A Strategy Map

Roman Pichler
Mar 4 · 5 min read
Photo by ellladee on Unsplash

Without an effective strategy, it’s hard to achieve product success. But what does strategy entail? And which tools are best suited for making strategic decisions? This article offers my answers and introduces a strategy map — a guide to the strategic decisions required to make and keep products successful.

Maps are the Foundations on which Adventures are Built

As the Strategy Map above shows, you should be aware of the overall business and product portfolio strategy in order to make the right strategic product decisions, as these provide the necessary context. To put it differently, if you don’t know the business and portfolio strategy, or if these plans don’t exist, then it will be hard for you to get the product strategy right and choose, for example, the right market and target group.

Additionally, you should be able to correctly state the information captured by the product visionand strategy, product roadmap, KPIs, and business model on the map above. Please note that you should derive the KPIs from the value proposition and business goals so that they help you understand how much value the product is creating for the users and the business.

The Strategy Map can help you check if you have any strategy blind spots. I find that some product people forget about the business strategy and the business model; others aren’t aware of the portfolio strategy, for instance. If that’s the case for you, then explore what it would take to fill the gaps and acquire the relevant information. This might simply involve talking to the right people like the head of product or the CEO. But it might also mean carrying out discovery work, for example, when you lack a validated product strategy or an effective business model.

Tools of the Trade

Please note, though, that product strategy is not about filling out templates and ticking boxes — but asking the right questions and being able to correctly answer them. Carrying out strategy work really is like going on an adventure: You have to be curious and receptive, cultivate a playful mindset, and be willing to discover and learn new things. Therefore choose the templates and tools that resonate most with you and that are helpful in your specific context.

The Map is Not the Territory

Additionally, consider reflecting on your notion of what a (digital) product is before applying the Strategy Map. I find it not uncommon that people confuse the concepts product, feature,component, and sometimes even portfolio, which can result in too many detailed product strategies and roadmaps. I like to define a product as an entity that creates a specific value to a group of people while at the same time, helps the business achieve one or more goals. A featureis a product part users can interact with like search and navigation on an online retailer’s website; a componentis an architecture building block such as the data access layer; and a portfoliois a group of (related) products — think of Microsoft Office, for example. A product strategy should hence always describe your approach for making or keeping a product successful. Don’t create a strategy for a feature or component — unless you decide to unbundle it and release it as a separate product.

And now to work: Adventure awaits. Aarrr!

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Roman Pichler

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Product management expert. Author of Strategize and Agile Product Management with Scrum. www.romanpichler.com