How We Crafted a First Year Product Strategy for Ruum by SAP

A good strategy gives yourself and your team focus. It maps out a clear path towards achieving your vision of what you want your product to become. Your vision defines where you’re going — your strategy tells you and your team how to get there.

With all the things you could be doing, with resources and time continually running out, a strategy helps you to decide what to do and — more importantly — what not to do.

In order to make these tradeoffs, your strategy should answer the fundamental questions:

  1. What problem are we solving?
  2. Who are we solving it for?
  3. What should we do / shouldn’t we do?

Let’s look at Ruum’s vision and strategy as an example.

What problem are we solving?

Ruum is Project Management as a Service. Our app turns non project managers into successful project managers.

At Ruum, we’ve seen with many of our customers that most users in the enterprise have become multi-project managers — from customer escalations, HR processes, supply chain incidents, to budget planning — every work stream is in effect a project of its own. Typically these projects live in email, group chat, sheets, todo list or note-taking apps because they are too short lived and spontaneous to merit a full-blown PM solution.

The problem arises when you are dealing with 20 of these projects at the same time — that’s when things slip through the cracks. And this is where Ruum comes in: we’re delivering a PM solution that is as simple as writing an Email, comes with an AI-powered personal project manager, and integrates with all the systems and tools you’re already using.

Learnings and implications
Zeroing in on our problem statement helped us to decide which project management features we want to deliver. And it allowed us to deprioritize others, like free-form collaboration. Sometimes our decisions upset some of our early adopters, but it ultimately led to a tripling of weekly active users.

Who are we solving it for?

We’re building Ruum for all enterprise employees who are managing anywhere between 5 to 20+ projects/opportunities/incidents/campaigns at the same time.

Running 20 projects in parallel can mean loosing balls in the worst case.

Take for example an account executive with a sales cycle of 3+ months. She is pushing between 10 and 30 opportunities in any given quarter. Each one of them is a project in and of itself — with its respective team and deadlines. And each could do with a dedicated project manager to make sure the deal closes on time.

We’ve seen similar situations in procurement, supply chain management, recruiting, finance, and many other business processes currently kicked off or recorded in an SAP back office system.

Learnings and implications
We doubled down on repeating projects connected to business objects rather than singular, long-running, complex projects. This decision had significant implications for our feature priorities (admin panels, dashboards, SSO, etc.), the way we thought about our integrations API, and also changed our go to market strategy. Initially, we were planning to start with SMB & low touch acquisition and then go upmarket, but with a persona coming from mature business systems we shifted to going enterprise first.

What should we do / shouldn’t we do?

Project management and team collaboration is a red ocean; we will not go in and directly compete with the leading products like MS Project, Basecamp, Trello, or Asana. Instead, we will leverage SAP’s strength in finance, procurement, supply chain, HR, etc. and provide a project management view on-top of your existing business processes.

For our users, SAP’s business systems trigger and record many of their projects. But typically the delivery of the work happens in an office suite or other collaboration platforms — all of which are disconnected from the originating business system. Our opportunity is to bridge this gap between the business suite and the office suite to support project success end to end.

To better understand the priorities for achieving project management for everyone connected to your business systems, we broke our strategy down into three pillars: interface, intelligence, and integrations. Below are our dos and don’ts for each of them.

Interface — PM for everybody

Do:

  • build for non-project managers
  • assume 20 projects running in parallel
  • hide advanced PM features by default (costing, dependencies, reporting, …)

Don’t:

  • replace existing collaboration platforms (Email, Slack, WhatsApp)
  • replace existing document/deliverables solutions (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)

Intelligence — A personal project manager, keeping projects on track

Do:

  • collect, group, and prioritize notifications
  • allow users to complete tasks from their preferred channels (Email, SMS, Slack, etc.)

Don’t:

  • ask users to log in to the app unless they or the project benefit from it

Integrations — project management on top of any business process

Do:

  • integrate with SAP’s product portfolio first
  • build a vendor-agnostic integration API
  • use available middleware

Don’t:

  • rely on custom built integrations

Where to go from here

Below are four of my favorite resources that helped us develop our strategy and communicate it more efficiently. Also, make sure to check out Ruum by SAP for free at www.ruumapp.com.

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works — a book by P&G’s former CEO Alan Lafley and his advisor‎ Roger Martin. In the book, the authors share how they lead many of P&Gs more troubled brands to success by applying their framework on “where to play and how to win.”

Getting Product Strategy Right” — a compelling talk by Intercom’s Des Traynor on how he evaluates product strategy for his own company and as an angel investor for others.

Lead, Lead again. Sheryl Sandberg on Masters of Scale — Reid Hoffman interviews Sheryl Sandberg on her leadership principals: As a leader, you have to be as skilled in making plans as you are in breaking them. You cannot repeat your team’s mission and strategy often enough. And you have to be on the lookout for and anticipate processes that might break as you scale.

The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving” — a recommendation from our board member Darren Koch, this book by ex-McKinsey Barbara Minto is still a must read for every new consultant entering the company.