Article

Why Are You Developing That Product?

24 July 2017 | Dan Griffiths | About a 3 minute read
Tags: business, context, Delivery, develop, developer, Digital, engagement, goal, goals, Product, Product Management, product manager, product managers, strategy, tech, technology


Product management is often described as owning the ‘what’ of product development, while delivery teams own the ‘how’. That simplistic view misses a key piece: ‘why’? A key part of the Product Manager’s role is to be the ‘advocate of why’ within the organisation.

 

Strategic Context

Ideally you have a clear vision and strategy for your business that describes where you aspire to be and how you intend to get there. As a Product Manager, you then define your product strategy to achieve those same goals. Many businesses aren’t explicit about their goals or provide a high level goal “generate more revenue” that doesn’t really provide a direction. At AND Digital we recommend establishing a Product Council to set that direction. This is a senior group who agree the product strategy and roadmap and act as senior sponsors for the initiative. Having this provides a clear set of goals the product teams can align to.

 

Align around Outcomes

The last 20 years have seen a steadily increasing focus on customer needs from building intuitive, easy to use products, to thinking about solving valuable problems for our customers. Fundamentally, asking why, is about maintaining focus on the outcomes you are trying to achieve, not just the features you’re delivering.

 

Few organisations suffer from a lack of ideas, usually the challenge is focusing on the ideas that will deliver the greatest value. Use a simple prioritisation model to score your concepts against key criteria such as strategic alignment or risk. Most models rank impact/reach versus effort/risk, others are more about providing the right mix of initiatives – at different scales, levels of innovation or technical complexity. Whichever model you adopt, ensure at least one element of the scoring ties back to strategic goals or themes . If it doesn’t fit with the strategy you shouldn’t be doing it.

 

Building the Product

This is where your careful efforts to focus on outcomes can easily come unstuck. Momentum shifts towards solutions and it’s easy to forget why you’re developing. As Product Manager you need to share business goals, market feedback and results of user testing with your development teams.

 

Use a Goal Based Roadmap

The roadmap is a communication tool. It helps tell the story of how your product will evolve over time. But roadmaps of features are easily treated as a delivery plan and can set challenging expectations with stakeholders and customers. Theme or goal based roadmaps help focus on the reason why, i.e. the goal in next quarter may be to increase engagement, or drive more acquisitions. Leave features off the roadmap altogether. A roadmap built around goals or themes keeps everyone focused on outcomes and ensures features stay secondarily important to the rationale.

 

Wrap-Up

So why are you developing that product? Think about the reason why as a steel thread – a unifying purpose or outcome that runs right through the product development cycle. Done right it should link your organisation’s strategy, product goals and roadmap directly to the initiatives you choose to invest in.

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