Many product managers make the mistake of projecting the past forward and using that as their view of the future. The past is important aspect of planning, but product managers should also think about the external trends and changes that could impact their products & offerings
Tony Manning in his book ‘Making sense of strategy’ states – “Strategy must enable your organization to make a difference that matters to critical mass of the ‘right’ customers”
So as a product manager you need to ask for your product – What really matters to your customers? What really matters to your company? Strategic thinking requires product managers to look broadly at both customers and competitors.
One good tool to create your strategic vision is to write out a ‘press release’ or ‘annual report’ for your product. Pick a future date, 12 months to 3 years out and write what your product line would be and how this would make a difference that matters to your customers. How would you want your product to be performing for revenue and profitability? How would it offer ‘complete solution’? Think about the context of the problem that your product solves. What emerging business models or competitors would cause your customers to migrate away from your product? What would differentiate your product from the competition? How does this align with your company’s growth strategy?
And strategic thinking is not strategic planning. Strategic thinking = Broad, while Strategic planning = Focused
Strategic thinking requires product managers to look at all market shifts, competitors and opportunities. But you can’t chase all the opportunities or problems implied by these potential futures. You have to decide on a particular direction and plan for it.
Product managers should have a clear understanding of the relationship between strategies, tactics and operational activities. Strategic goals can be formulated by looking at what you are trying to develop. Are you looking to extend your core business? Or are you wanting to leverage your company’s existing resources and assets? Is there a trend that you want to respond to or defend against? How is the customer value chain in your business and where are you on that value chain? Thinking through these questions and answering them will provide you the right strategies to create a difference that matters to your customers.