In a blog published earlier this week, my colleague Sashikanth outlined the need for aligning the organization with the lifecycle of a product, and has elaborated on how the structure, and people vary at different phases. In a similar manner, product management will also vary according to the product lifecycle phase. In this blog, I aim to make a case that product strategy and lifecycle considerations must be the primary drivers for roadmap management.
Start-up phase: Disrupt with an innovative Product 1.0
In the start-up phase, as the product evolves from the ideation stage to development and an alpha/beta release, very often the focus is on differentiating and bringing attention. Largely driven by the vision and thought leadership of the founder/entrepreneur at this stage, the product starts to take shape with focus on delivering the needed impact. Remember that the biggest strengths one has at this stage is their domain expertise, unique insights into the customer problem, and the contours of the solution.
The following elements are a part of the initial product strategy during the start-up phase:
- Focus on who, what, why, and how – who are your target customers, what is their pain point that you will solve, why do they need your solution, and how are you going to solve it.
- Identify the core set of features and functionality that are a must to make your initial solution workable, and make them a part of your Product 1.0.
- Don’t fall into the trap of trying to solve too many customer pain points in one go, allow for opportunistic evolution. The goal should be to try and leverage first mover’s advantage, by launching an MVP/ETP (Minimally Viable/Earliest testable product).
- Seek and set a path to validate your basic business case and Product 1.0 by early adaptors and investors, prior to committing people and resources for a full build out.
Growth phase: Expand solution and customer footprint
At this phase you are well past the Product 1.0 stage,you would have validated your primary business case and have a green light for a full build out. This is also the stage when the founder/entrepreneur should start ceding control and have a full-fledged Product Manager in place who can bring in product management best practices. At this stage, the product strategy and roadmap should:
- Have a short/medium-term product roadmap focused on stabilizing the initial product, expanding the solution footprint and making it as complete as possible, and establishing thought leadership in your domain.
- Prioritize what has to be built based on discovery of what works.
- Aim to gain market credibility, expand customer footprint, and start revenue generation.
- Have a horizontal and vertical focus for the solution.
- Develop a unified product approach and ensure to not fall into the trap of having multiple customized solutions.
- Continue to focus on differentiation.
Enterprise phase: Build a portfolio of products
At this phase, you have established your market presence with a loyal base of satisfied customers, with steady streams of revenue. During this stage, product strategy and roadmap must be driven by a cross-functional Product Management Body (PMB), which should focus on:
- Integration with 3rd party products to offer a holistic solution to the customer.
- Ensuring solution completeness, considering the solution continuum that increases overall value.
- Building a portfolio of complementing products that complete the solution and enable growth in market share.
- Ensuring the non-functional aspects of the product such as Usability, Performance, Security, and Scalability continue to get their full share of attention.
- Having a well-developed roadmap in sync with customer and market needs – perhaps aligned with customer or user bodies.
- Building a service portfolio to complement the core solution.
- Exploring new delivery models.
Harvest phase: Benefit from a portfolio of solutions
At this phase, you are recognized as a market leader reaping the benefits of years of hard work with significant and steady streams of revenue. You must focus on:
- Localization and customization for expanding the geographic footprint.
- Strategy and roadmap for building and supporting a portfolio of solutions for diverse domains and markets.
- Leveraging your financial strength to identify and invest in cutting-edge technologies and new & innovative product lines.
- Demonstrate the desire to be the champion for the industry to adopt new technology and business standards, while also being part of developing and standardizing best practices in the specific domain.
Re-invent phase: Transform and re-innovate
Biggest risk at this stage is becoming too comfortable. Younger, and more nimble rivals will be seeking to dislodge you with disruptive technologies and products. To avoid becoming a dinosaur and stay relevant, you must have a:
- Strategic focus on innovation and reinvention.
- Re-focus to offset natural decline.
- Strategy to support legacy solutions as you transform and launch new, innovative products.
- Evaluate and experiment with disruptive modes of solving customers’ business challenges.
The key to sustained market dominance is building and managing intellectual property. Organizations that have a laser sharp focus on ensuring that the IP generated in various interactions with diverse stakeholders is constantly analyzed, and improved, always lead and succeed.
Continuous Innovation is the key to ensuring that an organization is positioned to leverage the abundance of opportunities in the current global marketplace. The price of complacency is obsolescence.
Strategic approach to product roadmap management is not only essential for continued success, but also is critical for survival and relevance.