In this November 2020 #mtpcon Digital session, Amy Zima, the Principal Product Manager at Spotify, aims to demystify the process involved in creating a strategy, offering a case study and sharing lessons learned.
Watch the session in full or read on for the highlights.
The word strategy can inspire fear or awe in product managers, says Amy, because they don’t know how to get started. But every product manager can and should articulate a product strategy – you just have to know how to apply key tools that you already possess.
Strategy is not the same as a plan or roadmap, Amy says, rather these come from your strategy: “Strategy comprises the answers to the choices you have in front of you.” She adds that strategy doesn’t have to be perfect, it can change, and product managers should have a product strategy for any level of problem.
Amy asks us to imagine a checkout flow for an app. The vision is that every customer completes the checkout flow happily, and the goal is that we increase conversion rate by x%. She takes us through the possible strategy choices we have for the checkout flow.
The Spotify Podcast Product
She then talks about Spotify’s vision to be a world-class podcast product.
The first step towards a strategy is to understand the problem and opportunity by answering product brief-type questions, like who are our users, what are their problems and so on. Amy takes us through the questions they asked themselves at Spotify and adds that they spent a lot of time defining what compelling meant for a Spotify podcast and then tested this in their research. In addition to product-brief questions you must also ask what needs to be true in order for the vision to happen. For example, in order to reach X number of listeners, Spotify would need to introduce podcasts to a number of users for the first time.
Once you’ve asked questions it’s time to identify choices. Amy identifies three choices Spotify had – a separate app, a podcast tab, or integration into the Spotify experience. The pros and cons of each choice then need to be considered. The first is a brand new experience, the best choice, but would mean finding product/market fit all over again. The second choice is also a clean slate, but wouldn’t necessarily help Spotify to build natural habits for podcasts. The third option gave Spotify the opportunity to introduce new listeners to podcasts but would compromise the opportunity to build a world-class podcast product.
The next step then is to make trade-offs, and decide which of the pros and cons in your choices are the most important.
Amy asks the #mtpcon audience “which option would you choose?”. In the end Spotify chose the hardest path – the third option to integrate podcasts into the Spotify experience. It was chosen, Amy explains, because ultimately it was most important to introduce podcasts to people who wouldn’t otherwise listen to them, and it also takes advantage of features like personalisation and recommendation that Spotify already does well. “The need to create a new audience and achieve growth was more important to us than the pain of the build cost,” she says.
For further study, Amy recommends reading Good strategy/Bad strategy by Richard Rumelt and Strategize by Roman Pichler. “The plan is obvious when the strategy’s good,” she says.