Product strategy means something different to every company. Everyone has their own ideas on what a product strategy should look like, and often those ideas are conflicting. However, it’s generally agreed upon that there must be a product strategy in order to create successful products. Instead of trying to define product strategy, this blog post will discuss some basic components that should influence every product strategy: a well-defined vision, goals based off that vision, an understanding of the users, and flexibility when it comes to strategy.
Before starting to build a product strategy, it is vital to work out what the company’s vision is and how the product is going to help the company move toward that vision. The vision of the company should be something that speaks to human needs and emotions; customers connect better to an emotional vision statement that makes them feel like they can empathize with the company. The vision statement should also be broad, engaging, and concise. This way the public feels like they understand what direction the company is heading in and can connect with them.
Having a well-defined vision, or the “why”of a company, is absolutely crucial to the success of any product strategy. When a product strategy is related to the company’s vision, it is easier to get the kind of executive support that gets a project started. In addition, the creative teams have more motivation and inspiration for the project because they have something bigger than the individual project to envision. A vision-based project strategy will also ensure that decisions made throughout the project will be strategic in nature, as opposed to just trying to solve the problem at hand with no vision in mind. Check back often during the product design period to make sure that the project is still aligned with the vision; if it’s not, make the necessary changes to put it back on track.
Once the “why” of the company is determined, the “why” of the project can be outlined. These whys should be specific to the product that is under production. Why does anyone want to buy the product in the first place? Does it solve a problem, remove an obstacle, or provide a benefit? The goals associated with the project should reflect the answers to these questions, or else risk creating a product that isn’t desirable on the market. They should also address the components of the project that set it apart from its competition. This way, the goals set up for the product will accurately represent the most crucial aspects of the project.
Like with all parts of the product strategy, when building goals for a project, be sure that they are built with the vision in mind. Building with the vision in mind ensures that the project will keep the company moving forward toward its ultimate goal. Creating the goals this way lets the goals act like checkpoints for the project. When a certain goal is reached, that is an indicator that the project is one step closer to completion. It also gives some concrete milestones that can be used to realize the vision of the company by determining what steps need to be taken to get closer to the vision.
Considering the users or customers who will be interacting with the product is foundational in the creation of a product strategy. By understanding why users want to use the product, as discussed in the previous section, it becomes clear what general features the product needs. And, by delving into the users that are the target group for the product, it becomes possible to tailor the product to the users as much as possible. Targeting a specific group of users during the initial planning phases of a project allows the focus of the project to be narrow and detailed.
Part of understanding users is knowing what about the product is desirable to them. Most likely, the users appreciate certain aspects of the product because these elements help the users achieve their goals. The easiest way to determine what parts of the product help users achieve their goals is to look at your test groups and see what features they use and how they use them. This knowledge will enable creative teams to build the exact type of product that ideal users want. Without researching your users during the development of a product strategy, there is no way to know exactly what users want in a product, and thus no way to build a desirable product.
Arguably the most important (and difficult) part of building a product strategy is being flexible. There is an innate desire to make the perfect strategy that will see the project through to a perfect ending, but the reality is that the strategy will probably have to change several times over the duration of the project in order for it to be successful. It is much better to build a fairly vague strategy at the beginning of a project that allows for change along the way. Keep in mind the vision and the goals of the project, but be ready to accept the fact that change is necessary and can lead to even better products than the original strategy ever could have produced.
Being flexible with product strategy also means being willing to take a step back from the day-to-day planning that is commonplace in the work environment and look at the big picture. Product strategies are not the place for day-to-day planning, as those planning sessions are too restrictive to encompass the broad scope that needs to be considered in a successful strategy. Plans don’t account for uncertainty and change, which are present in even the very best product development processes. When plans are treated as strategies, they are almost always doomed to fail because they lack the ability to adapt. Use your product strategy to develop plans throughout the project, but don’t become so married to those plans that it feels impossible to change them.
Product strategy is very important to creating a successful project. By considering the vision of the company as a whole, building goals for the project that were built using that vision, learning about ideal users for the product, and having the flexibility to work with a constantly changing product, any product strategy (no matter the format) will have a good chance of success.