Developing a Compelling Product Strategy

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Product Managers and Product Strategy 

In recent posts I’ve discussed ways to gather information that will put you on firm footing as a product manager. These included:

  • Market research
  • Customer list
  • Presentation materials currently in use
  • Company collateral
  • Win/loss analysis data
  • Customer proposal template and signed contracts
  • Competitive information
  • Customer data sources within your organization
  • Defect reports
  • Product Cost Information or a product P&L
  • Existing product-related materials
  • Analyst reports
  • Competitor social media, websites etc.
  • Internal survey of constituents

This is a lot of information! Now it’s time to dig in and chart your course.

Step Away to Make Your Plan

My advice is to go off-site to a place where you won’t be interrupted. You goal now is to rough out a plan for where you want to take your product. Your outcome should be based on information you’ve gathered and any preliminary conclusions you’ve drawn. The plan you come up with isn’t the final plan. It will give you something you can take back to the office and bounce off company thought leaders.

Where’s a Product Manager to Start?

Begin by drawing on your own knowledge – the know-how that you brought to your job, your experience. Also consider what you learned from reviewing your organization’s business plan. Methodically, layer on the information you’ve gathered through meetings with customers, reviewing competitors’ annual reports, and your internal surveys. Slowly consider each information source you’ve tapped.

Considered as a whole, the findings will help you get a strong sense of where your product’s market is heading. It will also give a good idea of how your organization is positioned. At this point you should be prepared to think strategically and rough out a draft of your strategy.

The Preliminary Product Strategy

Think in terms of developing a plan that can fit on one presentation slide. Begin by choosing a point in time as your end focus, perhaps three years out. Now choose a starting point, like the end of the year. Your vision slide needs to denote certain strategic milestones. These will indicate where you want to your product to be in six months, at the end of the year, and at various stages along the way. Bear in mind that these milestones aren’t requirements but a record of your progress.

Mapping Out Deliverables

Often the easiest approach to developing this vision is to map out the deliverables along your timeline. Start at the end of the current year, because it is easiest to envision. What will the situation realistically look like? Next write down what you want your product to look like in three years. This is your outcome – the endpoint of the process. It should be based on what you’ve learned through your information gathering. Now consider what activities need to happen along the way for you to meet the three-year goal? These are the milestones that populate the various time points along your timeline.

Product Manager  – Don’t Overcomplicate Things!

Creating this single presentation slide is tougher than you may think. In fact, it would be easier to present reams of information in a complex format. With every page you add to your document, you diminish its value.

It can take you a day to work out your draft or maybe a week to come up with your vision. If your thinking stalls, reach out to a thought leader in your organization and brainstorm ideas.  The vision will be richer when it reflects both of your thinking.

Taking the Next Step

In my next post I’ll discuss how to formulate a winning approach to your market. It’s the exciting step that starts to put your ideas in motion.


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