In this talk from ProductTank London, Susana Lopes (Director of Product at Onfido), talks about how Onfido moved from prioritising at the sprint & quarterly level to setting strategic direction and prioritise at a much larger scale. She starts by outlining several top-down methods for defining strategy, before diving into the bottom-up method called The State of Product.
Susana uses Melissa Perri’s “Strategy Deployment Levels” framework as a prime example of a well-structured top-down strategy-development method. It clearly articulated who in the organisation is responsible for what level of strategic definition, and lays the groundwork for how a strategy can be devolved down into options and actions at the level of execution.
This is a great approach, but might be aspirational for many of us. So what do you do if you’re not set up to be a product-led organisation, either as an individual contributor or as a product leader? Susana suggests you take a buttom-up approach to developing strategic direction for your product, and outlines one method for achieving that – The State of Product.
The State of Product
There are three key components to defining the State Of Product:
- Deadline – This process needs a concrete structure, and a deadline is essential, especially because you need the C-suite involved.
- C-level attendance – Without the attendance and buy-in of your C-Suite, this process is going to face huge obstacles.
- Framework to zoom out – We all get caught-up in the low-level decisions that come with our day-to-day jobs, so we need to ensure we’re able to step back and consider the bigger picture.
The State of Product is a product-manager-led process which defines and communicates the strategy for the coming year, ending with a formal resource request. To ensure it’s effective, you need experienced / senior leadership in attendance, and you need to ensure you’re covering these key topics:
- Product definition
- Product performance
- Product market analysis
- Product strategy
- Product roadmap
- Execution, risks, unknowns
Everything from the product definition to the market analysis is fairly descriptive – you’ll need to do some work to ensure you’re framing them all well, but the real work comes when you start trying to articulate a product strategy. Susana recommends a few tools that she’s found helpful
Some Useful Tools for Defining a Product Strategy
- Strategic Network Analysis – consider the things you want to maximise to prevent competitors from entering the market, and the things you want to minimise to prevent users from leaving. Susana describes several effects and behaviours you should consider.
- SWOT Analysis – To understand where to focus your resources, it’s critical to understand where your organisation’s / product’s strengths and weaknesses are. More importantly, it’s critical to understand where your biggest opportunities and threats are, and how you could use your strengths and weaknesses to respond to those.
- Competitive Assessment – Once you’ve developed a clear understanding of your own positioning, it’s important to understand where your competitors have strengths and weaknesses. With that information, you can start to develop themes that incorporate insights from your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the dynamics of your market and competitors.
- Product Themes – As you develop your themes, it’s crucial to maintain focus – stick to 2-3 themes, so that you can make a significant impact in each area. Use these themes to describe a roadmap and, from there, you can dive into your execution considerations (threads and resources).
It’s always crucial to ensure that you have a clear, robust strategy and roadmap. However, it’s particularly important to be reviewing both strategy and roadmap during times of significant market upheaval and change, as you may need to be ready to respond to significant threats – or huge opportunities – which simply didn’t exist 2 quarters ago. If you don’t already have a top-down process of reviewing and adapting your strategy, The State of Product methods gives you the tools to start assessing and, if necessary, redefining your strategy from the bottom-up.