Strategic Product Management challenges: from idea to products in the market

Photo by Clint Gardner @ flickr (CC-BY NC SA 2.0)

I wanted to start this series by focusing on some of the challenges that we face as Product Managers. A key challenge I see repeated in many organizations is the lack of capacity to leap from idea to results, from intention to implementation.
Product Managers focus on generating product ideas, business model, revenue streams, competitor analysis, etc. But that is quite useless unless it leads to coherent action, and ultimately to delivering products to the market. In fact delivering on an idea is – in my mind – the only valid evaluation for a great Product Manager.
Do you have a great idea? Do you know the market very well? Good, but where is the product? No product, no value.

Company strategy is a first step in covering the gap from goal to action: define the goal

As I stated in the previous post, the Strategic Product Manager must focus on translating the company strategy into a coherent Product Portfolio. This is the process of transforming business objectives into concrete product goals. However, that is just the first step in covering the gap from ideas to implementation.
A common pitfall is that once the Portfolio is approved the Product Manager retires from the involvement with implementation. Later, when deciding on what projects to start the teams involved will make critical, strategic decisions. If the Product Manager is not part of the decision process, how can she make sure that her Vision for the product is implemented?
Having the best roadmap and then implementing the wrong projects is equivalent to having a bad roadmap.

Now that you have the roadmap, how will you execute on it?

Product Management must work with the line organization, with the teams that will develop the software and do what often does not happen: to transform ideas into action! For this to be possible the Strategic Product Manager must be equally capable of transforming the implementation feedback (from the teams) into information that will influence our ideas about strategy (product roadmap and product portfolio).

Ideas are nothing without execution.

A key aspect of the Strategic Product Management is to be involved and review the actual projects started and reassess the product strategy, product portfolio and product roadmap based on what is possible to implement once the rubber meets the road and the product development starts.
To effectively implement a product strategy the Strategic Product Manager must be part the decisions on team and resource allocation to certain projects. Reviewing and giving feedback on a second and important portfolio: the Project Portfolio (which projects are started, how much investment they get and when they should stop?).

Castles are built with rocks and mud, not clouds

Strategic Product Management is much more than just thinking big thoughts. Strategic Product Management is about creating the necessary relationships and information flows in the organization, that will allow the implementation teams to execute on the strategy for the company and the products. Later in this series we will take a look at some of the practices that help both the Product Manager and the Organization to transform a great Company and Product strategy into a coherent Project Portfolio. These will include organizational as well as project techniques designed to help convert ideas into real value: products in the market.