Three reasons for a poor product strategy

23 Jun 2021

Three reasons for a poor product strategy

Jun 23, 2021

The company’s product strategy is intended to guide the organization’s efforts towards the goals set for the product. If the product fails totally, then the reason is usually a bad idea. On the background of poorly performing products, there is either an incompetent organization or a poor product strategy. Often, the former is repaired, even if the fault is in the latter. The three most common reasons for a poor product strategy are discussed below.


1. There is a lack of understanding of who the product strategy is done for and why

Unfortunately, all too often we see product strategies where the given templates are filled only because they were asked to do so. Task completed, the note in kanban to the done column and onwards. The benefits in these strategy projects will only remain thin.

My good colleague Antti always manages to remind me of the three most important questions about doing something: what, why and to whom. These three issues are also worth starting with when creating a product strategy.

Product strategy’s what, why and to whom

What: A plan to steer a product’s business toward a product vision. The vision and content of the strategy are strongly linked to the product’s life cycle stage.

Why: To make decision making easier. The product strategy must provide answers to the questions of what we do and what we do not do, how we do it, why and in what order.

To whom: Everyone involved in the product’s business.

Probably the biggest problem is that often the product strategy is done for the management – when the boss asks. In fact, the boss or management team usually just needs peace of mind that the product strategy exists and the direction to success is clear. Other product stakeholders, such as product development, production, sales, and marketing, instead, have to make choices about their own operations on a daily basis. The product strategy should be primarily intended for them to set a common direction.

For the same reason, product strategy communication is often deficient. Once the presentation to the management team has been made, it is imagined that the work is complete. However, the approval of the product strategy is only the beginning of the most important thing, i.e. the successful implementation of the strategy together with the stakeholders.


2. Lack of vision

The more conscientiously the product manager puts out daily fires, the more likely it is that there is no product vision. And if there is no vision, then what is that product strategy heading towards?

Product vision is the goal of the product life cycle. In the beginning, it can be to gain market share over a period of time, later to increase profitability by improving customer satisfaction, or even to discontinue a product and transfer customers to another service. Goals can be set by anyone, but the right product visions are created by analyzing the market and competitors, understanding customer needs and technological developments, and perceiving the whole. Trends and their impact on the future of your own product become clearer when they are considered from many angles by experienced experts. Unfortunately, in general, the gaze is too close to things that could be seen further afield.

When vision is lacking, product strategy becomes a buzzword. All paths (= decisions) take you somewhere, but the journey progresses painfully slowly.

3. There is not enough time and expertise to make a product strategy

Strategy consultants are often either laughed at or people are horrified about their fees. The fact is, however, that developing a good strategy requires time, extensive business understanding, and experience in carrying out the strategy process. In addition to their own job, product managers don’t usually scratch a strange product strategy from scratch.

It is almost impossible to try to do product strategy in the midst of other daily things. You need to be able to focus on strategy work and detach your thoughts from other hustle and bustle so that you can look at it from a far enough distance, from the outside. Unfortunately, few product managers have enough experience to be able to set aside time for a product strategy, understand the steps in the strategy process, and identify communication needs.


How to turn a bad or non-existent product strategy into a good one

If you are unsure about the quality of your own product strategy or what you need a product strategy for, then you might want to think about these

  1. How important is product strategy to us?
  2. Do I know what it takes to make a good product strategy?
  3. Can I implement a strategy project?

If the questions raised any uncertainty, then more about the subject can be found here.


Harri Pendolin

Harri Pendolin

Leading consultant, product management and strategy

Harri is a “product guy” in spirit and blood. A 20-year career includes working as a product manager in a large company, as well as eight years as an entrepreneur, but always with products. The biggest passions ignite in developing product strategies and managing portfolio.

Harri’s free time is spent exercising and on his children’s hobbies. Harri is always ready to share his knowledge of product management or debate strategic business choices.

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