Your product strategy dictates your product development roadmap. But life happens, and your plans will change. Whether it is a once-in-lifetime business disruption or a subtle change in team dynamics, you’ll need the expertise to identify gaps and decide how to correct them.
Even when you’re barreling toward a launch date, investing in product strategy as soon as you realize something is wrong will pay dividends when it’s time for your final delivery. When it comes down to it, you can either take the time up front to fix your strategy—and keep your product on track—or deal with the consequences of a misaligned product.
Reasons to revisit product strategy
Business moves fast. Changes in your business model, industry, or stakeholder alignment will have a noticeable impact on your product strategy. For instance, situations that can derail your roadmap include:
A strong competitor move, M&A activity, or a volatile business environment should put you on notice that your product strategy needs realignment. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, agile companies were quick to serve their market by creating solutions to new customer problems, and reaped the rewards in growth and customer loyalty as a result. An extensive external move should automatically prompt your executive and product teams to ensure your roadmap is still relevant.
Everyone likes the idea of scaling, but reaching new markets with a hot new product requires fresh eyes on your old product roadmap. Even a new round of funding can prompt a company to dust off a brilliant idea they previously put on the back burner and investigate new markets. All of which will impact your product strategy.
As companies grow, they gain new stakeholders. Executives, board members, and investors, among others, will have insights that need to be incorporated into product strategy.
It is critical that everyone keep an open mind as diverse opinions get added to the mix. Staying focused on what is best for the customer will keep everyone unified around a common goal.
The people who got you to this point may not be the ones who will help you achieve new heights. They may be stretched to the max or need to assume new roles. Finding the top talent to support your next product launch is challenging, but necessary.
You’ll need to invest in dedicated marketing, technology, and customer support resources to make your product a success. Part of your product strategy is defining who’s responsible for what, so if your team needs to shift, so will your strategy—even when that means devoting resources to making those changes.
Under-investing in your team and their understanding of their roles can derail your product strategy. Don’t fall into the trap of prioritizing short-term dollars over long-term growth.
Symptoms your product strategy is off track
It doesn’t always take a significant event to throw your product strategy off track. There can be a buildup of subtle changes that escalate into a full-blown overhaul of your product strategy. Making minor revisions to product strategy in response to early clues can help you quickly respond to key events.
Common scenarios include:
Changes in user responses
Your users will let you know if you’reoff track. Subtle changes from “we love it” to “eh” can indicate something is amiss. It could be as small as a glitch in a software update, or as large as an industry-disrupting product offered by your competitor. Look early for small clues before they reach a critical point.
If your team consistently misses critical deadlines, it is often a symptom of something bigger. Do you have the right talent or are they burned out? Are you using the correct development methodology? Does your team understand development goals, or do they need a new leader to unify them? Consistently missed deadlines are an early warning system that requires immediate attention.
…Or setting too many deadlines in the first place
Setting some deadlines to track progress is important, but they can also create create an environment where your team starts to value completion over quality. And that can lead to a final product that’s misaligned to the needs of the users.
When you find your project board chock-full of dates for every tiny detail, that’s a sign that your product strategy might not be functioning like it should.
Everything is a priority
When everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. If the terms “ASAP,” “Critical,” and “Red Zone” are everyday occurrences in your company, it’s time to step back and reassess. Or, if your team is affected by scope creep, unnecessary features, or too many development paths, they will spend energy on non-critical activities.
Understanding what is most important to your users, what is on the critical path for development, and what aligns with your business objectives are priorities that influence your product strategy.
If you can’t easily rank your top priorities, it means your strategy is no longer effective. No priorities, no progress.
How to fix your product strategy
When you understand what derailed your product strategy, you will be better positioned to fix it. It might require a quick tweak to get your team on track, or you may need to stop everything, take a breather, and completely overhaul your product strategy. However, taking the time to assess and correct your product strategy is an investment that pays for itself.
After all, your product strategy isn’t a static element. You’ll need to make changes to it over time to guarantee it continues to serve you and your organization. Depending on where you are in your process and what problems you identify, you may need to:
In the early stages, your product strategy may require a minor patch. Maybe you included 10 KPIs but found it too confusing, and you only need three to measure your success. You might have excluded a stakeholder who needs to be part of your meetings or need to add a minor feature that customers wanted. Using an iterative approach, adding one new element at a time can reveal where a little change has a noticeable improvement.
In this case, the steps to take to update your product strategy are relatively simple: Return to your roadmap, identify the area that needs an update, make the change, and notify your team.
Your product strategy may need more than a quick tweak but not a lengthy timeout to reassess. For instance, if you notice that a stakeholder’s agenda is influencing the product direction more than the users’ needs, it will take time to have critical conversations that align everyone in the same direction.
Alternatively, a new stakeholder may join the team and bring vision and expertise to the company. Including their insights into the existing roadmap can make the product strategy stronger, supporting customers with better products and technologies that also meet business objectives.
In addition, if the product team had just completed prioritizing a mountain of issues, they probably identified key areas where the team could improve the product strategy. This is an excellent time to incorporate those insights, helping keep priorities intact.
First, you need to identify the root of the problem. Using routine sprints will highlight if the strategy is off track and create a cadence for teams to report out issues. Second, product teams need to be honest about delays or distractions, escalating them to leadership when appropriate. Finally, you may need to reach out to a trusted third party to facilitate tough conversations, prioritize issues, and get your product strategy back on track.
If you experience a significant event, your product strategy will need a complete overhaul. Sometimes, firms are acquired by an influential partner and are now headed in a new direction. Or maybe there was a cataclysmic business event (like a pandemic), and your products may no longer solve customer problems.
Sometimes, a product team can become stressed to the max. If nothing is getting accomplished, it’s time for the company to reassess and build a healthy product team culture. That means setting clear product ownership, roles and responsibilities, and success measures, all of which should be reflected in your product strategy.
Finally, one of the most important reasons to overhaul your product strategy is technology alignment. The tech you chose for your first product or MVP may be entirely unsuitable for you to scale your product to a mass audience. Or you might be adding an entirely new product to your matrix, and need to make sure you’re building it right the first time.
Regardless of your circumstances, taking the time and investing in the right technology to scale the company is essential to achieve exceptional growth. Your product strategy will undergo a worthwhile transformation that is aligned with your customer needs.
Overhauling your product strategy can be complicated, but it’s a valuable long-term investment. If you find your product is no longer meeting your user’s needs, implementing the Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) approach will help you identify what “jobs” the customer needs to “hire” you for and provide direction for your product strategy.
Or, if it’s the case that you have to rebuild your team culture, starting with product strategy will provide explicit norms for how the team operates and achievable success measures.
And if you find technology alignment is your issue, that is critical juncture where it might be best invest in a partner who has the required expertise and can reduce the time required to get back on track.
No matter what the reason for your overhaul, this is a new road for most companies, a third party vendor will get your strategy, team, and technology aligned to scale you for growth.
Looking for more?
Our new Ebook Product Strategy, the Secret to Accelerating Products from Idea to Impact, outlines the key elements of a successful product strategy and the top 10 mistakes companies make.
Learn how to fix the specific issues that your company is facing. And if you’re in need of some extra direction to get your product stragey on track—or build it from the ground up—get in touch with us today.