Product Strategy

How Product Strategy can help digital to evolve

The role of Product Strategy is to offset complexity by bringing focus throughout the project lifecycle. From establishing goals up front, to fostering decision making and incremental improvement, Product Strategy retains a relentless focus on achieving business objectives.

What is Product Strategy?

Earlier this year I was fortunate to join the team at Inlight in the role of Digital Product Strategist. It’s a role that I’m passionate about being able to speak to and grow and a key step forward for Inlight (one that had been a long time coming).

Now approaching six months, Product Strategy continues to become an established part of our Listen, Think, Make and Evolve framework and I am excited by the way we continue to build momentum in helping our clients succeed. As our newest function continues to grow however, you might be inclined (and entitled) to ask “what is Product Strategy and how can it benefit me?”

What is Product Strategy?

You could spend a lot of time unpacking the ins and outs of Product Strategy; what it means and where it belongs, but to keep things simple, we’ll focus on what it means to us here at Inlight.

Product Strategy at Inlight is about connecting the work we do to a greater goal. We take complex challenges and connect them to business goals, and enable teams to deliver on those goals. In short, Product Strategy is about facilitation.

Whilst many businesses set objectives up front, the complexity of delivery means it can be difficult to maintain visibility and alignment to goals once the rubber hits the road. Equally, it can be just as difficult to know if you are on the right track to achieving your vision.

The role of Product Strategy is to offset that complexity by bringing focus throughout the project lifecycle. From establishing goals up front, to fostering decision making and incremental improvement, Product Strategy retains a relentless focus on achieving business objectives.

Whilst there are many nuances when it comes to executing on Product Strategy, here’s three common questions that are asked of Product Strategy when taking on new challenges.

“Where do I start?”

All digital projects begin for a reason - sometimes that reason is clear, other times less so - with most projects requiring significant cost and effort, Product Strategy at the outset of a project aims to ensure that the reason for starting is a good one.

A common example of early project discussion is a business looking to replatform for a “better user experience”. With ‘CX' and ‘UX' now everyday language for digital teams, a ‘better UX/CX’ has become an easy out for those looking to kick-start a change. The role of Product Strategy is to (tactfully) resist this change in search of a better response.

Good Product Strategy can thrive in the early phases of a project by helping businesses to move away from the trigger for change and draw out the goals of a project in the context of the bigger picture.

What is wrong with the current experience? What is the feedback from your users? How will a change create new opportunities?

By resisting the easy answer and helping businesses to articulate their goals and challenges, product thinking can begin to carve a path towards our outcome (similar to the way in which a promontory is formed). As the edges fall away, value becomes clearer and the tactics that will best enable us to execute on our goals begin to stand tall.

“How do we know we’re on the right track?”

It’s uncommon for a project to go exactly as planned, even those that do will still require trade-offs, so it’s natural to ask somewhere along the way, “are these decisions moving me towards my goal?” The short answer is yes, whether your users love it or hate it, both outcomes provide learning. The detail of course, is a little more unique to the individual circumstance.

In reality this question is actually several smaller questions rolled into one. Do my users like what they’re seeing? Does that promote the behaviour we’ve identified as moving us towards our goal? Did we get that right? Where businesses often struggle is affording the time to be so granular on decision making. Product Strategy can support these moments by helping to validate decisions (for better or worse).

Validation can come in the form of feedback, analytics or other metrics; the key is identifying the right measure to track and understanding how it contributes to the greater goal (hence a well-articulated goal is also important).

By scaffolding the answers to our smaller questions we can increase the confidence that we are climbing closer to our objective, even if the process looks a little different to how we expected.

“What should we do next?”

A combination of the questions above, clarity on decision making requires clarity on goals and a means of validation. With those in place, the role of Product Strategy is to support in prioritising the outcomes that represent the most value in pursuit of our goals (with respect to any constraints).

There are a number of project stages at which this question is relevant, but regardless of when the question is asked, the approach to achieve a response remains the same. Identifying the goals and understanding our path(s) to achieve the outcome, will give us the best inputs to make an informed decision against the constraints and considerations we face.

Informed decisions at this point are not equal to answers but rather, this is where we see hypotheses come into play. Often used in discussion around product development it’s worth remembering that a hypothesis is 'a proposed explanation as a starting point for further investigation.'

Product Strategy supports by maintaining a perspective on value and understanding what incrementally improves our value in respect to our goals. Projects of course are made up of more than one decision and repeatedly making informed decisions at scale is the value of a good governance process and a high-functioning team and if done well, can be the legacy of good Product Strategy.

To chat more about Product Strategy and how we approach it at Inlight or to share your ideas and/or questions, get in touch via LinkedIn or contact us here.

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About the author
Nick Sutcliffe
Digital Product Strategist
Nick Sutcliffe | Digital Product Strategist