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Navigating the Path to Success:
How to Build an Actionable Product Strategy?

By Nilesh Dalvi – Senior Manager Product Management at Adobe

Product managers are the ones responsible for shaping the direction of a product, ensuring that the product aligns with the needs and requirements of both the business and the customers. In order to achieve this, a well-defined product strategy is essential. It serves as a roadmap, guiding your decisions and actions to bring your product vision to life.

This particular blog will dive deep into the world of product strategy, exploring its components, understanding how it fits within the larger business context, the reasons behind the failure of product strategies, and the importance of actionable product strategies. So, let’s embark on this journey with unraveling the intricacies of product strategy.

Key Takeaways:
  • A strong product strategy requires a clear vision, aligned with business goals, and a deep understanding of customer needs and the competitive landscape.
  • Making informed choices and prioritizing impactful opportunities are crucial in product strategy to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Product strategy must align with the broader strategic context of the organization and support overarching business objectives.
  • Common reasons for product strategy failure include a lack of clear goals, failure to create differentiation, reluctance to make data-informed decisions, and ineffective communication and collaboration.
  • An actionable product strategy includes clear metrics, targets, and timelines, and focuses on strategic alignment, insights, user delight, differentiation, and quick decision-making.
In this article
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    Intricacies of Product Strategy

    Intricacies of product strategy are essential for creating a roadmap that aligns with business goals, meets customer needs, and drives innovation. Let’s explore the complexities involved in crafting an effective product strategy.

    1. Understanding Vision and Goals: A strong product strategy begins with a clear vision, outlining the growth and success you are expecting for your product in the future. For instance, envisioning your product as the most preferred choice. Furthermore, in order to bridge the gap between the current state of your product and the vision, you must have both the business and product goals set. These goals help you measure your progress and steer you toward the desired state. 
    2. Insights and Decision-Making: You need valuable insights into your customer’s needs and the competitive landscape to craft an effective product strategy. Customer interviews and competitive analysis act as valuable tools to gain these insights. By identifying the pain points and areas of improvement, you can make informed decisions about which opportunities to pursue. For instance, focusing on timeliness, convenience, and experience in the context of base camp travel.
    3. Making Choices and Taking Action: Once you have gathered insights, it’s time to make choices and take action. These choices involve selecting the most impactful opportunities to address the identified problems. However, it’s important to note that you cannot pursue all options due to constraints. Decisions must be made to prioritize initiatives that will have the maximum impact on achieving the desired state.
    4. Aligning with Strategic Context: Product strategy does not exist in isolation; it must align with the broader strategic context of the organization. This context includes the company’s vision, values, and overall business strategy. Strategic context ensures that your product strategy is in harmony with the organization’s goals and aligns with its brand equity. It ensures that your decisions and actions are consistent with the company’s ethos.
    5. Product Strategy within the Business Pyramid: Product strategy sits within the larger framework of business strategy. In a large organization, you have a corporate strategy, business strategy, product portfolio strategy, and functional strategy. Product strategy aligns with the product portfolio strategy, which, in turn, aligns with the business strategy. This hierarchical structure ensures that the product strategy supports the overarching business objectives.

    Now that we have highlighted the complexities related to product strategy, let’s delve into the key reasons for the failure of product strategies:

    Key Reasons Leading to Product Failure

    Product strategies might fail for several reasons, listing below a few of the common reasons that might result in the failure of product strategies.

    1. Ignorance of the need or underestimating the importance of a product strategy: Many companies fail to understand the value and significance of developing a well-defined product strategy. They may confuse it with a roadmap or a set of goals, leading to ineffective strategies. 
    2. Lack of clear product or business goals: Without clear goals, companies often create features and capabilities without actually considering their impact on the overall product or business objectives. 
    3. Solving problems that don’t create delight or differentiation: Merely satisfying basic needs without offering unique value or differentiation can lead to a lack of customer interest and failed products. 
    4. Reluctance to make data-informed decisions and prioritize top priorities: Companies hesitating to base their product strategy on data and instead relying on assumptions or personal opinions often make poor decisions. Ignoring or misinterpreting market research, user feedback, and data analytics can lead to misguided product strategies that fail to resonate with the target audience.
    5. Lack of customer-centricity: Product strategies not prioritizing the needs, preferences, and pain points of the target customers are likely to miss the mark. Failing to understand the target market and its evolving demands can result in products that are out of touch and fail to gain traction.
    6. Ineffective communication and collaboration Product strategy requires effective communication and collaboration among cross-functional teams. If there is a lack of alignment between product management, marketing, engineering, and other departments, it can lead to disjointed efforts and a lack of coherence in the product strategy.
    7. Inability to adapt to changing market dynamics: Markets are constantly evolving, and successful product strategies require agility and adaptability. Failing to monitor and respond to market trends, emerging technologies, and competitive landscape can leave a product strategy outdated and irrelevant.
    8. Poor execution and lack of accountability:Even with a well-defined product strategy, if the execution is flawed or there is a lack of accountability within the organization, the product will likely fail. Failure to allocate resources effectively, set clear timelines, and hold teams accountable for their responsibilities can undermine even the most promising product strategy.

    What is Actionable Product Strategy?

    It means having clear metrics, targets, and timelines. From the outset, you should have a clear understanding of what it means to achieve the desired outcomes for your business and product. This includes setting specific metrics, establishing targets, and defining the timelines within which you aim to reach those targets.

    The effectiveness of an actionable product strategy lies in its ability to provide clarity, broaden perspectives, ensure strategic alignment, generate insights, make informed trade-offs, avoid singular goal focus, align stakeholders, maximize user delight, maintain sustainable differentiation, maintain an action-focused mindset, and enable quick decision-making.

    Importance of Actionable Product Strategy

    Creating an actionable product strategy is crucial for ensuring that your product is moving toward your vision and achieving business goals. While many resources, such as books and articles, discuss strategies like the product strategy canvas, these may not provide a clear indication of whether you’re on the right track. Hence advocating for an actionable product strategy that addresses this need is vital to reduce uncertainty.

    How to Make an Actionable Product Strategy?

    Let’s explore the factors that might help in developing an actionable

    1. Contributions: Contributions play a vital role in actionable product strategies. It’s not enough to have high-level goals; you need to break them down and assess the contribution of individual actions toward those goals. By understanding how each action contributes, you can eliminate initiatives that won’t help you reach your goals and prioritize the ones that have the maximum impact and probability of success.
    2. The Course of Action:  Your actionable product strategy should outline the specific actions or initiatives you’ll undertake to solve identified complexities. These actions are the product initiatives aimed at addressing the decisions made earlier. Remember that these actions don’t prescribe implementation details but rather provide high-level guidance on the product initiatives needed.
    3. Validation and Measurement: You must validate hypotheses, research assumptions, and mitigate risks associated with your strategy to reduce uncertainty. Once your strategy is in motion, continuous measurement and evaluation are necessary to ensure you’re on track to achieve your goals. If deviations occur, you can evaluate the strategy, gain insights, identify new opportunities, and make adjustments to keep moving toward your product and business goals.

    About the Author

    Nilesh Dalvi – Senior Manager Product Management at Adobe

    Nilesh is a passionate student of product sciences and an impact-driven product strategist cum leader with a 14 years track record in building, launching and scaling physical and digital products across various business models and stages of the product life cycle.

    He currently works in a senior product management role at Adobe India solving interesting challenges in the space of digital marketing impacting millions of marketers.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    A product strategy is a well-defined roadmap that guides the decisions and actions of product managers to align a product with the needs of the business and customers.

    A product strategy is crucial because it helps ensure that a product is moving toward its vision and achieving business goals.

    It helps one make informed decisions, prioritize effectively, and adapt to changing market dynamics.

    To make an actionable product strategy, you need to break down high-level goals into specific contributions, outline the course of action by defining the initiatives needed, and validate and measure the strategy through hypothesis validation, assumption research, risk mitigation, and continuous evaluation.

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