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How do you plan your product strategy?

I've enjoyed writing down my thoughts and my entire product story as one big chunk of text before planning what features should come and the roadmap. It helps me to get an understanding of the things that are important. I've noticed that entrepreneurs and product managers have their own unique way of planning and organizing their work - right from paper and checklists, to visual boards.

It would be interesting to see how each of us think and plan our daily work, and probably learn from each other's best practices. Share with us on what tools you use among your team, how you use those tools, how you communicate your thought process to your team members, and how you manage your personal tasks and todo's?

If you think it'd be fun for you to share your workflow and learn, please feel free type your workflow.

11 Replies

John Fitch
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John Fitch Advisor
Systems Engineering & Decision Management Consultant, ESEP
Vikash,
We plan our products as a set of explicit decisions (e.g. Product Concept, Use Cases, Value Proposition, User Experience, Feature Set, Technology for Function X, User Interface, Platform) based on a proven decision pattern. The critical decisions can be scored out formally against criteria, but for most we just plug in our favorite answer and capture a brief rationale paragraph. We use our own SaaS tool (Decision Driven Solutions Framework) to manage these decisions and also "put them to time" as a roadmap.

This takes a little more effort than text stories and hand-drawn roadmaps, but it is pretty quick when you have a good decision pattern to frame the problem. And it produces a living model that can guide your experiments and help you pivot quickly as you learn.
John Nodson
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John Nodson Entrepreneur
Financial Leadership Development Internship at AT&T
From your original concept drawing and outline your have your product idea. From there I have a couple of simple steps that I like to take.
1) Target market feedback. This can be in the form of sitting down with a couple of key customers over drinks to blasting out a Qualtrics survey.
2) Strip down/beef up the idea to match the target market place and what is a feasible roll out given the time, money, and manufacturing capability.
3) Prototype and testing.
4) A last check to ensure the market feasibility is still there.


There are some places that prototype first and bring the prototype on tour when gaining market feedback. That is extremely powerful and if you are in a situation where you can do that I highly recommend it. However, that's not always the case. You may also go through several iterations of 1-3. In addition, other pre-production prototypes may be made. These check for manufacturing techniques, costs, and serve to flush out other potential problems.

This is the typical workflow that I utilize when bringing a product to market.
Vikash Koushik
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Vikash Koushik Entrepreneur
Viral Microbe at germ.io
This model sounds really interesting, John Fitch. I'm now curious to understand this model better. How do you communicate your decisions to your team members and manage your personal todo's? Do you have some kind of an internal tool for this? I personally love using Slack for communication purposes and I use Todoist to maintain my personal tasks.
John Fitch
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John Fitch Advisor
Systems Engineering & Decision Management Consultant, ESEP
Our framework has multiple tools that support the handoff/traceability between decisions and their consequences. Every alternative can have multiple child "Implementation Tasks" that represent the work it will take to turn the concept into something tangible. Those can be traced into a more formal Work Breakdown Structure and visualized as part of the roadmap.

Our goal is to maintain full decision-to-everything-else traceability so that when a decision is revisited based new market or technology information, the ripple effect on other decisions can be efficiently understood and quickly communicated to members of the team.

All team members get appropriate access rights to any data and can post discussions/comments against any information. This obviously helps distributed teams collaborate together around the thinking (decisions) that create the value in each product. If you get the thinking right, the rest of the execution is a lot easier. If you focus on execution before you've done great thinking, then your execution is likely to lead nowhere good.

I'm happy to provide a demo if desired.
John Nodson
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John Nodson Entrepreneur
Financial Leadership Development Internship at AT&T
Vikash,

It depends on the build out of the team. The entire team should be involved in this process. In my experience the lead design team should be no more than about 5-6 people. From this each person might represent a much larger group (e.g. manufacturing, sales, etc.). There are a lot of vary fancy tools for managing a team. Some of the tools save a lot of time. The three key things I have found as a core for any product development are:
1) regular meetings (weekly if not more frequently),
2) gantt charts - make sure everyone knows their individual pieces, when they are due, and where they stand,
3) a communal worksheet (data source) with full details of the different pieces of the project, whats needed, and who is responsible.

Again, there are a lot of other pieces and tools that are used for different types of projects. If you have a tool that works great for communication outside of meetings then use it. A lot of what you should and shouldn't use comes down to what you have at your disposal and what your team is comfortable using.
Neil Licht - HereWeAre
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Want To find-close Business Online without competition Before They Google Search? We solve this problem 1(508)-481-8567

You asked "How do you plan your product strategy"


Letsstart here with a few questions that must be clearly understood and answered first.
  • Do you know and understand the differing target markets that the "product" is intended for, what they and the ideal buyer/user really care about and would spend money for?
  • Do you know precisely that the product will be easily used and deployed by each target market and the folks who will be initiating/using the product?
  • Have you defined how to make the product so it fits all of those criterion.
That's surely a lot more than an engineer/design/build make/release project Consider all of that please

  • Do you know, after understanding all of that, how to differentiate the product v others and build it in so you can, by its features, applications and usability, appeal to that market and get a "WOW-That's me, I need want andwant to buy this now" reaction?
That's also part of the planning process because it too dictates how you approach design/features/usability/build/plan insupport/manuals/end user and sales training, marketing promos, distribution and get the right folks on your team to do each exceedingly well at their part of the plan and its implementation.

Start there first. That's your top down, end result roadmap around which any product design-engineering-build process should be based.

If you and your team don'tfully understand that, know what they are going to make, why, value to the company, value to the end user and have that picture in their head, then don't start any planning/doing until everyone does.

The "why am I doing this" is a very important motivator for every one in the process because they can "see" what their work can really mean.

Without such insights, your expert and skilled teams can't use their expertise to help manage the process, interact with the many different skill focused people and departments needed to be part of the product plan and roll out. Flaws, going off course may not be seen then either because the end result and the why of it all is not clearly ingrained in the product management/development/build/training/release/marketing/sales /support teams as a single vision where each sees its role clearly, buys in and it all "cooperates" so you win big time in the market.

How do you plan your product strategy?


See, it's a lot more than a checklist, if-then chart or project management tool, a clearly lot more than a building a simple "process" you follow isn't it.

Vikash Koushik
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Vikash Koushik Entrepreneur
Viral Microbe at germ.io
Neil,

I couldn't agree more with you on your point about how important it is to first figure out the "Why" and the "Market" before the "How" part. When I'm thinking about these basic (yet very important) questions, I usually note 'em down on my notes app and start jotting down points for each of these questions as and when I come up with points. Later on I pick each one of them and try to make sure that they're valid by doing some research online and talking to experts. Sometimes they include tasks which I have on a separate tool like I previously mentioned.

I find this process to work efficiently for me as I can concentrate on thing at a time. My only problem I have is because of the number of tools that I use. I have too many things at different places causing confusion. Is this something that you also face when you're thinking of the high level questions?
John Fitch
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John Fitch Advisor
Systems Engineering & Decision Management Consultant, ESEP
Vikash,
One of the reasons we created a decision framework with pattern logic was to help folks avoid 2 of the problems that you mentioned:
1) You're jotting down answers to questions as they come to mind, rather than as part of a pattern. Your chance of overlooking a critical question (decision that demands an answer/solution) is very high. People tend to work on the decisions they know or enjoy, not necessarily those that are important to the current state of your startup/project. A decision pattern helps you be proactive and focus your brainpower and resources on the most important decisions, while seeing the big picture of other yet-to-be-made choices that you will inevitably face.
2) Key bits of knowledge scattered among many non-integrated tools. Our framework is designed as a one-stop-shop for capturing stakeholder needs (Voice of the Customer), product requirements, use cases, product architecture, decisions (include risks/opportunities and consequences), testing and roadmaps. That avoids lots of non-value-added cutting/pasting of data between point tools, the swivel-chair interface problem.
The third benefit of a framework is the "learn once, use everywhere" efficiency of a common user interface in which common features such as access rights, discussions, baselining, traceability reports, views, linking, navigation, etc. are the same across all tools. That helps you scale the use of the tool suite as your team grows without having to create lots of additional tool user guides and manual integration processes. There's a huge hidden cost in all that clutter which takes away from time focused on great thinking.
John Nodson
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John Nodson Entrepreneur
Financial Leadership Development Internship at AT&T
Vikash,

You may want to look at Six Sigma for Design. It is a general process to go through and is very similar to what John Fitch is describing. It is not so much a software package as a decision map methodology to aid in the design process.
Surinder Singh
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Surinder Singh Entrepreneur
Produce Exceptional Software
@JohnFitch,

Took a look at the Decision Driven Solution Framework (DDSF) and really like what you have there. Great work.

Can I read up more about the DDSF or is this the only reference you have to it.
https://decisiondriven.wordpress.com/decision-driven-solutions-framework/

Surinder
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