Product Strategy

The product strategy will define the role that the product plays in the company’s portfolio and which business objectives it helps the company achieve.

Russell McGuire
Jul 30 · 3 min read

Product strategy can refer to any of three types of strategies:

Note that when I say “product” I really mean whatever it is that you sell to your customer, whether that be a physical product, a digital deliverable, or a service.

All three of these types of strategy are important, but for this article I’m going to focus on the third type of product strategy — the lifecycle strategy. Each product will have its own strategy. As with any aspect of the business, the product strategy has to align with the higher level strategies in the business.

In previous articles I’ve discussed how the way startups are launched has fundamentally changed in the past couple of decades due to the introduction of the Lean Startup methodology. Similarly, many product development organizations have adopted new approaches. Software development in particular has moved to Agile methodologies which makes the development of new capabilities iterative, incremental, and evolutionary. Agile development is much more collaborative with key stakeholders (e.g., customers) and delivers new releases much more frequently than traditional so-called “waterfall” methodologies. These changes have caused some product organizations to abandon product strategies. I think that is a big mistake since a sound strategy can actually enable the rapid decision making that is foundational to agile methodologies.

The product strategy will define the role that the product plays in the company’s portfolio and which business objectives it helps the company achieve.

Scope: A single product or product line
Key Stakeholders: Business management, Product line management, Developers, Internal and external customers
Decisions Involved: Product mission/vision, Business-oriented objectives
Example Tools/Approaches: Product Roadmap
Decisions Enabled: Development prioritization and resourcing

Product Roadmap

In the book Product Roadmaps Relaunched¹, C. Todd Lombardo, Bruce McCarthy, Evan Ryan, and Michael Connors identify what a product roadmap should do:

I think that what they’ve defined as a (relaunched) product roadmap is a pretty good model for a product strategy. They identify 5 primary components of a roadmap:

Product roadmaps can take many forms to fit the culture, style, and needs of the organization, as long as they present the key elements required for an effective product strategy.

Altimeter Software’s Product Roadmap

To give a sense for what a product roadmap might look like, I thought it would be helpful to share the one we developed for Altimeter Software.

Altimeter Software, LLC was formed in April 2016 as a spin-out from Oklahoma Christian University. The university had developed a mobile app and cloud software to engage students in on-campus and community activities. The business was launched by a group of students, staff, and a recent graduate to help other universities leverage the capability for a wide array of applications including campus engagement, community service, and fan loyalty. To meet these broader applications, the software was redesigned and rewritten, with a variety of new features slated for development.

The product roadmap below gives a sense for how the product strategy for the Altimeter mobile app was captured and expressed in the early stages of the company’s development:

Image for post
Image for post

Sources:

¹Lombardo, C. Todd, Bruce McCarthy, Evan Ryan, and Michael Connors,. Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction while Embracing Uncertainty. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, 2018.

ClearPurpose

Tales and Tools for Sound Strategies

Russell McGuire

Written by

Strategist, Entrepreneur, Executive, Advisor, Mentor, Inventor, Innovator, Visionary, Author, Writer, Blogger, Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Christian

ClearPurpose

Through ClearPurpose, we share our experience, tools, and methodologies to approach strategy development with discipline and structure, making it easier to achieve clarity, gain consensus, and communicate coherently.

Russell McGuire

Written by

Strategist, Entrepreneur, Executive, Advisor, Mentor, Inventor, Innovator, Visionary, Author, Writer, Blogger, Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Christian

ClearPurpose

Through ClearPurpose, we share our experience, tools, and methodologies to approach strategy development with discipline and structure, making it easier to achieve clarity, gain consensus, and communicate coherently.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store