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•Published: Nov 5, 2020
Releasing a new product or feature to market is a big deal. That single event is the culmination of a significant amount of work across every part of your team. With so much riding on that initial product experience, why are 45% of product launches delayed by at least a month, according to a 2019 Gartner survey?
There are a number of specific causes for these delays, but the core driver behind every issue boils down to a lack of product development strategy.
Whether it’s the result of miscommunication on product requirements or just a few missed deadlines, any hiccups can cause issues down the line. The best way to proactively address any issues in your development process is to create a well-defined and highly visible product development strategy.
But creating this strategy is no easy task. There are so many different moving parts that go into building a valuable, engaging product for customers. That’s why we have put together five common issues product development teams face and provided ways to address them. When you understand how to create a winning strategy, you’re setting your team up for success.
1. Your Launch Date Keeps Getting Pushed Back
Taking a new product or feature all the way from idea to release is a complicated process. Creating a well-defined product development strategy, with dedicated milestones and data-backed timelines, keeps your team on track. It’s all about setting a strategic direction for your team that’s time-bound and value-focused.
We all know that the product development process is complex, so your product development strategy needs to clarify team procedures and workflows to ensure that everyone stays on the same page. When each person understands what they’re responsible for—and how it affects other members of the team—you can proactively address any conflict before it cause delays.
Including key milestones in your strategy also helps you keep the team on track by connecting outcomes with specific calendar dates. Whether you’re setting a code-complete date for the back-end processes, or a design review prior to release, this surfaces potential conflicts between key tasks and highlights how each piece of the puzzle comes together to complete the project on time.
Include a release management plan in your strategy. This section will define everything that’s required of your team prior to launch and will document all the work required to move through active development.
Failing to hit your launch date can also be the result of poor requirements and planning, which will cause your team to underestimate the amount of work required to push your new product or feature over the finish line. Your product development strategy needs to be laser-focused on specific outcomes for your business and your team. But that’s not all: lacking solid requirements can also make it harder to understand the product’s value for customers.
2. You Don’t Have Buy-in from the Leadership Team
When you set out to create a new product or feature, you need buy-in from across the organization. If you lack engagement from leadership, that trickles down through the rest of the team. Defining the real-world business value of your upcoming release in a product development strategy bypasses these issues and makes expectations clear across the board.
So use your strategy to document the specific metrics you want to impact upon release. And highlight how those metrics translate to a specific business outcome ( e.g., more revenue or increased customer engagement).
Just make sure you’re sharing the high-level impact of your project early in the strategy. This is called BLUF, or “bottom line up front,” meaning you share the most pertinent information as quickly as possible. This helps you make a clear argument, which is especially important when talking to C-suite members of your team.
Let’s say you’re building out an enterprise-level feature that allows users to define specific permissions for their live chat platform. The goal of the update is to attract more high-value customers that require a certain level of security to utilize your tool, so your BLUF could look something like this:
Updating permissions in our live chat product will help bring in more enterprise customers. These customers have a higher lifetime value (LTV) and more daily active users.
This tells your leadership team the real-world business metrics you’re attempting to change and provides a justification to allocate resources for the project accordingly.
This can be even more impactful if you tie these product metrics to quarterly or yearly business initiatives. If your goal in Q1 of the next year was to increase enterprise accounts by 10%, that’s a great reason to prioritize this feature as a part of your strategy in Q3 or Q4.
Think about it like you’re describing the business justification for solving an existing customer problem. It connects your goals to specific outcomes and helps to focus your team on what’s important.
3. Your Team Doesn’t Understand the Product Idea
Every member of your team, from product and development to marketing and sales, needs to understand why you’re building your new product or feature. Your product development strategy not only connects every project with specific business goals but also highlights how every team member’s contributions come together to accomplish these goals.
This increased visibility into individual team member contributions helps make it clear how everyone contributes value to the project. When so much of the development process spans across numerous teams, you need to find a way to tie everything together.
That’s why it’s important that product development strategy is documented in a central location that’s easily accessible to everyone on the team. The development process takes time, so you need a single source of truth whenever anyone has questions along the way. The best place fo this would be your internal company wiki.
If your team works remotely, you can also pin the product development strategy at the top of a shared Slack channel.
When your team can see the business and customer value of every product they build, it’s easier to execute on individual tasks autonomously. This autonomy also helps you as a product manager because it frees up time to focus on the high-level strategy instead of becoming mired in the details of day-to-day tasks.
4. You Don’t Know How to Prioritize Your Road Map
At any point, your team could be in the process of building, prospecting, or releasing several different products. Whether it’s an update to existing functionality or a brand new feature, it’s important to prioritize the work your team does as efficiently as possible. Otherwise, it’s easy to get bogged down with issues that eventually delay your release.
A great product development strategy helps your team see the potential impact of any given project on your team’s workflow and experience. It highlights dependencies between various tasks and gives you the context you need to prioritize. If you’re not able to see how one person’s work impacts the rest of the team, it’s impossible to release products on time.
That’s why you should always include a a product road map with every strategy.
Feature-driven product road map via Productboard
A clear product road map helps your team visualize high-level strategy milestones on a more personal level because they’re able to see how all of their individual work contributes to overarching company goals.
Your product development strategy needs to document these priorities with the understanding that timelines are always subject to change. This makes clear what everyone is working on and helps your team pivot faster if issues arise. Even with all the planning and preparation that go into building a solid product development strategy, you can’t account for every situation up front.
Think about including these road maps as a way to make it clear to your team that you’ve set a path forward. That helps everyone execute on their work with confidence that the rest of the team is doing so as well.
5. Your Competitors Keep Beating You to Market
If your priorities aren’t correct, you open up the potential for a delayed release. Not only does that cause additional stress for your team, but delays make it easier for competitors to provide value to customers faster, too. A great product development strategy will include market research and competitor analysis. The goal is to provide additional context on the underlying customer drivers and market trends that impact every project.
This research helps you understand where competitors are in their product development life cycle. And that knowledge helps you set priorities and make smarter decisions for your team. You can position your product better, speak to its value in a way customers want to hear, and differentiate every release from your competitor’s offers.
Being the first to market isn’t the same as being the best on the market, showing continual value is what’s important.
Whether you’re creating a new category, or you’re the incumbent in an established market, documenting competitor research in your product development strategy makes it easier to revisit and revise your assumptions when new information comes to light.
As the market changes, customer perception will change alongside it. So your team needs to anchor themselves in an understanding of the value your product provides; otherwise, it’s easy to fall behind. And, while being the first to market isn’t the same thing as being the best on the market, showcasing continual value is important.
Product Development Strategy Is the Key to a Better Experience
The product experience is built on the first few days after release, so your team needs direction to get it right. When you can easily identify and address potential bottlenecks in the product development process before they cause issues for your team, it creates a better overall experience for everyone involved.
Your product development strategy is the driving force behind this process—it helps you surface issues while also acting as a single source of truth for every decision your team needs to make.