It is so easy to get distracted by the latest and greatest shiny new toy. It is too easy for an organization to build a product strategy based on gut feel, rather than researched and validated market needs. Just because you can build it, it does not mean you should. It sounds fundamental, and it is, but a lot of product organizations completely miss the plot.
Designing a product strategy without assessing the market needs is a recipe for disaster. If you build it, they might not come! As the market needs rapidly change with what is happening in the world today, what you had planned to build in the next 12-18 months is more than likely no longer applicable. Are you actively asking and listening to what your market needs, and is your product’s value aligned with the people that will buy it?
The ability to pivot and alter your strategy to stay aligned with the market is critical. Strategy assessments with industry analysts, or even the buyers themselves, can be an invaluable exercise. If you are not doing this now, make this a common practice within your team.
Take the Ford Motor Company as an example. The company’s success was firmly planted by the introduction of the Model T car and the invention of a moving assembly line from 1908-1914. Over 70+ years, the company experienced huge success in the US and around the world. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the company began expanding its reach into other markets/brands (Hertz Rental, Kwik Fit, Speedy Europe, Pitstop) which did not improve their market presence or financial credibility. It had the opposite effect.
Ford’s historical success was no longer leveraged and was being overshadowed by the idea that focusing on products outside of their core competency would make them successful. Fortunately, by the early 2000s, Ford recognized that straying from their core vision & strength did not improve their position, returned to the basics, and reclaimed their position in the market.
You must be ready to act quickly when a customer needs a solution. Technology usage in the enterprise is growing exponentially and if you plan to dip your toe in this space, you had better be prepared to keep up. Customers now have a choice, and new, innovative concepts are hitting the market at a rate that has not been seen before. Therefore, it is important to focus on things that you specialize in and concentrate on meeting those customer needs.
You can build a great product strategy, but without buy-in from all stakeholders, the chances of successfully delivering on it are slim. Those stakeholders, the executive leadership through to the deployment team, will help to push your new products into production. It is easy to overlook the teams that do the smallest, but most important, tasks. Helping everyone involved to understand how their work fits into the bigger picture is central to bringing a successful product to market.
It is important that anyone responsible for delivering your strategy to see and hear from you often. It reminds them that you are invested in their success, as much as you are in the strategy they are delivering. Try not to be a ‘set it and forget it’ type of product manager. It is crucial to communicate, up and down, regularly. Successful product managers remind their entire organizations of their product strategy regularly. Providing updates on major milestones that have been met, or highlighting roadblocks that you’ve cleared successfully, can motivate your team. Remember not to dwell on problems; fix them, learn from them, and move on.
Finally, one of the easiest things to do is recognize and celebrate success. I would encourage you to make this a weekly common practice. The momentum and credibility that you can gain with a team from simply saying ‘thank you’ can be monumental.
The post COVID19 world gives you a reset opportunity. Take the time to assess your strategy and roadmaps. Use industry experts (pssst…they are often not in-house) to validate your vision and path forward. Do not be afraid to reset your team and ensure they are focusing on their role. Stop being afraid to make commitments. Be smart about what you commit to and align everyone to deliver and create successful new products that your customers crave.