Monday, October 5, 2009

Why dont we consolidate all our resources and focus on one thing?

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"Why dont we consolidate all our resources and focus on one thing?"
is one of the questions that keeps coming up often in determining product priorities and resource allocations. Unless you're a startup in an early phase of product development or you're a company in dire straits and looking at one last "Hail Mary" the approach is often going to lead to disaster rather than focus.

Dont get me wrong all approaches work, its just a question of context. Applying the consolidate and focus on only one product area at a time approach in diversified or mature companies will lead to satisfaction issues and churn. Product Managers should look at their products (and others) as a portfolio and assess it like one.

Here are my Top 5 tips for making product portfolio planning happen the right way.

1. Ensure business strategy alignment - Request that the business vision and strategy be conveyed clearly. Dont be afraid to ask questions. Remember that each PM or company resource interprets vision and strategy in their own way so alignment and constant alignment is the key to successful product portfolio planning. Also business strategy should not be created in vacuum and should be supplemented with backup data or assertions. Its critical to provide execs with this data for your product lines on a regular basis to ensure right decisions are enabled.

2. Get executive buyin/sponsorship - Suffice to say that your product portfolio planning will not go very far if its not bought into by execs.

3. Take a medium to long term view - Always take the medium to long term view of things. This means that look at growth opportunities even when the team is in the foxhole trying to battle a flurry of tactical issues.

4. Always have enough bandwidth to nurture wishlists/lateral ideas - Some of the best products, enhancements, customer issue resolutions have come from lateral ideas. Always nurture them and figure out a path for executing on them. Trust me, the product team will find you the time and bandwidth if they feel the idea is right. Now this often seems contradictory to create a priority list of backlog stories and keep knocking off the highest priority ones that keep bubbling to the top of the list. We'll I've seen that in reality you can do that with the lateral (20%) ideas.

5. Drive your product strategy in person and with passion - Never rely on someone else to drive your product strategy. Nothing works better than passion for a product or enhancement so ensure that you're personally represnt the product/feature in the planning meetings. Good management recognizes this and provides individual PM's the platform to present this.

Do send me your tips on what eases and enables product portfolio planning for you in your product organization.

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