As with mission and vision, we see a lot of confusion around what exactly is a product strategy. For some, strategy is the process of crafting a vision; for others, it is a detailed plan including all features on a roadmap. Instead, product strategy shall be considered as the link between high-level vision and the daily work of teams on the tactical level, where the strategy provides guidance without prescribing details:
Putting all of that together, we define product strategy by adjusting ProductPlan’s description:
While tactical details will be addressed later on the roadmap and feature level, the product strategy is crucial to ensure alignment across the entire organization:
On the way toward making the lives of customers easier, product strategy primarily means to decide about what to do and what not to do (now). A great litmus test to check the effectiveness of a strategy is to decompose it and, for each element, check whether aiming for the opposite would sound dumb:
To avoid such dumb statements, we suggest considering reasonable alternatives, checking what some competitors do, or what the current status quo is — and then describing how these aspects will be handled differently. Let us look at a few examples:
Instead of serving customers across the globe, we focus on a specific region where we have boots on the ground.
Instead of serving customers across all verticals, we focus on a few selected industries where we have deep domain expertise and great reference customers.
Instead of building complex integrations as required by certain customers, we focus on quick time to value with highly standardized products that are applicable to the majority of customers.
Instead of extending the product offering with massive consulting, we focus on the digital product and partner with consulting agencies.
Instead of building bespoke solutions for customers willing to pay premium prices, we focus on on mid-market customers looking for turn-key solutions that can quickly be implemented.
Instead of serving enterprise customers operating at a global scale, we focus on small and medium businesses that are often easier to satisfy and less demanding when it comes to internationalization, scalability, integrations, compliance needs, etc.
Instead of extending a complex and dated architecture for mobile usage, we focus on mobile-first technology and user experiences.
The product strategy will typically consist of a handful of aspects, similar to the examples given in the above table. Sometimes referred to as strategic work streams, Melissa Perri uses the term strategic intents:
We will see how to come From Strategy to Product Roadmap in a later chapter. For now, let us emphasize how a great strategy helps to structure the work of teams: When there is an alignment around a handful of strategic intents, as described above, then each of these will probably be worked on for several months or even quarters and consist of multiple experiments, implementation projects, and technical approaches.
By grouping all these together, under the headline of the respective strategic intent that they are serving, the roadmap can be organized in a way that provides a high-level overview and shows how pieces fit together, with the ability to narrow down on details when needed. Oftentimes, this is reflected by the roadmap being organized in swimlanes where each of these swimlanes reflects a specific strategic intent as shown in this example by Gibson Biddle:
Product Strategy is a system of achievable goals and visions that work together to align the team around desirable outcomes for both the business and your customers.
We spend lots of time praising the savvy strategic moves of winning products and companies. But for every success story, there’s a graveyard of failed products laid low by bad product strategies.
In this post, I’m going to go into depth on the first — why I believe a ‘value-based’ approach to defining a product strategy is most effective and what that actually looks like.
Becoming an effective product leader starts with an understanding of what a great product strategy looks like and how it compares to undifferentiated good product strategies.