Product strategy: Everybody says they want it, but few carve out the time and resources to formally lay down a foundation that defines the vision for what they’re building, who they’re building for, and why. But we’re firm believers that putting in the strategy work at the start translates to a greater chance of success later on. So, here are three common scenarios when a well-defined strategy could be the difference between success or failure, and how an outside partner can help get your strategy engine started.
Managing multi-layered stakeholders
Without a product strategy, projects can quickly go off the rails as stakeholders propose changes that steer your product further from its original goal. Nobody wants to end up lost on that long and winding road. Product strategy brings stakeholders together early, creates a shared understanding of user needs, and then balances those with individual agendas to come to an agreement. Think of it as forcing a little focus and preventing individual perspectives from becoming a problem down the road, especially from stakeholders who might not be present on the project day to day.
We know it isn’t easy: Having these types of conversations and getting cross-departmental agreement can be a tightrope act. How do you make everyone happy and ensure you’re creating something that fulfills user needs and supports business goals? An outside partner with experience and expertise managing different stakeholder inputs can help. They can broach those discussions with an objective third-party opinion that helps get everyone on the same page.
An internal team that works day to day will have implied roles for each stakeholder. An external partner will pull out these roles and make them transparent not only for the benefit of the external partner but also the internal. Each key stakeholder needs to clearly define their role in the process (and within this, what their role is not). A partner should be able to guide these conversations, ask the “obvious questions” and document these decisions for team accountability as the execution of the product strategy starts.
Introducing a new product into a larger product mix
As soon as a company starts to scale and introduce more products, product strategy becomes critical to clarifying the unique goals and target markets for each. This is where product teams can get stuck. It can be difficult to think outside an existing product strategy when you’ve been embedded within a certain product line for a long period of time.
An outside partner can bring a fresh, open-minded and user-focused perspective to your product strategy. They can help to stretch your team’s thinking around a product’s true potential. They can also help you work through how or where a new product fits alongside your existing product(s), and if it takes the same brand or technology, for example.
A product strategy will also lay out the path to scale — from planning to delivery of each product. It should deliver the “why,” “what,” and “how.” How are the goals changing? How is the resourcing shifting for full utilization? How do we resist chasing the shiny new object that detracts from our existing well-performing products? The execution plan for one product might not work with another. A partner can help you fill these gaps to sustain a healthy, well-performing team and products as you scale.
Working against deadlines or revenue milestones
When you’re short on time, it might sound counterintuitive to spend time on product strategy before you dive into development. But in reality, the tighter the timelines, the more crucial product strategy is to make sure you stay on track. When you’re working to hit strict deadlines and major milestones, you don’t want to risk losing months going down the wrong path.
Ultimately, the research and alignment work that comes with product strategy helps companies avoid building the wrong product, which can cost much more—in terms of revenue and loyalty—over the long haul. That alignment around a solution also keeps everything on track through delivery and creates efficiencies throughout the project. An external partner can help make that clear to a variety of stakeholders and demonstrate how strategy accelerates your progress toward success.
In fact, your revenue milestones should be one of the factors guiding your product strategy. Those milestones should inform the key performance indicators that you will work against in laying out your product roadmap. If a certain number of users leads to an advertising revenue goal, how might you reduce user friction in onboarding? How is the team working to ensure users return to the product (in other words, what are they doing to make your product sticky)? Your partner should be reviewing these business requirements along with the user needs to create a balanced product strategy.
At DockYard, our goal is always to help clients build successful products, which is why we emphasize product strategy. But we’re also all about being flexible and tailoring our approach to our clients’ needs. Part of that means simply creating awareness of the potential roadblocks that can arise without a robust product strategy. We’ll always lay out the risks and help you understand your options, outlining the pros and cons of the directions you can go to help you pick the right path forward. We lay out the product strategy to give you the capacity to focus on the goals, vision, and deeper product knowledge.
In looking for a partner, you want someone you can trust to be candid, who isn’t afraid to have hard conversations, and who will be truthful if they identify gaps that could threaten the success of your product. Our job isn’t just to check off a list of deliverables, it’s to help build a successful product. Sometimes that also means helping product leaders deliver the news teams need to hear—and not just what they want to hear.
Sign up for the DockYard newsletter and get more product strategy insights sent straight to your inbox. And if you happen to have a project in mind, we’d love to talk about how we can work together to get your team set up with a strong strategy. Contact DockYard today.