will take too much time and cause issues in the next steps.

Technically, it is easy to use Epics or User Stories here. At the same time, value proposition and napkin sketches can be more useful approaches for some people. In my opinion, it is better to ask the interviewer directly; What he/she prefers more.

Cutting and prioritizing

After creation, the value propositions need prioritization. To do this, I prefer to use short brainstorming on monetization opportunities, risk matrix, revenue assumptions, and prioritization matrix.
First of all, I create a list of ideas about monetization. Then I can imagine how considerable can the revenue be. Finally, I compare results in a simple matrix below:

Name of the feature Revenue Technical risks Marketing difficulties Implementation
Rescue the princess 2 2 1 2
Kill the dragon 1 3 1 1
Find the treasure 3 1 3 3

This gives an opportunity to build a roadmap draft. Like this one:

  1. Kill the dragon
  2. Rescue the princess
  3. Find the treasure

Check the expectations

Ok, here is the last step of the iteration. I borrowed this step from Epicycle of Data Analysis (The Art of Data Science by Peng & Matsui). My idea is that product design is an analytical process. Although there are many different types of activities that you might engage in while doing data analysis, every aspect of the entire process can be approached through an iterative process that Peng and Matsui call the “epicycle of the data analysis.” There are three steps to use for each core data analysis activity:

  1. Setting expectations,
  2. Collecting information (data), comparing the data to your expectations, and if the expectations don’t match,
  3. Revising your expectations or fixing the data so that your expectations and the data match.

So the main idea is checking your hypothesis and expectations. If it does not fit, the product manager can facilitate change in the expectation or chose another design. If the interviewee found a balance between the expectation and ideas, he/she should make feedbacks for yourself. It can be a list of challenges and action items.  Some people don’t like when somebody criticises their ideas. That why it is easier for them to do it by themselves. It is important to do it, especially during an interview, because it opens your mind and makes it flexible.

So it is all. I would be glad to see your feedback about the approach and product design in comments. Thank you!

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