Saying “Yes” to the Strategic

03.10.2017 |

Episode #4 of the course Becoming a more strategic product manager by Todd Birzer


Welcome back to our course on strategic product management.

In our last discussion, we talked about gracefully extracting yourself from tactical work that is not core to your product management role. The intent is to give you additional time to focus on the strategic.

In this lesson, we’ll look at key areas to invest more time. Taken individually, the areas below won’t make you strategic; however, if you focus on a set of these, you will see your long-term impact on your organization increase—to the benefit of your customers and your business.

Here’s a quick punch list:

1. Market and customer analysis: Most product managers spend far too little time understanding their markets—sizing, segmentation, trends, etc. A deep analytical and intuitive understanding of your customers and their needs is a foundational element of product management, but it is also an area that gets underinvested.

2. Competitive analysis: Systematically analyzing competition in all its forms—direct, indirect, and disruptive technology—can help you anticipate market shifts and strengthen your long-term competitive advantage.

3. Strategy development for your product group: To effectively guide development of new products and find growth for existing products, we need to know where we’re going—what our goals are, how we get there, how we create competitive space, and how we make money. Strategy work helps answer these questions.

4. Prioritization: Creating long-term customer value and competitive advantage is difficult, and it gets even harder when your product development plans change based off the latest client request or executive whim. Disciplined work around prioritization can help keep you on track.

5. Discovery and delivery: New product development should be an iterative process, with frequent testing and experimentation with potential customers (i.e. discovery) and incremental releases to the market (i.e. delivery). For many of us product managers, this is our most energizing work.

6. Pricing: If you plotted the various work of product management, with the y-axis showing long-term value to the business and the x-axis showing total time spent, pricing would fall into the “huge value, don’t spend much time there” part of the graph. This is unfortunate—the impact of systematic pricing analysis can be enormous for the company’s profitability.

7. Finding growth: If you manage products in the market today, a key goal is to find revenue and profit growth by increasing your market share, expanding the market size, entering new markets, etc. Disciplined growth planning is a product management best practice, with strong potential upside.

If you are buried in the tactical, you won’t be spending much time in the areas above. But if you can create space for the strategic, putting disciplined attention on these areas can have a big payoff—for your customers and your organization.

In further lessons, we will do a deeper dive on customer analysis, strategy development, prioritization, and discover and delivery, as they are most essential areas to focus on. We’ll start with customer analysis.

Talk to you soon.

Todd Birzer


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