Table of Contents
"Strategize: Product Strategy and Product Roadmap Practices for the Digital Age" - Roman Pichler
Notes and Review
I've been following Roman for some time. In general I've found his approach to be useful and practical when it comes to the real world of the Product Owner / Product Management. This latest book adds to the knowledge base with a view of product roadmaps and portfolio management in general. The ideas, as always are useful. And they are structured in this book in such a way as to lead you through the process so that, if you don't have a vision, strategy or roadmap in place, you can start working toward these tools.
My personal view is that this book is a great accompaniment to "Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects" - Johanna Rothman
The books commences (as a lot of these books do) with a definition of a “vision”, a “strategy” and a “roadmap”. The vision describes the ultimate reason for creating the product, the product strategy states how the vision will be realized, and the product roadmap states how the strategy will be implemented. The product backlog contains the details necessary to develop the product as outlined in the roadmap, such as epics, user stories, and other requirements.
“A product strategy is a high-level plan that helps you realize your vision or overarching goal. It explains who the product is for, and why people would want to buy and use it; what the product is, and what makes it stands out; and what the business goals are, and why it is worthwhile for your company to invest in it.”
The book then goes into the development of a “Product Vision Board” consists of the five sections - vision (expressed as a brief vision statement or slogan), target groups (market or market segment, the customers, and the users), needs (the value the product creates for your target group, the problem that the product solves, or the benefit it provides), product (the actual product; it explains what makes your product special and why it stands out) and business goals (desired business benefits—the value the product should create for your company. Examples include opening up a new revenue source, achieving a profitability target, reducing cost, or being able to provide a service or sell another product) sections.
See http://www.romanpichler.com/tools/vision-board/ for sample.
There is an extended version of the Product Vision Board, the Extended Product Vision Board. This adds the concept of the business model (which is inspired by the Business Model Canvas) and provides the following four sections:
- Competitors: describes the strengths and weaknesses of the competition and their products. It uses your insights from performing a competitor analysis and helps ensure that your product stands out.
- Revenue Sources: captures the way your product generates money: for instance, by selling licenses, subscriptions, or online or in-app ads, or by charging for premium features.
- Cost Factors: the cost incurred by developing, marketing, selling, and supporting your product. This includes the cost of acquiring users and customers, purchasing third-party components, and paying for the services and products provided by partners and suppliers.
- Channels: the ways you will contact your users and customers to inform them about your product and to sell and deliver the product. The latter can range from implementing the requirements of an online app store to working with retailers to get some shelf space for a shrink-wrapped product. Consider if the appropriate sales and marketing channels already exist, or if you have to create or acquire them.
Of course, while the output is important, the key part of the process is to get everyone into a room to develop a lot of this as a collaboration. An important note: “Be aware that collaboration requires leadership. As the person in charge of the product, you should be open and collaborative but decisive at the same time.”
Once you have a vision, you will need to establish a strategy. This is best done through a Collaborative Strategy Workshop. Once established it is not set in cement, but rather reviewed on a regular bases. A couple of tools are recommended for this:
- The Strategy Canvas: The horizontal axis of the Strategy Canvas captures the key factors your industry competes on. These factors include product, service, and delivery. The vertical axis describes the degree to which each competitor offers or invests in the factors. To apply the canvas, you first determine the key factors. These are the factors that products within the same category compete on, such as price, features, and design. Then evaluate to what degree your competitors fulfill these factors. This creates the industry value curve. You then assess your own product.
- Kano Model: “looks at two dimensions: the degree to which a feature is provided, shown on the horizontal axis, and the resulting customer satisfaction, depicted on the vertical axis. This allows us to distinguish different feature categories, including basics, performers, and delighters. Basic features are must-haves; without them you typically cannot sell your product. Making phone calls and sending text messages were basic features of the first iPhone, for instance. Performance features lead to a linear increase in satisfaction. They follow the principle “The more, the better.” For example, mobile Internet and a media player were performers of the original iPhone. But performance features are not sufficient to differentiate your product in the marketplace. What you need are delighters. As the name suggests, these features delight or excite customers. The touch screen and the new stylish design were delighters of the first iPhone, for instance.”
If you have an existing product you may be tempted to add an increasing number of features to keep it competitive. Unfortunately, this can lead to an overly complex product that takes a lot of time and money to develop, has a vague value proposition, provides a poor user experience, and is expensive to maintain. The trick is not to blindly add features, A great tool for achieving this is the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create grid (Kim and Mauborgne 2004 - see https://www.blueoceanstrategy.com/tools/errc-grid/). The grid encourages you to identify features that your product does not provide or that it offers to a lesser extent or in an inferior way compared with alternatives. It also helps you identify new and improved features.
One idea that I really liked was the concept of how a customer really experiences our product and the development of a Consumption Map. “Creating a product that addresses a problem or provides a tangible benefit for its customers and users is a big achievement. But even the best product will lead to dissatisfied customers if it is a hassle to evaluate, purchase, install, update, or uninstall it. People may consequently refrain from purchasing and using the product, particularly if they are not tech-loving innovators or visionary early adopters, but part of the mainstream market.”
The map captures the touch points customers and users have with your product and links them together in a chain. In order to create a consumption map for your product, follow these steps. First, determine how people currently interact with your product. Identify the key touch points, such as purchasing the product, installing it, and replacing it. Capture them as links in your chain. “To get the chain right, observe how people employ the product, and analyze the usage data you have; this should result in a consumption map that represents the current state. Analyze the customer experience at each link and determine how people interact with your product and your company. What prevents people from purchasing, using, or updating your product? Where do hiccups and problems occur? What happens, for example, when customers use your product on different devices? Is their experience seamless, or is it fragmented? Where do waiting and delays occur? How long does it take, for instance, until a support request is answered? How satisfied are people with the help they receive? How easy is it to return the product or cancel a subscription and receive a refund? Speak to the customer-service team to understand what the most common customer complaints are, then compare your product’s consumption chain to the competition. Find out where your chain excels and where the competition is better. Finally, create a new, enhanced consumption map. Investigate how you can add value and improve the customer experience at each link. Aim to provide what the customers want—where and when they want it—without wasting people’s time or making it difficult for them. Explore how you can prevent errors and problems from occurring. How can you reduce waiting and delays? How can you make it easier and more convenient for people to evaluate, purchase, install, use, update, and uninstall your product? All touch points have to be right to create a truly great customer experience.”
Once you have a strategy it is recommended that you iteratively test and correct your strategy following an iterative approach along the lines suggested in the book The Lean Startup (Ries 2011). “Start by selecting the biggest risk: the uncertainty that must be addressed now so that you don’t take the product in the wrong direction and experience late failure—that is, figuring out at a late stage that you are building a product that nobody really wants or needs. Next, determine how you can best address the risk—for instance, by observing target users, interviewing customers, or employing a minimum viable product (MVP). Carry out the necessary work and collect the relevant feedback or data. Then analyze the results and use the newly gained insights to decide if you should pivot, persevere, or stop—if you should stick with your strategy, change it, or no longer pursue your vision—and take the appropriate actions accordingly.”
The Product Roadmap provides a strategic high-level plan that describes how your product is likely to develop across several product releases. This is different to a product backlog which is a tactical tool that contains the items necessary to create one or more releases. Employ the roadmap to describe your product’s overall journey and the backlog to capture the details.
Product roadmaps have a couple of characteristics:
- Doesn't guarantee: A product roadmap is not a guarantee; it is a high-level plan that describes the likely growth of your product based on what you currently know. It will be kept up to date, again, based on what you know.
- Doesn't speculate: if you don’t have a valid product strategy available or if you cannot look beyond the first public release. You should not attempt to create a roadmap if you cannot confidently answer who the product is for, why people would want to buy and use it, why they would choose it over a competing offer, if it is feasible to build the product, why it is worthwhile for your business to invest in it, and if it is economically viable to develop and provide the product.
- Includes dependencies: dependencies come in three flavors: dependencies between individual releases of your product, dependencies on people, and dependencies on other products.
As said, good useful book.