Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

A PRD (Product Requirement Document) helps a product manager write a story on how to get from problem -> solution methodically. Often problems can be so big, complex and have ambiguity that it’s hard to know where to start, so a PRD will help you rationally approach the problem and get the support you need to reach an efficient and effective outcome.

It’s important to point out that it’s not necessary to:

  1. Use a PRD for every single problem/idea, normally only for epics/initiatives/features/medium or large-sized items.
  2. Complete the whole document, only fill out bits you need, you may find that you only complete the problem/value and hypothesis parts.
  3. Work on it in a silo. You will achieve a more efficient and effective outcome if you get the rest of the product team (designer and engineers) and stakeholders involved at the beginning in a workshop format so that you can work as one team across the discovery phase.

A good place to create a PRD is in Confluence, so it’s easily accessible across the business allowing colleagues to easily comment remotely. I’ve also used Google Docs previously and copied some of the information into the epic of JIRAs to reinforce the problem we are looking to solve/projected value we are looking to get after to the development team.

The first few PRDs you write you might find it quite slow whilst you work out how to get hold of the qual/quant data, but you soon pick up speed as you become familiar with the key elements of discovery and have the data already accessible at your fingertips.

It would also be helpful for new starters if you add a completed example of a PRD to the top of the PRD template which will help add some context for them. Some PRDs can be quite lengthy if the problem is big, complex and has a lot of ambiguity, so it’s worth adding a table of contents at the top making it easy to navigate through the document.


Including a list of people who are involved:

RoleContact
Product Manager. <tag person/<name>
UX/Design<tag person/<name>
Technical<tag people/<names>
Stakeholders<tag people/<names>
Jira/Design/Helpful Links <tag person/<name>

Problem/Value/Idea

A description of the problem or idea along with projected value if you have this. This is a good chance to spend quality time digging into the problem to build up a business case using qual/quant data.

  • Idea: Supporting Dark Mode in our apps…
  • Problem: Our iOS app is currently a 3* rating and Android app 2*, with the top problems being…
  • Problem: 70% of our customer support queries relate to promotions which cost us £x / month
  • Problem: Our day 1 churn rate is higher than we expect…
  • Problem: We currently release new software iterations monthly, rather than daily…
  • Problem: In the latest customer survey, 10% of respondents report the product being slow and unstable…
  • Problem: 20% of customers don’t feel rewarded for their loyalty
  • Problem: Our total marketing communication engagements have gone down since complying with the new GDPR regulations, making it harder to talk to customers frequently
  • Projected Value: Saving customer support costs by £
  • Projected Value: App rating > 4* resulting in healthier ASO and raking and therefore an increase in organic installs creating 20 new customers a day
  • Projected Value: Day 1 churn rate under 20% resulting in £xx revenue increase
  • Projected Value: New customer conversion rate > 30% resulting in £xx revenue increase

Hypothesis

List out one or more hypotheses you come up with to test out. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with the whole product team (designer and engineers) and stakeholders, not only to compile the list of experiments but also what data you need to learn and what tools you might need to execute the experiments.

  • Providing existing customers with the ability to refer their friends will increase new customers incremental by 10% worth an extra £xx revenue increase
  • Having a stepped registration form will increase the registration rate by 10%
  • Solving all customer queries in the app store and responding to every app store review within 3 hours will increase customer satisfaction and therefore our app store rating, which will in turn help ASO and our app store ranking

KPIs

  • Volume of engagements with feature x
  • Conversation rate
  • ARPU
  • CPA
  • Retention rate
  • Day 1 churn rate
  • LTV
  • Registration rate
  • Crash levels
  • Deposit elapsed time
  • Session time
  • Login elapsed time

Market Analysis

If you have competitors who have solved the problem already, this is a good place to document the UX. Also, detail your target personas and other details about the market which will give you a better idea of who the product iteration is for.


Customer Research / Validation

Detail any qual/quant data you have gathered relating to the problem/idea eg. customer interviews, financial/engagement data, trends, and any historical experiment results which are relevant.


Constraints

  • Regulatory live date of x
  • Marketing tv campaigns going live x
  • Low front-end development capacity
  • Utilising platform/tool x
  • Time to market
  • Dependencies on teams x

High-Level Requirements / Use Cases

This shouldn’t be at user story level (detailed spec), but instead, just an idea of customer flows/use cases and considerations covering:

  • Functional
  • Non-functional (since the rise of DevOps, this gets covered as BAU/as part of development in most cases)
  • Customer support
  • Marketing
  • Tracking

Flow

Embed a mock-up, flow, UX or prototype.


Risks

  • Lots of ambiguity, so it could take a while to reach the desired outcome
  • Other higher priority work could mean that we don’t have the tech capacity to get the solution to market in time to reach the optimal outcome
  • The problem may not be such a big problem when we go to market
  • We may only solve part of the problem because of x
  • It could take more than 3 months before we learn because of x

Technical Considerations

  • We have plans to replace the existing platform in the next 12 months.
  • We need to conduct an RFP on tooling
  • This is the first time we are conducting experiments, so we need to considering process and tooling

Go-to-market Strategy

This is where you can detail the elements you need to consider/action to have a successful go-live covering:

  • What product support marketing require to market the product iteration effectively
    • Special promotions
    • Signposting across the product
    • Training, user guides
  • Customer support training
  • Release preparation to coordinate with any time-sensitive fixed timeframe marketing campaign especially TV ads
    • Day 1 plan
    • Feature switch process
  • Regulatory approval
  • Production access for end-users

Q&A

Adding a question and answers section at the bottom allowing you to add notes from meetings and tag anyone responsible for answering the question.

QuestionsAnswers

If you’re an empowered Product Manager / Product Owner who has the authority to shape the strategy of your product and need insight into effective product strategy/roadmap practices and frameworks, this book by Roman Pichler is for you.

The book is well balanced giving you guidance on when and when not to use particular practices, for example when a product is yet to be validated in the market and therefore has not reached product-market fit, you shouldn’t spend your time making up a roadmap when you should be spending time experimenting and talking to target customers.

However when you’re scaling or have a mature product then product roadmaps would have many benefits which are explained well and are very accurate, such as collaboration, alignment and generally showing how you plan to progress towards your product vision.

I particularly liked The Strategy Canvas which looks like a great tool for competitor gap analysis.

The practices and frameworks are explained in enough detail that even if you’re not empowered to shape the strategy of your product, you could still find this book beneficial by understanding the tools and proactively having a stab at using them for your product.

Pichler leaves no stone unturned as he covers every aspect of product strategy from idea to execution, which ultimately enables product management functions to operate effectively.

Vision

It’s worth spending time creating a compelling vision statement because it’s something that will be repeated over and over again as it’s the key driver to drum up excitement, passion, investment, confidence and trust that the product direction is aligned to the business, solving a real problem and then, in turn, delivering significant value for the business and customers.

First things first, craft your vision statement which should only be one clear sentence, wherein a nutshell it should explain what you’re looking to deliver, to who and why:

Vision statement

Then create a product vision board specifying who the target market is for your product, problems the product solves, clarifying what the product is and how the product is going to benefit the business and customers:

Vision board

Lastly, having a vision diagram is a great way of providing stakeholders and the business with a visual image of the status of the product capabilities of where you’re at with the product today and where you’re heading. Having colour coding for ‘live’, ‘in progress’, ‘planned’ and ‘to do’ would cover it – there are plenty of mind map tools to help you visualise your product, one of which is Lucidchart which comes as a plugin for Confluence also. It’s important to keep the product diagram focused on high-level features rather than detailed technical solutions around systems as that would be more of a technical architectural diagram:

Vision diagram

Having a solid product vision isn’t just to help the business allocate resource, but it’s also essential for the development team to know exactly where they need to head and why.

Once you have a compelling product vision, it’s time to find out how to get there by creating your VMOST!

Strategy

VMOST = Vision, Missions, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics


Each product line should have a clearly defined product vision, KPIs and strategies if it’s expected for the development team to deliver outcomes/head in the right direction, and using the VMOST canvas is an effective framework of showcasing what these are in a clear and concise format.

Vision: An inspiring statement which typically should only be one sentence, wherein a nutshell it should explain what your ambition is/what is your end goal of the product and who it’s for. More info on creating a compelling product vision can be found here.

Missions: To achieve the product vision, there would be multiple high-level missions you need to go on – what are the biggest problems that need solving before achieving the vision.

Objectives (KPIs): You can track the progress of your missions by setting multiple objectives (aka KPIs), which would include measurable metrics.

Strategies: Initiatives that would deliver/impact the objectives (KPIs).

Tactics: Multiple ideas (Epics) which would deliver each strategy. The tactics should be laid out on the product roadmap, so there’s a nice link between the product VMOST and product roadmap.

Although the product manager is responsible for defining and managing the product VMOST, it mustn’t happen in a silo, as it takes collaboration with the rest of the business especially stakeholders/BI/customers/tech to help provide some guidance on the selection of problems to solve which would be represented on the VMOST.

Once the VMOST is ready, it’s time for the product manager to evangelise this in a passionate way across the business and perhaps print it out on A0 to sit near the Product/Agile Team on the wall, so it can always be top of mind.

Good luck in creating your VMOST!!

Analytics

The short answer is yes – the product/team will benefit by having web/app analytics tracking as part of the definition of done (DoD).

The only time that a separate analytics tracking story should be written and played is typically in the scenario of:

  1. There’s no existing analytics tracking, so there’s tracking debt to deal with including the initial API integration
  2. A migration from one analytics provider to another

The reason why it’s important to ensure that analytics/tracking is baked into the actual feature acceptance criteria/DoD, is so then:

  1. You can measure the value/outcome which the output had on the customer
  2. It doesn’t get forgotten
  3. It drives home that having tracking attached to a feature before it goes live is just as important as QAing, load testing, regression testing or code reviews

Unless you can measure the impact of a feature, it’s hard to celebrate success, prove the hypothesis/whether it delivered the expected outcome or know whether it delivered any business value – the purpose of product development isn’t to deliver stories or points, it’s to deliver outcomes.

Having a data-driven strategy isn’t the future, it’s now and the advertising industry adopted this analytics tracking philosophy over two decades ago, so including analytics tracking within the DoD will only help set the product/team up for success.

Ops

All products will have an element of BAU (business as usual) and strategic work, where both are equally important to get after if the product is to remain competitive now and in years to come.

BAU work can also be referred to as ops (operational) work and I’ve always preferred the word ‘Ops’ over ‘BAU’ because no problem to solve should be looked at as solving it in the usual way which BAU can often be treated like. Also there’s often a stigma attached to BAU irrelevant of the business value it drives which is bonkers, so let’s look at the definitions of both:

  • BAU – work which doesn’t involve significant architecture redesign or thought, but BAU work is typically the blood line of the business
  • Strategic – work which involves a significant amount of up front technical design and often uses the latest / next generation technology. Strategic work often comes into play if there’s an architectural org restructure, the existing technical platform is no longer fit for purpose or it’s a new product

When it comes to delivering either BAU or Strategic work, there’s a couple of ways:

  1. Simply follow the same agile process which any other problem does, which includes adding a high level PBI (Product Backlog Item) detailing the problem to solve with value and then the Scrum Master / Team Lead looks well ahead in the product backlog to start contemplating approaching the ‘how’ with very close collaboration with the Technical Architect (TA) with the aim to get the item in a ‘Ready‘ state for development. This would in turn lead to the development teams planning in Technical Support backlog items to help the TA with technical designs, spikes or investigations well in advance of the problem appearing towards the top of the backlog which applies to both Scrum and Kanban.
  2. Split development resource into BAU only and Strategic only

The risk with No 1 is that the Scrum Master doesn’t collaborate with the Technical Architect soon enough resulting in the PBI hitting the top of the backlog before technical designs have started, causing significant delays to getting after the strategic work.

But there’s a much bigger risk to No 2 where there would naturally be a big reluctance for a team to work purely on BAU and therefore miss out on any green field project and there’s risk of breaking the ‘One Team’ mentality across the product development teams working on the whole product together and in turn impacting team morale.

Invest

In order to avoid lots of panic and chaos the day before sprint planning because there’s no work in a ‘ready‘ state, it’s essential to have regular backlog grooming sessions which would result in having at least six weeks’ worth of high priority ‘ready’ work in the product backlog.

To get PBI’s (Product Backlog Items) in a ready state, it can take a lot of effort especially when it comes to chasing down dependencies or getting answers around the business requirements, but this is where the whole product team (product manager, product designer and engineers) can work together to get the answers they need to solve the problems. Having frequent backlog grooming sessions, so there’s a good few weeks worth of ready PBI’s helps.

A new PBI is the start of a conversation and shouldn’t include solutions, so there should be ongoing questions around the requirements well in advance of the work going into development, until the development team feel they have enough information to size the PBI and then mark it as ready if there’s no dependencies.

It’s important to have a good quality product backlog (high priority items in a ready state) and frequently groom PBIs, to ensure the development teams are not only working on the highest priority items, but also that they’re working in an efficient way.

Some tips to getting a good quality product backlog:

  1. Create the user stories and prioritise in the backlog sooner rather than later – as a minimum the story needs to include ‘as a’, ‘I want’, ‘so that’ language with some high level acceptance criteria which will help start the conversation with the developers, giving them weeks to ask questions up front before it appears towards the top of the backlog.
  2. Making the value and problem / requirements clear with a stakeholder point of contact within the story for reference
  3. Having a clear title (summary) to the story, so you don’t have to open it up to find out what it’s about
  4. When there are questions from the developers to answer either by the product manager, stakeholders or technical, try to avoid leaving these unanswered for days – these should be responded to immediately as a priority
  5. For the ‘Feature Backlog‘ to be presented to the team monthly or bi-monthly, so they know clearly what the value of the relevant PBI’s are with some context around them
  6. Having flexible backlog grooming sessions – there’s no rule here, the teams can get together everyday if they like to groom the backlog until they’ve caught up
  7. Reinforcing to the development teams that they don’t need to know exactly what code to write and where in order to size the PBI, but instead the sizing should be based on a suitable solution making some assumptions
  8. Attaching customer flows / UX to the PBIs, with a link to ‘As Is’ and ‘To Be’ documentation

At least 10% of the teams time should be spent on grooming the product backlog and unless enough time is invested or they don’t get the support they need from the Scrum Master or Product Manager, then there’s risk of inefficiencies or the teams working on low priority PBI’s (Product Backlog Items) as the high priority items aren’t being groomed enough in time for sprint planning.