6 Common Product Strategy Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Clearbridge Mobile
Nov 3, 2015 · 4 min read

Products fail for a variety of reasons. Poor UX, poor functionality, no real value, etc. But often, the failure of a product can be attributed to mistakes made during the product definition stage — prior to development even beginning.

Here are a list of common product strategy mistakes and how to avoid them.

Recommended: Free Product Strategy Requirements Template

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1. Taking Too Long To Ramp Up

Many projects simply take too long to get going. We’re not saying you should start development right away; in fact, jumping into development prematurely, before the product has been properly defined, is another common product strategy pitfall.

That said, many projects take way too long to get started, and the delay can mean a viable idea never becomes a realized product. Often, this is because people try to do too much from the get-go, rather than using an iterative, agile approach.

How to avoid it

Rapid prototyping, releasing a minimum viable product, and building and iterating off of your learnings is an effective way to ensure your product doesn’t get stuck in development hell.

2. Confusing Customer & Product Requirements

This mistake was pointed out by Martin Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group, who noted that:

  1. customers don’t necessarily know what they want
  2. customers may not know all the possibilities — which is why they hired a professional product team in the first place
  3. customers aren’t in a position to see the wide range of needs and opportunities

In other words, it’s the product team — not the customer — that is responsible for mapping the product requirements.

How to avoid it

Focus on the requirements to building a good product, not just what the customer thinks is required. In product definition, your team should understand the market, emerging trends and technologies, and possibilities for the product in order to define the requirements for a successful product.

3. Crafting Requirements In a Vacuum

Products are often complex, and naturally, their requirements are as well. Product teams are comprised of multiple people with different areas of expertise: product owners, project managers, developers, engineers, architects, designers, etc. This is because building a successful product requires all of these areas of expertise.

So why would you map out product requirements without getting input from your product team? While it seems obvious on the surface, this happens all the time in product definition.

How to avoid it

Get your team — PMs and POs, designers, developers, etc. — involved in product strategy and concepting. Agile methodology champions an integrated approach, meaning different members of your project team cooperate throughout product development; this includes product definition.

4. Mistaking Innovation For Value

Just because you have the ability to include certain features or functionalities, doesn’t mean you should. When new technologies or capabilities emerge, there is typically a push to be the first to implement them. The problem with this approach is that often, the drive to be innovative overshadows the value proposition. In other words, these features or functionalities don’t add any real value to the end user, and aren’t integral to the product.

How to avoid it

Always remember that you are designing a product for a target user base. Does this feature or functionality add true value to the end user? Is it essential to the product? Would it significantly benefit the product? Do the benefits outweigh the cost/complexity of implementation? If the answer to these questions is no, you should exclude the feature or add it to the product roadmap for later implementation.

5. Ignoring Competitive Threats

Market viability is foundational to every product. You need to understand the competitive environment and be cognizant of what the industry and your competition is doing. Part of this means staying on top of trends and emerging technologies to predict/be aware of any potential competitive threats. If you don’t, your product is more likely to fail.

How to avoid it

Industry and competitor research should be a mandatory part of your product strategy. What is the competition offering? How will your product be different? What needs/problems does it solve that other products can’t? Have you considered industry trends and competitive developments that could threaten the success of your product? Failing to address these questions can reduce your ability to bring a viable, useful product to market.

6. Failing to Prioritize Must-Haves vs. Nice-to-haves

In most cases, not every feature on the roadmap can be implemented in the initial version of your product. In order to build rapidly and get to market quickly, features need to be prioritized. The essential features of your product — the ones that need to be implemented in order for you to go to market — are what need to be built out first. Prioritizing is easier said than done, and product teams often find themselves confused over which features are must-haves, and which are nice-to-haves.

How to avoid it

Have a classification system for prioritizing features. Coordinate with your project team to determine which features are absolutely critical to include, versus features your product can — at least initially — succeed without. We suggest classifying by “Must Have” and “Nice to Have” for particular builds, and then adding lower priority features to a product roadmap for future implementation. We also suggest prioritizing features within these classifications.

While a solid product strategy will not automatically equate to market success, it does offer your product a much greater chance. By avoiding the product strategy mistakes listed above, you can provide your product and your team with the foundation needed to successfully break into the market.

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Tags: Mobile App Development

Originally published at clearbridgemobile.com on November 3, 2015.

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