Time is tight, and it’s often easy to focus on near-term wins while putting off long-term planning for another day. But if your digital product can’t keep up with growth, you’ll set yourself up for failure on day one.
With the correct strategy planning, you can keep your product development team on schedule now and prepare your product for lasting success.
In this post, we’ll cover practical tips and advice to create a product strategy, avoid product development roadblocks, and develop decision-making guardrails that build longevity into your final product from launch.
What’s Your Job?
Whether you need to get something out the door quickly or want to ensure lasting success, you’ll have to understand what your customers need and how your product will answer that call. It starts by determining what “job” your customer is hiring you to perform.
Start by asking, “What job is our customer hiring us (or our product) to do?” People can’t always do everything themselves, and you need to figure out what it is your customer wants from your product. Are you creating a livestreaming platform to showcase live performances? Then your end user might be “hiring” your product so they can connect more easily with their favorite artists, for example.
Using the Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) framework, you can easily and succinctly define, categorize, capture, and organize the essentials you need to know about your customer. Within a few days, you’ll understand what job you’re being “hired” to do.
Decide How to Decide
Once you understand your job, you will need to determine a framework for decision-making. Why? Because at some point there will be disagreements about how your team can meet your customers’ needs.
Fortunately, your product strategy will become this framework. With a cohesive strategy, everyone on your team is working toward the same goal, and understands what their roles and responsibilities are. They all understand what success looks like.
Prepared with that knowledge, each member of your team will be better equipped to make decisions along each step of the development process that propel your product closer to its final goal—and help your business find success in the process.
Can You Build It?
Once your product team understands the job to be done, it’s time to brainstorm a concept and bring the product to life. But companies typically need help with two problems before they ever get the product off the ground: restrictive thinking and available resources.
“We’ve always done it this way before” or “We don’t have the right technology” are just two of the assumptions people make before starting. It’s the equivalent of saying “no” to a game-changing product before it’s even designed.
Product strategy is designed to capture inventive ideas and filter them through criteria like customer needs, product vision, and required features. These guidelines will support an ongoing conversation between team members, helping them navigate a wide array of opinions.
However, creative ideas need to be balanced against available resources. Do you have the time, money, resources, and technology required to build the product you envisioned? Your product strategy will include criteria that keep your team on course by asking whether your ideas are:
- Viable: Is the product realistic?
- Valuable: Does the product fulfill our value proposition?
- Feasible: Do you have the technology and resources to build it?
- Usable: Can we see, feel, touch, and use the product?
Balancing concepts and resources will be an ongoing challenge for your product teams, regardless of your timeline. With product strategy, however, you’ll be ready to capture the ideas that serve your end users and shelve the ones that don’t without wasting any time.
What’s Your Tech Stack?
There’s nothing like planning the vacation of a lifetime—only to find that your 30-year-old car isn’t stable enough to get you to your destination. Your tech stack plays an essential role in bringing your product to life, fulfilling your vision, and making your mark in a competitive market.
Your tech stack is the backbone of your product. It determines if you’ll spend time and resources on constant bug fixes or create a product that users love. In addition, your tech stack directly impacts your bottom line, from purchasing extensive libraries to your ever-increasing AWS bill.
Your product strategy is the key to unlocking the benefits of your chosen tech stack—and circumventing its limitations.
As you begin validating your product idea, for example, the capabilities of your tech stack will inform the outcome of your planning. For example, if your product requires handling huge amounts of traffic but your chosen tech stack isn’t equipped for that, you’ll be able to identify that shortfall quickly with your product strategy and plan accordingly.
Take Elixir: With it, you can create custom-built products capable of scaling with your business and users’ needs. If you know your Engineering team will be able to take advantage of Elixir’s inherent scalability, concurrency, and stability benefits, the planning stages of your product strategy become easier. After all, you’ll be working around fewer limitations, so you can say “yes” to more features to meet users’ needs.
Your technology choice is critical if you need to get a product to market quickly to stay competitive. On the other hand, if you’re focused on long-term success, you’ll need reliable, efficient technology that won’t cause problems down the road.
For short and long-term success, you’ll need to choose a tech stack that offers scalability, reliability, and concurrency that helps your product interface with a multitude of processes. In the near term, you’ll benefit from a solid product that’s quick to market, helping you build your reputation. But, for the long term, you’ll need the reliability to deliver new features and consistently build on your early successes.
Your tech stack and your product strategy will go hand in hand throughout the development process. By using your product strategy to consider the capabilities and limitations of your chosen technology, you’ll have a clear view of what is and isn’t possible both now and well into your product’s future.
Can You Keep the Conversation Going?
Your product development process requires frameworks and analysis. But people are a critical component too. And your team members need to keep communicating to make sure everyone is on the right path.
Product development is a constant conversation that includes team members, leadership, stakeholders, and customers with their own opinions and insights.
You’ll need to set up ways to keep that conversation going, capturing valuable insights or far-flung ideas for future products. So how do you make sure that everyone is heard, stays on track, and your product gets delivered on time?
A successful product strategy includes communication rituals that team members commit to following. For example, daily standups are a simple way for everyone to share if they are on track or encountering any roadblocks. In addition, monthly retrospectives for the team and team leaders take advantage of 20/20 hindsight to capture key lessons that will make future product development efforts more productive.
Fortunately, there are tools available that allow teams to share insights and capture innovative ideas, keeping the conversation alive, whatever timeline you’re on.
Your timeline will guide when you do something, but product strategy best practices will dictate how you get things done. So no matter your focus, you’ll need to remain efficient and effective, no matter what the calendar says.
By investing resources into product strategy at the start, you’ll be saving your team time and resources in the long run. And, more importantly, you’ll be moving the needle toward success now while also planning for growth in the future.
Do you have a product idea that you believe in? DockYard offers short and long-term product strategy consulting to help you put your product on a path to not only deployment but long-term growth. Get in touch today to find out how our team can help you.