Building A Product Strategy, The Right Way
Updated: Jul 19
This blog post is based on recent virtual session conducted by The Product Folks with Vikrama Dhiman, Head of Product at Gojek. We will be briefly learn about what Product Strategy is and how to go about understanding it because that is one of the biggest gaps in aligning stakeholders that people don’t understand what Product Strategy itself and then we will see about common mistakes by Product Managers in aligning stakeholders in general, but specifically around implementing a prioritized list of things that they want to do.
What is Product Strategy?
Is it about building your road map? Is it about the prioritization of your backlog that you already have? Or is it about the features that you are building, and you want to build in future? If your answer to all these questions is YES, then you are partially true because Product Strategy is all these combined and way beyond.
A lot of Product managers agree that their fundamental mistake is specifically regarding aligning stakeholders is to get into debates/discussions about the features. In Product Strategy, Features don’t come into picture until a very late stage. Broadly dividing Product strategy in to 2 parts, second one is about “Product Definition” which is everything related to releases, features, user flow and design and technical specifications etc. The important point to note here is that the Product Definition is the outcome of Product Strategy. First one is all about answering some basic questions, we will call this as “Strategy Definition”
How do we arrive at these features?
How do we arrive at these releases?
What things should we keep in mind when we are going ahead with user flow and design?
What things should we keep in mind when we are going ahead with technical specifications?
DO NOT START PRODUCT STRATEGY WITH IT’S FEATURES
Taking a step back and analyzing where we are, where we want to go and identifying some of the key measurable metrics in the process of reaching where we want to go. An analogy to understand this simply is, If you are going from Bangalore to Delhi, the first thing should not be about what am I packing or what website/app should I use to book my ticket or what medium should I use for my travel. The first thing we look at is why are we travelling, what is the need for our travel, what is the urgency of travel and how much does it cost me. We answer these quite intuitively and quick so that we don’t recognize our own thought process. If we take that process and do it more deliberately, that’s what gets us to the first part which is answering some basic questions which is Strategy Definition. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is usage of Strategy Definition templates (Vision, Goals & Initiatives).
Basic questions to start with:
How long do we want our Product Strategy to be?
What are the key challenges that we facing currently?
What key factors should be considered going ahead?
OKR Framework for Product Strategy (Vision – Goals – Initiatives)
If you think that this is what Product Strategy is, then you are wrong. The missing link here is Customers/Users. If we include our Customers/Users into our Product Strategy, then it would look something like this.
OKR Framework for Product Strategy with Customers/Users (Vision – Goals – Initiatives)
Once we have set those goals and debated with customers, it will completely change all the initiatives that we already have.
It is also equally important to have a Great Product Team. We should be making allies with developers, designers, product, research, analyst, sales, and finance team when you have discussion about Product Strategy. We should not treat a Product Strategy definition as an event which happens in all types of discussions related to product objectives for futures. To not let this happen we should interact with different types of stakeholders and use their inputs. That means we should be more aware, more mindful, more conscious, and more deliberate in every conversation we have with all types of stakeholders. We must be inclusive and empathetic. Do not interact with only one or two stakeholders all the time. Most importantly, do not waste time with people who are very tough to converse with, mediate with or argue with till you have a lot of social capital inside your organization which will come as you progress in your role and career.
A typical 6-month Product Strategy would look like below picture
One simple principle to remember while working with people is “Ears either bleed or are shut”. We must repeat our message over and over before people agree what you are saying. The fundamental misunderstanding that any entry-level Product Manager might have is that why don’t nobody get it even though I made a great, wonderful presentation regarding this feature/product. We must use all possible channels of communications to make them understand. You can do this in 3 simple ways mentioned below.
Writing is your superpower – Documents travel far and faster and makes your message travel far and faster and helps you save time.
Speak, Iterate, Speak – you would likely make the same pitch again and again. So, refine it like a pro
Using video/audio communication effectively
“Buddha didn’t become great because of meditation; he became great by applying what he had learnt and helping people achieve their goals.”
Tips before we conclude
Meditating, ruminating, analysis is important, but action is what separates the great from good.
Product management is muscle memory – you get better at it as you get more critical feedback.
Product strategy evolves over a period. Be prepared for the first few attempts to fail miserably.
Learn how to influence individuals and group (small and large).
Familiarize with strategy framework. (Top 11 Frameworks Every Product Manager Should Know)
Craft “what success looks like” to you in your life.
Your goals granularity should be determined by how big or small your Product Strategy is.
2 hours per week is must be dedicated to build Product Strategy based on its duration.
Let us know how you are strategizing your product and what frameworks you are using in the comments below or let me know personally on LinkedIn, Twitter. Also do visit our YouTube channel for more content around Product management.