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How to Develop a Product Strategy or Business Case

December 08, 2015 | By Lisa Singer

  • SiriusDecisions’ product management advisory services helps our clients develop strategic product plans or business cases
  • A product strategy must articulate the links between the product’s success and the business objectives of the organization
  • For those with a portfolio of offerings, product plans should reveal how the offering fits with the current and future portfolio

So you’ve been asked to develop a product strategy, and you aren’t exactly sure what that entails. A product strategy is articulated in the strategic product plan and should help to drive the organization’s business objectives (more about that later).

At SiriusDecisions, through our product management advisory service, we help our clients develop strategic product plans or business cases to ensure they cover the key requirements to make an offering successful. The plan not only includes information about the product, but also covers the target market and the requirements for developing the offering and executing the go-to-market effort. The plan must answer the following questions:

  • What market opportunities are we pursuing? Here the plan defines the market opportunity and why it’s the best one for the organization to target. For example, this section typically highlights the market and competitive situation, the trends that support the decision to address this market, and areas of caution.
  • Who is the buyer? For b-to-b offerings, it is critical to understand who will have the funds to purchase the offering. The plan describes the buyer persona (or job role) and details the needs that this offering will address.
  • What is our offering and what is the value proposition? Now that the buyer needs have been described, the next step is to describe the offering and to articulate the value proposition. For example, explain how the offering will better meet buyer needs better than the competition or – if there is no competition – better than how buyers currently address those needs. In this section, the price of the offering should be indicated, as it is a key component of an offering’s value. This is also where the plan addresses the competitive marketplace and describes how this offering can win.
  • What are our innovation investments? A highly competitive product requires investment, and the plan must detail this investment to deliver on the value proposition. Are there R&D, infrastructure, service or support investments that need to be made? Or do partnerships need to be formed?
  • What go-to-market costs do we need to cover? What resources must the organization invest in to go to market? Does it need sales resources or to invest in new channels? What kinds of marketing investments are necessary for demand creation, sales enablement and customer marketing?
  • What is the financial business case? The financial business case details the expected sales and profitability of the offering, given the innovation investments and go-to-market plans pursued. A strong financial business case should list the assumptions made so that decisionmakers can understand the sensitivities of each component.
  • How can we ensure success after launch? How will this offering evolve – in both roadmap but offering composition and pricing – as the market changes and new competitors enter the market? How will the organization ensure customer engagement and retention?

For companies with a portfolio of offerings, the product plan should also communicate how the offering fits within the current and future portfolio, based on the specific markets and buyer needs addressed by each offering.

The product plan or product business case is generally owned by the product manager and should be developed through a cross-functional team on both the product delivery side (i.e. product management, engineering or R&D, operations, supply chain, support, service) and on the go-to-market plan (i.e. product management, marketing, sales, channel).

When creating a product plan, make sure to articulate the links between the product’s success and the organization’s business objectives. For example, if the offering is developed to target the mid-market segment, where there is an opportunity for greater margins, make sure to underline how this makes the offering the best investment to further the business strategy.

Discover a few of the many ways we can address your evolving key role initiatives and enable your functional success today.

Lisa Singer

Lisa Singer is a Senior Research Director of Product Management Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Lisa has more than 20 years of international experience with global marketing and product management, with an emphasis on strategic alliance and business development. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisagsinger.

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