Create your product strategy before jumping into roadmap and backlog
Developing a successful product requires attention to details in terms of getting the user interaction, providing the right features and visual design and using the right technologies. However, before diving into the nitty-gritty of building your product roadmap or developing new features, your product strategy should be defined to make the right decisions in the ever-changing world. A product strategy is a high-level description of what the business wants to achieve with its product and how to achieve it, based on your product vision (About product vision, it is explained in more detail in Introduction to product vision with examples).
At first, the team could be in a position to deliver their best work by developing and communicating a clear strategy. Engineers will be able to understand how each part of the product they are working on contributes to the larger companywide strategic goals. Engineers can sometimes get so caught up in the details that they lose sight of the overarching purpose behind their work. Marketing and sales teams will be able to articulate the product's benefits and its unique sales proposition. However, without a defined strategy behind the product, it will be difficult to generate expectations and sales.
Additionally, your product vision helps to prioritize which feature you should develop first. Unfortunately, many product teams skip the strategic planning phase and immediately jump right into listing themes and epics on the roadmap. Without a strategy to guide these decisions, the team may end up prioritizing wrong items and misspending its limited time and resources. Starting with a strategy will help clarify what you want to achieve with your product and translate it into a more strategic product roadmap.
Finally, a product strategy improves your team's tactical decisions, since no organization can deliver a product to the market according to the plan exactly as drafted in the initial roadmap: things change along the way. Product managers need to be prepared to adjust their plans and priorities to accommodate such changes. With a clear strategy as a reference point, you can make wiser strategic decisions while adjusting your plans.
Define your strategy.
A product strategy should answer key questions such as: who will the product be useful to? How will it benefit those personas? How will the company's goals throughout the product's life cycle be? Put it in a simple way, a strategy should describe who the product is for, why personas would want to use or buy it, what the product is, what makes it stand out and why the product is worth the company's investment. A goal-first approach is the best path towards innovation for product managers.
The diagram above shows three key aspects you should consider in order to define a compelling strategy. The market represents the target customers and users of your product, i.e. the people who are likely to buy and use the product. The needs consist in the main problems your product solves or the primary benefit it provides. The key features are those aspects of your product that are essential to addressing the main problem or generating the primary benefit. The differentiators represent the aspects that make your product stand out from the crowd. Don't make the mistake of creating a product backlog or a wish list: focus on the three key aspects that will make your product be chosen over your competitors. The business goals capture how your product will benefit your company: is it going to increase revenue, help sell another product or service, reduce cost or increase the brand equity? Clarifying your business goals will help you choose the right KPIs and measure the performance of your product.
A product strategy is not a static statement that you create when developing a new product. It basically changes with the product life cycle: launch, product-market fit, life cycle extension and the end of life. As your product evolves and changes, your strategy should be reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis. Once the team has rebuilt the strategy, it will reprioritize the key themes into your roadmap and translate them into action plans accordingly.
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