BEYOND THE BUILD

Product Strategy Done Right — Part 1: Balancing Fixed and Continuous Strategizing for Lasting Success

The foundation of effective product development lies in aligning the product vision, strategy, roadmap, and backlog. This requires a balanced approach, blending fixed strategizing and continuous strategizing. Fixed strategizing lays the crucial groundwork, establishing a validated product strategy, actionable roadmap, and initial backlog through user research, prototyping, and business model exploration. This foundational work then enables the tactical execution of product development, with the two phases intentionally overlapping to mitigate risks upfront. However, as the market constantly evolves, the fixed strategy alone is insufficient. Continuous strategizing is an ongoing workflow that keeps the product team attuned to changing conditions, allowing them to adapt the strategy and roadmap accordingly. By regularly measuring performance, reviewing trends, monitoring competition, and engaging users, product leaders can ensure lasting strategic success. Empowering these leaders with the right tools, processes, and organizational support is key to driving transformative growth and delivering offerings that truly resonate with customers.

Nima Torabi
Beyond the Build
Published in
15 min readApr 10, 2024

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Table of Contents

Aligning Product Vision, Strategy, Roadmap, and Backlog for Effective Product Development

Aligning Strategic Vision and Tactical Execution: The Key to Successful Product Development

Empowering Product Leaders to Drive Lasting Strategic Success

Mastering Product Strategy: Balancing Fixed and Continuous Approaches for Lasting Success

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Aligning Product Vision, Strategy, Roadmap, and Backlog for Effective Product Development

Effective product development requires a strategic planning approach, and at the core of this endeavor lie four critical product components:

  • Product Vision
  • Product Strategy
  • Product Roadmap
  • Product Backlog

Together, they form a directional blueprint that aligns stakeholders, inspires teams, and drives tangible outcomes.

Effective product development requires a strategic planning approach, and at the core of this endeavor lie four critical product components: Product Vision, Product Strategy, Product Roadmap, and Product Backlog. Together, they form a directional blueprint that aligns stakeholders, inspires teams, and drives tangible outcomes.
Effective product development requires a strategic planning approach, and at the core of this endeavor lie four critical product components: Product Vision, Product Strategy, Product Roadmap, and Product Backlog. Together, they form a directional blueprint that aligns stakeholders, inspires teams, and drives tangible outcomes.

Product Vision — The North Star

The product vision serves as the guide, describing the product’s purpose, the ultimate reason for its creation, and the positive change it aims to bring about. This vision aligns and inspires everyone involved in achieving product success, from stakeholders and management to the development teams.

Product Strategy — The Course

The product strategy communicates the approach chosen to realize the vision and ensure the product’s success. This involves making four crucial strategic choices:

  1. Value Proposition: Identifying the specific needs the product should address.
  2. Customers: Determining the target market or segment.
  3. Differentiated Positioning: Selecting standout features that set the product apart.
  4. Goals: Setting realistic business goals that describe the benefits the product will create.

Developing a well-considered strategy requires discipline and the courage to make tough decisions, as a product that tries to be everything to everyone risks not excelling at anything.

Product Roadmap — Visualizing the Strategy

With a validated product strategy in place, the next step is to build an actionable product roadmap. This roadmap details how the strategy will be implemented over the next six to twelve months, communicating the specific benefits the product will achieve and aligning the stakeholders and development teams.

An effective roadmap is built on product goals, which outline the outcomes the product should create, such as acquiring new users or increasing engagement. These goals serve as the foundation for the roadmap, which may also include dates, selected features, and metrics to measure success.

Product Backlog — From Strategy to Action

The product roadmap provides a solid basis for deriving the product backlog, which captures the tactical details and requirements needed to bring the strategy to life. By aligning the backlog with the roadmap’s product goals, teams can ensure that their efforts directly contribute to the overall strategic objectives.

Therefore, for effective product development and execution, product leaders need to connect the product vision, strategy, roadmap, and backlog, ensuring consistent decision-making and prevention of any disconnect between strategic planning and implementation, which can lead to the wrong product being built, despite good tactical execution.

Aligning Product Vision, Strategy, Roadmap, and Backlog for Effective Product Development — By connecting these four critical components, product leaders can ensure consistent decision-making and prevent any disconnect between strategic planning and implementation, leading to the right product being built to achieve the desired outcomes.
Aligning Product Vision, Strategy, Roadmap, and Backlog for Effective Product Development — By connecting these four critical components, product leaders can ensure consistent decision-making and prevent any disconnect between strategic planning and implementation, leading to the right product being built to achieve the desired outcomes.
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Aligning Strategic Vision and Tactical Execution: The Key to Successful Product Development

The true test of product success lies not just in the strategic vision, but in the seamless execution of that vision. The key to unlocking this harmony lies in understanding the intricate relationship between the product roadmap, the product backlog, performance metrics, and the feedback loop that ties it all together.

The Iterative Product Execution Model: The Cycle From Product Strategy to Product Development and Continuous Strategy Refinement
The Iterative Product Execution Model: The Cycle From Product Strategy to Product Development and Continuous Strategy Refinement

To track the progress and performance of this strategic-to-tactical execution, product teams rely on a powerful duo:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): KPIs are the metrics that measure the product’s success, aligning directly with the business goals outlined in the product strategy.
  • Objectives and Key Results (OKRs): OKRs offer a structured approach to cascading goals from the high-level product vision down to the specific, measurable objectives in the roadmap.

The true power of this approach to building and executing a product strategy lies in the bidirectional nature of the connections between the strategic and tactical elements.

  • Dynamic Nature: Insights from the product backlog and development work can inform changes in the product roadmap and overall strategy, enabling the product strategy and roadmap to be regularly reviewed and adjusted to remain aligned with evolving customer needs, market dynamics, and new opportunities.
  • Agile Alignment: This integration of strategic planning and tactical execution supports agile ways of working, where the product strategy and roadmap are dynamic and can be updated based on customer feedback and market changes. The frequent reviews and adjustments to the strategy and roadmap, enabled by the feedback loop, align with the iterative and responsive nature of agile product development, helping product teams stay nimble and adapt to new insights and emerging trends.

The key to product development success lies in the seamless alignment of strategic vision and tactical execution. By embracing this, product leaders can ensure that their efforts are not just focused on features and user stories, but on delivering tangible, strategic value to their customers and their business.

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Empowering Product Leaders to Drive Lasting Strategic Success

Successful product development requires a strategic planning approach, centered around the product vision, strategy, roadmap, and backlog. However, without the right level of empowerment, these critical plans can become misaligned with user and customer needs.

To avoid this pitfall, product leaders must own the strategic decision-making process and have the final say on the product’s direction. Yet, this does not mean working in isolation. A collaborative approach, involving stakeholders and development teams, is essential to leverage expertise, foster transparency, and achieve greater buy-in.

The Importance of Empowerment in Strategic Planning

At the heart of successful product development lies the product strategy and roadmap — the directional blueprint that aligns stakeholders, inspires teams, and drives tangible outcomes.

Yet, without the right level of empowerment, these critical plans can become mere reflections of senior stakeholders’ perceived needs, rather than the true user and customer requirements.

The consequences of a lack of empowerment can be dire. Product managers risk creating a Frankenstein” product— an odd collection of features with a weak value proposition and a poor user experience.

To avoid this pitfall, product leaders must be empowered with customer centric data, own the strategic decision-making process for the product, and have the final say on the product’s direction.

Collaborative Approach to Strategic Planning

However, this does not mean that product managers should create the strategy and roadmap in isolation. On the contrary, a collaborative approach is essential for success.

By involving stakeholders and development teams in the planning process, product leaders can leverage their expertise, foster transparency, and achieve greater buy-in.

Through collaborative workshops, product managers can cultivate an open and inclusive environment, actively listening to diverse perspectives and concerns. While this may require navigating disagreements, the goal is to search for decisions that maximize the product’s value and attract the broadest support.

Overcoming Empowerment Challenges

For those product managers who currently lack the desired level of empowerment, there are three key steps to overcome this challenge:

  1. Improve your product strategy-building and product mapping expertise. Develop the skills to create and validate a comprehensive product strategy, and derive an actionable roadmap from it.
  2. Strengthen your leadership abilities and influence. Practice active listening, constructively address conflicts, and engage with senior decision-makers to advocate for more authority.
  3. Better collaborate with your Scrum Master or Agile coach. To establish an effective product management function within the organization.

The Five Pillars of Lasting Product Success

The Five Pillars of Lasting Product Success: Desirability, Feasibility, Viability, Usability, Ethicality
The Five Pillars of Lasting Product Success: Desirability, Feasibility, Viability, Usability, Ethicality

With the right level of empowerment and a collaborative approach to strategic planning, product leaders can focus on ensuring their offerings meet the five critical success factors:

  1. Desirability: The product must solve a specific problem or offer a tangible benefit that creates value for users.
  2. Feasibility: The required technologies and skills must exist or be developable to design and build the product.
  3. Viability: The product must create enough business benefits to justify the investment, such as generating revenue or reducing costs.
  4. Usability: The product must be designed with intuitive user interfaces and experiences that enable easy adaptation and scalable usage.
  5. Ethicality: The product must not cause harm to people or the planet, and must be developed and provided ethically.

By embracing empowerment, collaboration, and a comprehensive understanding of the critical success factors, product leaders can ensure that their efforts are not just focused on features and user stories, but on delivering tangible, strategic value to their customers and their business.

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Mastering Product Strategy: Balancing Fixed and Continuous Approaches for Lasting Success

Crafting an effective product strategy is not easy, as it requires a structured process that allows product teams to adapt to the ever-evolving market landscape. At the heart of this strategic endeavor lies two distinct approaches to developing a product strategy:

  • Fixed Product Strategizing
  • Continuous Product Strategizing

Both play a crucial role in ensuring your product remains relevant and competitive.

Fixed Product Strategizing — Laying the Foundation for Success

When developing brand-new products or making significant changes to an existing one, the fixed strategizing approach is a crucial first step. This innovation process consists of two key phases that work in tandem to establish a solid foundation for product success.

Fixed Product Strategizing — When developing brand-new products or making significant changes to an existing one, product teams embark upon iterative product discovery and development efforts.
Fixed Product Strategizing — When developing brand-new products or making significant changes to an existing one, product teams embark upon iterative product discovery and development efforts.
  • Phase 1 — Product Discovery: This phase is all about determining the viability and desirability of the product whereby stakeholders immerse themselves in user research, prototype testing, and business model exploration. This deep dive into customer insights and market dynamics allows the team to crystallize a validated product strategy, roadmap, and initial backlog — a clear roadmap for the journey ahead. The outcome of this phase is threefold: i) A Validated Product Strategy: The team develops a well-grounded strategy that outlines the approach to realizing the product vision. ii) An Actionable Product Roadmap: The roadmap details how the product strategy will be implemented over the next 6–12 months, communicating the specific benefits the product will achieve. iii) An Initial Product Backlog: The groundwork includes defining the first set of backlog items needed to bring the strategy and roadmap to life.
  • Phase 2 — Product Development: With the foundational work complete, the team can now shift its focus to the second phase — product development. This stage concentrates on defining the product’s features and functionality, as well as making the necessary technical decisions and refining the user experience.

Importantly, the two phases — discovery and development — are not distinct but rather overlapping. This intentional overlap allows for early risk mitigation and a smoother transition into the execution phase. By addressing key desirability, usability, viability, and feasibility risks upfront, the team can ensure a more efficient and effective product development process.

In essence, Fixed Strategizing, lays the groundwork for product success to establish the strategic direction and tactical roadmap for the product. This groundwork consists of:

  • Validating the product concept through user research and prototyping
  • Developing a well-grounded product strategy that outlines the approach to realizing the vision
  • Creating an actionable roadmap that details how the strategy will be implemented
  • Defining the initial set of backlog items needed to bring the strategy to life

By investing the time and effort upfront to lay this solid foundation, the product team can then move forward with confidence, knowing that their development efforts are firmly rooted in a validated strategy and a clear path forward.

Continuous Product Strategizing — Adapting to Change

While the fixed strategizing process lays a crucial foundation for product success, the nature of product development is constantly in flux. Market conditions shift, new competitors emerge, and customer needs evolve a static strategy simply won’t suffice. This is where the power of continuous strategizing comes into play, forcing product teams to review and adapt their strategy and roadmap regularly.

  • The Ongoing Workflow of Continuous Strategizing: Continuous strategizing is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing workflow that keeps the product team attuned to the ever-changing landscape. This workflow involves five key activities that work in harmony to ensure the strategy and roadmap remain aligned with reality: i) Measuring Product Performance: Closely monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) such as engagement, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction provides valuable insights into how the product is faring in the market. ii) Reviewing Market Trends: Staying abreast of emerging technologies, industry shifts, and evolving customer behaviors can help identify new opportunities or potential threats on the horizon. iii) Monitoring the Competition: Keeping a watchful eye on the moves of competitors — from their product portfolios to their go-to-market strategies — allows the team to identify areas for differentiation and improvement. iv) Tracking Internal Developments: Changes within the organization, such as shifts in business strategy or resource allocations, can have a significant impact on the product’s direction and must be accounted for. v) Engaging with Users and Customers: Maintaining regular touchpoints with the end-users and customers provides invaluable qualitative feedback to inform product enhancements and new offerings.
  • Integrating Continuous Strategizing into Product Management: By weaving these five activities into the product management workflow, teams can ensure their strategy and roadmap remain agile and responsive to the ever-changing market dynamics. This ongoing process of review and adaptation is crucial for keeping the product aligned with evolving customer needs and emerging opportunities. To effectively incorporate continuous strategizing, product leaders should allocate dedicated timeat least half a day per week — to ensure these activities are consistently executed. Additionally, scheduling regular strategy and roadmap review meetings (roughly quarterly) with key stakeholders and development team members can help maintain alignment and secure buy-in for necessary adjustments.

Fixed vs. Continous Product Strategizing

The key differences between the fixed product strategizing approach and the continuous product strategizing approach. These two distinct approaches to developing a product strategy play complementary roles in ensuring a product remains relevant and competitive over time.
Comparing Fixed and Continuous Product Strategizing — The key differences between the fixed product strategizing approach and the continuous product strategizing approach. These two distinct approaches to developing a product strategy play complementary roles in ensuring a product remains relevant and competitive over time.

In essence, the key differences between fixed product strategizing and continuous product strategizing are:

  • Purpose and Timing: Fixed Strategizing: This approach is used when developing a brand-new product or making significant changes to an existing one. It establishes the initial foundation and direction for the product. Continuous Strategizing: This is an ongoing process that occurs throughout the product’s lifecycle to adapt the strategy and roadmap in response to changing market conditions, customer needs, and competitive landscape.
  • Scope and Outcomes: Fixed Strategizing: This phase results in a validated product strategy, an actionable roadmap, and an initial product backlog. It lays the groundwork for product development efforts. Continuous Strategizing: This workflow involves regularly monitoring performance, market trends, competition, internal developments, and engaging with users/customers. The insights gathered inform ongoing adaptations to the product strategy and roadmap.
  • Approach and Cadence: Fixed Strategizing: This is a focused, time-boxed effort (e.g., 1 month) to create the initial strategic plans before development begins. Continuous Strategizing: This is an ongoing, iterative process with dedicated time allocated (e.g., half a day per week) and regular review meetings (e.g., quarterly) to adapt the strategy.
  • Overlap with Development: Fixed Strategizing: The discovery/strategizing and development phases overlap, allowing for early risk mitigation and a smoother transition. Continuous Strategizing: This workflow is integrated with the tactical product development work, informing and being informed by the insights gained from implementation.

In summary, fixed strategizing establishes the initial strategic foundation, while continuous strategizing maintains the relevance and adaptability of the product strategy and roadmap over time. The two approaches work together to enable effective product development and delivery.

Recommendations for Effective Strategic Planning

To ensure your strategic efforts are successful, consider the following recommendations:

  • Allocate Dedicated Time for Continuous Strategizing: Effective strategic planning is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. It’s crucial to allocate dedicated time for continuous strategizing, with a general guideline of at least half a day per week. Some product leaders prefer to dedicate an hour per day, while others opt for a more concentrated session once or twice a week. The amount of time required will depend on the level of uncertainty and change present in the product’s lifecycle. Newer, more dynamic products typically demand a higher strategizing effort than mature, stable offerings.
  • Schedule Regular Strategy and Roadmap Reviews: In addition to the weekly strategizing time, it’s important to schedule regular, collaborative strategy and roadmap review meetings, roughly once per quarter. These sessions provide an opportunity to step back, consider longer-term trends, and make necessary adjustments to the strategic direction. Inviting key stakeholders and development team members to these reviews is crucial. By leveraging the collective expertise of the group, you can maintain alignment, secure buy-in for changes, and ensure the strategy and roadmap remain responsive to evolving market conditions and customer needs.
  • Avoid Distractions and Maintain Focus: As the person in charge of the product, it’s easy for your workload to become overwhelming, making it challenging to prioritize strategic planning. To combat this, it’s essential to avoid taking on tasks outside your core product management responsibilities, such as Scrum Master duties. Additionally, resist the temptation to constantly task-switch. Instead, focus on one thing at a time, allowing yourself the necessary mental space to fully engage with the strategic work. Complementing this focused approach with regular breaks can help maintain productivity and prevent burnout.
  • Delegate and Share the Workload: To free up time for strategic planning, be proactive in delegating and sharing tasks with the development team. For example, the team members may be able to handle certain product backlog refinement activities on their own, allowing you to dedicate more attention to the strategic aspects of the role. This disciplined yet adaptable process enables the delivery of offerings that truly resonate with customers and drive sustainable business success.

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Nima Torabi
Beyond the Build

Product Leader | Strategist | Tech Enthusiast | INSEADer --> Let's connect: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ntorab/