You need to launch a successful product without going over budget or missing deadlines. Product strategy is the tool you need to do just that. Get in touch to learn how we use strategy to optimize your resources and help you develop a successful product faster.
You’ve laid your product strategy groundwork with general best practices, crafted a strategy around your unique team and goals, and now it’s time to put it all together. Product strategy is the foundation for a framework that ensures you don’t miss a step as you develop and deliver a complete, tested, viable product. Each step will be informed in some way by the strategy you’ve invested time and resources to create.
And while it might be tempting to skip early steps, don’t. The planning you do and feedback you receive at these stages can have a snowballing impact on your work later on in the process. Skipping one can be a recipe for wasted time and resources down the line.
Here are the phases to follow to ensure you develop the right product ready for adoption.
9 Steps to a Successful Product
1. Define the Job to Be Done
Once you’ve developed your product vision, you can go into more detail and document the core problem your customer faces. One way to do that is the Jobs-to-Be-Done approach, understanding what the customer is “hiring” your company to do for them. Developing personas and associated questions will help uncover the job your product can perform that will solve the core problem, saving the user time, money, and effort.
At this stage, you’re building the first blocks of your product strategy. Your Jobs-to-Be-Done statement will be a fundamental element to your broader strategy. It will help guide each decision you and your team make during the development process, and help you keep your end user as the focus of your efforts.
2. Develop Solutions
Once your team defines what job you (or your product) are being hired for, it’s time to develop potential solutions. Brainstorming solutions and options, then validating to see if these solutions are viable, are essential next steps.
Now is where you’ll start to see the benefits of some of the planning you did to make your product strategy unique to you and your team. Is every member of your team involved in this step? Are you making use of the valuable collaborative input available to you? Does the tech you’ve chosen for your product support not only your near-term solutions, but your long-term growth as well?
3. Design a Low-Fi Concept
It’s time to go to work and create a product prototype that users can touch, feel, and interact with. The feedback you gain from this prototype will provide valuable insights before you invest more time and money. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just enough to get the concept across to users.
Now it’s time to start testing some of your assumptions. Refer back to your product strategy to be sure that your concept includes everything that meets your users’ needs, and leaves out the things that don’t.
4. Codify Your Plan
In this step, you will develop user stories and refine personas to represent customer segments. Your team will also develop criteria for success while assessing product feasibility with the engineering team.
Once again, refer back to your product strategy and the goals and metrics you set early on. What does success look like? Is that clear to everyone on the team? Do they know what their contribution does to help your team get closer to success?
5. Design and Develop Your Product
Your design team will be critical to ensure that the user experience is one that customers will use and solves the core problem. Once you’ve got your designs finished, an Agile methodology will help guide you through an iterative process where you learn and develop a viable product.
This is where your product strategy “bouncer” becomes vital. During the development process, new ideas will come from all sides. Some of them might be good ideas—some might be great ideas—but regardless of where they come from, you should refer back t your strategy for each and every one. If it doesn’t support your goals, put it in a parking lot to review later, or for another project.
Your product strategy will also help you prioritize what to work on first. The high-value items that get you closer to your goals should take priority, while the nice-to-haves can take a back seat. Not only does this make your team more efficient, but it helps you avoid burnout by avoiding the “everything is top priority” mindset that can often wear teams down.
6. Perform QA
Now is the phase where your product undergoes a QA assessment to find any remaining gaps that need further refinement. This step will make sure your product works and is sustainable for long-term adoption.
Feedback is important, and an integral part of creating a product that your users will adopt. When you inevitably receive feedback from your QA team or any users you choose to survey, your strategy will once again help you prioritize the additional work that needs to be done.
7. Ship the Product and Train Support Staff
Once your product is ready for users, product strategy teams can focus on final development, working with sales teams, and educating and training Customer Success teams. As you roll out the product company-wide, you will need everyone’s support to help users adopt the product.
Your delivery strategy will build largely on the work you’ve already done for your product strategy. Your Jobs-to-Be-Done framework will help you target the right potential users, and your market fit will help you position your product for the best possible adoption. And, thanks to your product strategy, you should have full stakeholder support as you launch your finished product.
8. Review Your Metrics
Metrics reveal if you are on track and help you address issues early before they become big problems. Define your measurements early and watch them frequently. Metrics aren’t a one-and-done task, and they don’t disappear once the product is shipped. Instead, you should keep an eye on essential measures, helping to refine its product strategy for future efforts.
Those metrics will be unique to your product or service, which is why it’s so vital to set your definition of success early in the development process. With that work already done, you’ll know right away what to track and, if things aren’t running smoothly at first, what to do to get your product back on track.
9. Reassess and Repeat
Retrospectives are vital for the product teams as well as for team leaders. These meetings ensure that teams learn from their experiences for future ventures, saving you from recreating the wheel for each new product idea.
Now is when you turn back to your product strategy and adjust it to work for an existing product.
Roadblocks (and How to Overcome Them)
Every project will encounter roadblocks, and a sound product strategy is your best bet to anticipate and mitigate some of the most common bumps in the road in digital product development.
Here are some common challenges that can prevent you from creating a successful product.
The Wrong Technology
Whether you chose the wrong tech stack or you’ve relied too heavily on off-the-shelf solutions for your MVP, the wrong technology can be a major long-term roadblock. Your product strategy can, first, help you avoid this problem entirely by helping you decide what tech will best serve you and your users over time.
If you do still run into this problem, however, your product strategy will help you get back on track. Product strategy is the basis for a successful product. So even if you got through the development process and find that you need to overhaul a portion of your product, your strategy will help you do so efficiently and with your end user in mind.
Lack of Communication
Communication is an investment. Your time in meetings, retrospectives, and spent educating executives will keep everyone in the loop. But communication is a two-way street that involves conveying and listening—with an open mind—to capture ideas that will enhance your product.
Your product strategy is a built-in facilitator of effective communication. By creating it, you’ve done the legwork to identify relevant stakeholders and, in turn, everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. That means you and your team know who to communicate to about what, and collaboration can happen in a snap.
No Executive Buy-In
Whether product champions or in charge of the budget, executives must understand the value of the product under development and why it’s worth valuable company resources. Without executive buy-in, it’s easy for the best product to crash and burn. Take the extra time to include everyone who needs to know or has an influence on the project.
Your product strategy is, once again, your key to solving this problem. With it, you’ve identified the use case and demand for the product your team is developing, and set the metrics that define success. So when a C-suite exec comes to you asking why your product is worth the investment, you’re prepared to communicate it right away and keep their buy-in from wavering.
You can avoid these roadblocks by following a consistent product strategy that delivers and end result users will adopt. In addition, strategy and best practices help you optimize the capabilities and resources that you already have available. As your teams work together, you will identify areas where you can scale by adding new features or products to grow your business and address future customer needs.
Product strategy keeps teams focused, optimizes limited resources, and delivers products people will use. In short, it’s your ticket to success.
Product Strategy: The Force Multiplier for Success
Limited resources don’t mean limited success. It just means that your company needs to be as efficient as possible with the resources you do have. Establishing a clear vision, creating a product strategy, following your plan, and keeping communication flowing are key to doing just that.