Building a solid product strategy is often thought of as a complex challenge and many companies fail to approach it systematically.
Other teams sometimes operate with a lean methodology and think this excuses them from developing a strong product strategy to guide development.
A solid product strategy is an important part of building a functional and coherent product and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
In this Process Street article, we will avoid long explanations and unnecessary detail, cutting straight to the point to give you a clear and actionable understanding of product strategy.
And we have provided an actionable product strategy template you can use in your business!
For those of you who came just for the template, here it is:
What is a product strategy?
A product strategy is about understanding how your product will develop in the future, while being responsive to external factors. It’s not just about creating a good product, but about creating the right product.
In its most basic form, a product strategy seeks to tie together three main things and turn that knowledge into an actionable approach:
- The nature and needs of the market
- Your key features and unique differentiators
- The business goals of your company
By understanding these different factors, you will be able to create a product which people want to use and want to buy.
Practically, a product strategy should serve the following purposes:
- An assessment of your current situation
- An understanding of the market opportunities
- A roadmap for how you can move from your current situation to situate yourself within the available opportunities.
For investors, a product strategy will help them see how healthy the business is within its niche. For employees, a product strategy should show them what work they will need to do, and why.
This presents a large scope for a product strategy but it is achievable through these four elements:
- Big picture context
Let’s look at each individually.
The product strategy vision
The vision you outline will be the high-level overview of what the business is trying to achieve long term.
This is where you would include your competitive analyses and assess the changing nature of the market.
You can then outline what market opportunities you have identified and how you intend to capitalize on those.
You can illustrate why your company is suited to capitalize on the available market opportunities – or, perhaps, the weaknesses which your company possesses that you need to combat in order to survive in a changing and highly complex market.
Useful tools for this section include:
- Third party industry insights reports
- Competitor analysis reports
- A SWOT analysis
- Lean prioritization matrix
The product strategy roadmap
Your roadmap is a practical timeline for how changes will come about.
Some market opportunities may require significant changes to your product or products. These changes may require various stages of action:
- Product research
- Product prototyping
- Product development
- Product testing
- Product accreditation
- Product launch
- Product assessment
- Product improvements
Building out new products isn’t as simple as building one thing and declaring it done. Similar to the bulleted examples listed above, if your company product is a piece of software – a SaaS product, for example – then how you develop new features can rely on interdependencies within the platform.
If you decide you want to offer 10 new features because they will appeal to enterprise clients, then before you begin that effort to develop the first feature you may have to make significant changes to the database, or overhaul the platform’s security to meet the standards required of enterprise software.
Sometimes there is an enforced chronology which results from the nature of the work you are trying to do, other times you will have to work out that chronology yourself.
In the roadmap section, you can also define the type of methodology you intend to use to work through the roadmap – outlining the extent to which your methodology will make your roadmap flexible and responsive.
The product strategy big picture context
The big picture context presents the minutiae of the roadmap.
The necessary changes or feature additions can be explained here in greater detail. You may want to give some very rough estimations for these features while outlining how they fit into the overall goal of the company.
How you present this section may depend on whether your development approach is more waterfall or agile.
If you take an agile approach to development then you may want to illustrate the big picture context through detailed user stories.
This section should serve as a practical guide from which your development team can get started immediately. This can form the background context they draw from when constructing their sprints.
The product strategy initiatives
The initiatives are like high-level action items.
With these initiatives it is useful to outline a series of factors:
- What is the purpose of the initiative?
- Who is responsible for the initiative?
- How will the initiative be approached?
- What will be done to achieve the initiative?
- What is the end result of the initiative?
- How does the initiative contribute to the company’s success?
- By what metrics can the initiative be judged to have been a success or not?
So, for example, our fictional SaaS company wants to release 10 new features to attract enterprise clients and position itself differently in the market.
In order to serve an enterprise segment, it needs to be able to demonstrate that the company is well run and its security levels are high. Without this foundational work, the 10 new features will not be able to achieve their goals.
The company decides to become ISO certified. This initiative may then contain the following information:
Product strategy example initiative
- The purpose is to demonstrate adherence to the highest levels of cybersecurity and operational standards.
- The COO is responsible for overhauling company processes to meet international standards
- The COO will create a process team which will assess the operations of the different wings of the company and seek to make improvements where necessary.
- The team will bring operations up to ISO-9001 and ISO-27032 standards.
- The end result is that the company will be able to demonstrate to prospective clients that their data will be secure and well managed to the highest standards.
- Providing potential clients with assurance of security will allow them to purchase the improved products of the business.
- The company will be audited by an external assessor to determine whether or not standards have been suitably met.
Product strategy benefits
The benefits of a strong product strategy are:
- Clarity in business objectives and goals.
- An awareness of business risks and plans to tackle them.
- A well-communicated strategy which helps everyone in the company understand how they contribute to success.
- A series of practical steps to ensure time and resources are not wasted through indecision.
- An easy way to demonstrate your company’s strengths and intended future achievements to outside parties, e.g. investors.
- A central document to coordinate your workflows around if you are taking a business process management (BPM) approach.
How you use your product strategy will impact on what its benefits are.
As such, here are a few recommendations to make the most out of your product strategy:
- Allow for flexibility – Things change and you should be prepared to adapt your plan to changing circumstances. This also allows for you to operate in an agile manner even though you have a detailed plan to follow.
- Communicate the strategy – Your strategy shows how each person in the company contributes to the overall success of the business. Let your staff see the strategy so they can feel a degree of ownership over the company’s success.
- Refer back to the strategy – When you start meetings, you can outline how the agenda relates to the product strategy and any KPIs or OKRs which have been decided upon. This situates all work in a broader business context and reinforces the collective effort of the company.
- Create a summary document – A short document which outlines the product strategy, preferably using clear visuals, can provide an accessible way to communicate your strategy to third parties. This could be used for illustrating your strategy to investors or even to clients; showing them that you have a plan in place to work to meet their needs.
Product strategy template
So now you should understand broadly what is required in a product strategy, but where to get started?
Every product strategy will be different based on the needs of the business in question. There is no one size fits all approach to developing a product strategy.
However, it is possible to formulate a flexible process you can follow when looking to create a product strategy.
Below is a Process Street template for developing a product strategy. This template can be edited to add or remove tasks and information depending on your needs.
When you come to formulate a product strategy, you simply run the template as a checklist and follow the process; checking off completed tasks as you work through.
This template is designed to direct your efforts and give you a process to follow. However, the template also has interactive form fields throughout where you can enter information as you work through the checklist.
This means that you can rapidly create a summary document.
There are two ways to do this. One way would be to export the completed checklist to a pdf file format. This shows the reader your conclusions and also the process you took to reach those conclusions.
The other way would be to connect Process Street via Zapier to a document generator. All the information you enter into the Process Street form fields can then be moved directly into a document template – automatically creating a summary document with your design requirements.
You can look through the product strategy template here:
If you are looking to launch a new product and need something slightly more informal than a product strategy template but with the same broad theme, you can check out this product launch checklist instead:
You could also use other Process Street templates to help you construct your product strategy. Templates like this SWOT analysis template below:
Alternatively, if you’re looking for some templates for the document itself, you could check out some of these resources:
- Software Product Strategy Template
- Sample Product Innovation & Technology Strategy PDF Template
- Product Strategy Template for Agile Product Managers
- Sample Strategic Business Plan
Create a product strategy to drive your business forward!
Every product strategy will be different.
Each business has different needs, goals, and surroundings.
A brand new software startup might look to create a slim and minimal product strategy, where a large multinational with factories all over the world might produce a 100-page document!
Whatever the size of your business, if you start correctly and follow a coherent process you should be able to produce a strategy which stands the test of time and helps drive your business forward!
How have you approached your product strategies in the past? What tools have you used to help you on your journey? Let us know in the comments below!
I manage the content for Process Street and dabble in other projects inc language exchange app Idyoma on the side. Living in Sevilla in the south of Spain, my current hobby is learning Spanish! @adam_h_h on Twitter. Subscribe to my email newsletter here on Substack: Trust The Process. Or come join the conversation on Reddit at r/ProcessManagement.