Foundation and gathering inputs
Firstly, decide whether the digital product strategy is something you want to handle entirely in-house or if you should seek input from a digital product design agency to guide the process, or even outsource it altogether. If you choose an in-house approach, ensure you assemble a team with a broad range of subject matter expertise and backgrounds. The ability to envision features that align with customer needs is just as crucial as the capability to execute those features.
Next, take a step back and develop a comprehensive view of the market:
Who is currently operating in your product space?
Have there been any new entrants since your last assessment?
Have any competitor products undergone major updates?
In what direction is the market heading? Is it in a growth stage, or is it reaching maturity?
Are there any cutting-edge technological innovations that could enable you to bring something disruptive to the market?
Could technological changes quickly disrupt the plans you are putting in motion?
With this groundwork, you have now set the stage to begin building the product strategy guide.
Uncovering customer needs
Product success is all about the customer – and it’s all about building empathy. Gather information about your customer’s needs, wants, challenges and aspirations. Most importantly, identify the most critical problems to solve and make informed decisions about how to solve these problems with matching product features. One way to achieve this is by creating personas that represent different segments of your target market which adds depth to your understanding of your customers and helps keep customers front and centre as you build features revolving around personas. That said, you can’t solve every customer's need or want; it won’t be cost-effective. To prioritise your customers' needs, you should consider the feasibility of developing a feature, the cost of developing the feature vs. the potential profit and get feedback from customers.
While the significance of understanding customer needs has occasionally taken a backseat in recent years, 2024 is poised to mark a resurgence in the importance of customer research. In addition to creating personas, incorporating other tools like empathy maps, journey maps and experience maps is indispensable in comprehensively gaining nuanced insights into the user journeys and overall experiences.
Defining your product roadmap
Now it’s time to look towards execution. Your roadmap provides details about direction and progress – aligning objectives, features, and so on with a realistic timeline for product development, ensuring everyone is working towards the same goals.
A well-crafted product roadmap establishes a product vision by wrapping up prior discoveries, and expanding into:
Features and requirements: These are the specific functionalities and characteristics that the product must have to achieve its vision. They are derived from user research, competitive analysis and other sources of insight.
Technology stack: Be sure to include software, programming languages, frameworks, and tools for both frontend (user interface and experience) and backend (server, database, and application logic).
Goals: Think about SMART product goals — goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It's important to define actionable metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that are tied to your product's goals.
KPIs: Measure your progress in meeting your objectives. For instance, paid subscription apps might focus on the number of new subscriptions per month, monthly active subscribers, and the number of unsubscribed users.
Timeline: Outline a realistic development timeline for implementing features and requirements. It is important to be flexible and adjust the timeline as needed to accommodate changing circumstances.
Managing expectations is a core part of the product roadmap because team members should know what’s expected – and stakeholders should know when to be patient. The roadmap should clearly communicate the product's direction and progress, making it easy for everyone involved to understand what will be delivered and when. Regular updates and revisions to the roadmap help keep expectations aligned and ensure that the product remains on track to achieve its goals.
Achieving alignment and buy-in
Now that vision, strategy, and roadmap are committed to paper, you need to go back to your stakeholders to obtain buy-in because progress (and support for when the going gets tough) depends on everyone being on the same page. If you want ongoing support from key team members, the C-level, and investors, you need to ensure that they understand the goals and objectives of the product and fully support what you’re trying to accomplish. Keep the following tips in mind:
Be clear about the goals of the digital product strategy and what you hope to achieve by engaging stakeholders.
Identify the key stakeholders who should be involved in the review. These are the people who have a vested interest in the success of the product and who can provide valuable feedback.
Prepare a clear and concise agenda for the review. This will help to ensure that the discussion is focused and productive.
Be open to feedback and be willing to make changes to the product strategy based on the feedback you receive.
Follow up after the review to ensure that the feedback is being implemented and that stakeholders are kept informed of the progress of the product.
Overall, stakeholder alignment and buy-in are essential for executing, but there’s another key aspect to stakeholder engagement. Going for alignment with stakeholders is also a terrific opportunity to get their expert input, and to help you identify potential risks and challenges that may need to be addressed.
Prototyping + MVP launch
Once you’ve adjusted your digital product strategy guide with the input and advice you received from stakeholders, you can start to create a prototype that reflects your product strategy. This initial version should include the core features and design elements necessary to demonstrate the product's value proposition and functionality. Once that’s ready, follow this process:
Test and evaluate: Once the prototype is ready, test it with potential users to evaluate its performance and gather feedback. This helps you identify areas where the prototype may require adjustments or improvements.
Iterate and adjust: Based on the feedback received, iterate on the prototype by making necessary changes to refine the product. This process may involve multiple iterations to achieve a product that better fits the market's needs.
Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP): After iterating and refining your prototype, develop an MVP that includes the essential features and functionality required for users to test and experience the product. The MVP should be a viable version of your product that can be tested in the market even though it’s not the final product.
Collect user feedback: Use metrics tools to track user interactions, identify obstacles, and gather Voice of the Customer (VoC) feedback. This information will help you understand user needs and expectations and improve the MVP accordingly.
These steps transform your product strategy into a working prototype and MVP, allowing you to iteratively improve your product based on user feedback and market needs – getting a ready fit for the market.