Project managers are known for spearheading the planning, organization, and implementation of a project. A good project manager will ensure that all phases of a project are focused, within budget, and moving along in a timely manner. Still, there is a difference between good and stellar project management, and that difference lies in the total understanding of a project’s purpose as it pertains to the business. With this level of insight and by keeping the “why” of a project in mind;  project managers can present a finished product that better serves the business’s strategy.

This article presents a brief overview of product strategy for project managers, and how it can be harnessed to further a company’s goals and success.

What Is Product Strategy?

Product strategy evaluates the value, cost, and sale potential of a product. It asks questions such as:

  • What will this product (ideally) achieve?
  • What is the position of the market for this product?
  • How much and what type of planning is necessary to launch this product?
  • What type of work needs to be done to solidify this product’s success?

Ultimately, developing a product strategy is all about defining what the product will aim to accomplish — both within the business and without. This will ensure a product is valuable to customers and worth the time, energy, and funds a business puts into it.

Types of Product Strategy

There are a few different elements to product strategy: product quality, product cost, and customer intimacy.

Product Quality

Product quality refers to the quality of the finished product — and for project managers, the quality of the “product” of the project. It is different from project quality, which focuses on whether a completed project has been a success.

Product quality is evaluated primarily by whether it performs to the customer’s standards and meets their expectations. For example: If an aquatic conditioner is designed and marketed to reduce the amount of chlorine in a fish tank, but the water still demonstrates medium to high amounts of chlorine after testing, then the product quality of the conditioner is low. In this circumstance, the product did not meet customer expectations.

Product Cost

Product cost management is the product strategy component that adheres to and strives for a certain target profit on the product’s launch date. This is more straightforward (and different) than project cost management, which technologically measures a number of individual factors that tie into a project’s total cost and success.

Product cost might refer to any of the following processes:

  • Design for assembly
  • Design to cost
  • Cost targeting
  • Commodity pricing
  • Spend analysis

It may also include any additional steps or processes pertaining to product cost or pricing.

Customer Intimacy

Customer intimacy is an extremely important aspect of product strategy. It refers to refining products and services so they feel fine-tuned and tailored to the customer’s needs. Achieving customer intimacy may result in expensive or time-consuming means, but establishing it can lead to a clear competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Who Owns Product Strategy?

Product strategy is technically and traditionally owned by the product manager. In their role, the product manager is responsible for forming and communicating a specific vision that’s strategic to a product’s success. The role involves a lot of research, analysis, and strategic development.

Though product managers and project managers have separate and distinct roles, project managers can adopt some elements of product strategy to further their projects for the good of the company. Let’s explore a few such strategies and tips in depth.

Understand What Success Means for the Product

First things first, if you can visualize what a successful product, or project outcome, will do for the company, you’ll be more driven to reach the end goal.

Ask the following questions when considering the potential results of a good product:

  • Will this product potentially bring in more revenue?
  • What will this product do for the company brand?
  • Can this product help us expand? In what way(s)?
  • Will this product provide value to our customers?

Exploring these questions can help you and your team stay on track with production.

Choose a Decision-Making Framework

Employing a decision-making framework will be useful in identifying the best possible outcome of product development. With any project, there are multiple avenues you and your team can take to reach the desired destination, and these avenues are called decision-making frameworks.

Mapping out the possibilities and selecting a clear route forward will help your business make the best possible decisions for production.

Understand the Challenges and Constraints That Could Impact the Project

The best way to avoid a conflict or overcome a challenge is to prepare for it. Part of any successful product or project management process is planning ahead for anticipated roadblocks. Take some time to consider what challenges might present themselves for a specific product or project as it all comes together.

After you’ve identified where you might run into snags, purchase any necessary materials or take steps to ensure you’re equipped to handle the more difficult areas of a project. Doing this in advance is a great way to avoid falling behind.

Document Your Proposed Process

Documenting or outlining a production process is yet another good way to implement a product strategy. There’s something about seeing a process on paper that makes it easier to carry out and clearer to understand.

Here are a few items you might consider including in your documented process:

  • A clear product vision
  • Business goals
  • Development team
  • Product features and priorities
  • The roadmap
  • Market analysis

You should also include anything else that might be helpful in achieving your project goals.

Maintain Flexibility

More than any other element of product strategy, it’s arguably most important to maintain a sense of flexibility. Though you do want to be sure your project and team members are on track, being able to adapt and adjust to sudden obstacles is a major key to production success.

If you get hung up on the details and set on a fixed mentality of the way things “should” be, you risk being unable to pivot and continue forward to the best possible outcome. Stay open and flexible, and hopefully, the finished product will be that much better for it.

Author: Caitlin McCormick Wrights