Building A Product Strategy, The Right Way

This blog post is based on the recent virtual session conducted by The Product Folks with Vikrama Dhiman, Head of Product at Gojek (LinkedIn, Twitter).

Here’s is a glimpse of what we’ll be learning:

  1. What is Product Strategy?
  2. How to build your path of becoming a Product Strategy Expert?
  3. Common mistakes made by Product Managers

What is Product Strategy?

Is it about building your roadmap? Is it about the prioritization of your backlog that you already have? Or is it about the features you are building and want to build in the future? If your answer to all of these questions is YES, then you are partially true because Product Strategy is significantly more than this. Product Strategy is your vision for your product, stating the where, what, how, and why.

Before we dive in, we should clarify one common mistake PMs make - To get into heated discussions around what features to build before everything else. Why is this a mistake? Because features discussion should not be your focus at an early stage. It comes much later. First, you need to establish a solid foundation that will help you see the problems clearly. Phew! Now that this misconception is clear (hopefully!). Let's take a look at how to build Product Strategy.

How to build your path of becoming a Product Strategy Expert?

Product Strategy can be broadly divided into “Strategy Definition” & "Product Definition." Strategy definition comes from answering basic questions, and Product definition comes from Customers or Users. The power of Product Strategy comes from what you define as well as what you exclude. Strategy definition is all about answering some basic questions like:

  • How do you arrive at these features?
  • How do you prioritize your releases?
  • What are the assumptions and constraints we have to work with?
  • What are the technical challenges and limitations we should keep in mind when you are going ahead with technical specifications?

Let's imagine a scenario. Your boss comes and tells you that you are traveling from Bangalore to Delhi tomorrow. What is the first thought that comes to your mind? I, for sure, would ask the following:

  • Why am I traveling?
  • What is the need to travel?
  • Why is it urgent for me to travel tomorrow? Can I travel later?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Is the cost justified based on the urgency?

Once you agree on the above, I will get into further details like 'What clothes to pack', 'Who will book my tickets', etc. You know the nitty-gritty details.

This process of asking some basic questions is the definition of Strategy. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is the usage of Strategy Definition templates (Vision, Goals & Initiatives).

Essential questions to start with:

  • How long do you want your Product Strategy to be?
  • What are the key challenges that you are currently facing?
  • What key factors should be considered in your defined roadmap?

OKR Framework for Product Strategy

(Vision – Goals – Initiatives)

If you think Product Strategy is this, 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 somewhat like this.

OKR Framework for Product Strategy with Customers/Users

(Vision – Goals – Initiatives)

You can only launch a successful product when you have a product team that owns your product strategy. Communication between your team members is more important than your team skills. You have to create an environment for them so that they all automatically become allies with others. Moreover, you should not treat Product Strategy as an event. You have to interact with different types of stakeholders and use their inputs.  You have to be more aware, mindful, conscious, and deliberate in every conversation.

Here’s how a typical six-month product strategy would look like:

Common mistakes made by product managers

Always remember that “Ears either bleed or are shut”. That means you have to repeat your message often before people agree to what you are saying. You should not take it for granted that everybody understands your strategy and obeys it as soon as you communicate it with an excellent presentation or an interesting story. You must use all possible channels of communication to make them understand. You can do this in 3 simple ways, as mentioned below.

  • Writing is your superpower – Documenting it makes your message reach further, faster, and saves time.
  • Speak, Iterate, Speak – you would likely make the same pitch again and again. So, refine it like a pro.
  • You should start using video/audio communication as effectively as possible.

Final thoughts

  • Meditating, ruminating, analysis is essential, but the action is what separates the great from the 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 groups (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.
  • Actively take out at least 2 hours per week into building your Product Strategy skills.
  • Buddha became great by helping people after his enlightenment. Gratitude, Give, Love!

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.

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