It’s crazy that we think about our product strategy as something that we set, often for a year at a time, and rarely revisit until our next round of strategic discussions. Why would we ever think that our strategy is something we can set to begin with? Shouldn’t it be something we are continuously evolving in our businesses in real time? Shouldn’t it be evaluated in a continuous fashion and experimented with at every turn?
When we create a strategy for a software product, part of it should construct a way to regularly test our vision with stakeholders and renew it whenever misalignment is identified. This is especially true when we receive feedback from clients or users. The more flexible and fluid our product strategy, the more agile we become as a business.
I’m not suggesting that we make broad shifts and changes on a dime. To the contrary, I believe we should be extremely purposeful and data driven in our decisions. We need to be constantly evaluating it to make sure we are on the best possible track given all of the information we have. The worst thing we can do is continue to invest in something when we know we have lost alignment. We have all seen the disastrous results that occur when we allow software projects to continue after the team has discovered flaws in the product strategy.
I propose that the industry finds a way to incorporate a process for thinking about product strategy in smaller, more frequent segments, and purposefully revisit the overall strategy on a regular basis to ensure that it evolves with your business. Incorporating this approach will make sure your entire team is driving toward the same strategic vision for your users at every turn. It will get your entire team thinking about and looking for those micro-innovations that will make all the difference for your clients. It will make sure that your entire team sees strategy as something that needs to continuously evolve to help you compete. More importantly, it will make sure that your team sees failure as a positive force in product development, as long as your team learns and grows from it. It will ensure that failures happen faster, in much smaller increments and ultimately at a lower cost.
With the continued competitive pressure on your business, your digital experiences are going to continue to grow as a source of competitive advantage. You need to establish ways to remain relevant and useful in an ongoing way for all of your clients. Implementing solutions to these situations will ensure your position with your clients and will result in brand advocates.
There are some impactful side benefits to implementing Continuous Innovation in your product development as well:
- Quicker to fail = quicker to succeed: Failing faster will result in lower costs. Your teams will be much more efficient.
- Pride in your Team: Intrinsic motivation comes from pride. You will create a more prideful environment for your teams by giving them a higher purpose for their work.
- Customer Innovation: Innovation occurs closer to your customers. Empowering your teams with the ability to adjust their strategy will result in more and better innovations on your product.
- Mastery: The Continuous Innovation mindset will improve your teams’ mastery of their product development craft.
- Relevance: The strategies you employ for your customers will become more relevant and powerful than before.
- Steady Diet of Micro-Innovations: Your customers will experience a steady diet of micro-innovations in your product that they will benefit from more frequently and with higher value.
So what should you do?
- Create a culture centered around Continuous Innovation.
- Identify the right cadence for Product Ownership to engage in strategic evaluation (Hint: Much more than once/year).
- Identify the triggers for when innovation and evaluation is needed.
- Experiment with it.