The Product Lifecycle

Learn how to align your team on a vision, articulate a clear strategy, and lead your team through the product development lifecycle with this series of how-tos and templates.

Vision & Mission

Every product and every team needs a strong vision — and this is the starting point. The vision keeps the team aligned, enables each person to make independent decisions and weigh tradeoffs. The vision describes the world the team wants to see and all work should be in service of that mission.

Vision vs. Mission:
Many teams and companies use these terms interchangeably, but they are different and serve different needs.
Vision: What the team wants to be true for the company
Mission: What the team aims to accomplish

Examples:
Content Moderation at Facebook
Vision: User generated content is safe and trusted.
Mission: Ensure user generated content is appropriate and free of malicious intent.
Hosting at Airbnb
Vision: Every host on Airbnb is the best entrepreneur they can be.
Mission: Help each host reach their potential.

How to create and align on your vision + mission:
Workshop and align within your team: Organize a workshop to help the team align on a vision statement and on a mission statement.
Prior to the event, prepare a handful of vision statements and mission statements.
Once at the event, share these statements with the team. These are foundational ideas – a creative starting place. They are not options.
Team members should contribute their own vision & mission statements (post-its are good here).
Cluster the statements into themes and refine.
Buy-in is critical, and the Product Manager will need to make the final call as they are ultimately responsible.
Get alignment outside of your team: Once the team has these statements, it is important to meet with leadership and partner teams to communicate the team’s intended directive and get feedback.
Partner teams should be consulted
The larger organization and leadership should be consulted and informed
Ultimately the product manager is accountable, and the core team responsible

Strategy & Prioritization

Your strategy helps you answer ‘how’ you will meet your vision. A clear strategy ensures that your team are working on the right things. By working on the most important areas first, you increase the impact of your work. In many ways, in the product manager role, strategy is synonymous with your
roadmap
and how you choose to prioritize your team’s work.

The first step in creating your strategy/roadmap is identifying your
goals
. Goals provide alignment at the team and organizational level, “You make what you measure.” They provide a clear way for each group to express value to the organization. Once the goals are set, you need to consider how to track and attribute efforts against them. The
framework – short for Objectives and Key Results — is a good one for tracking goals. An objective is a qualitative goal that will take many months, or even years to accomplish. The key results are measurable steps you need in order to meet your objectives. It makes sense to use OKRs if your entire company or organization uses that format, so that it's clear how the OKRs cascade. If your company does not use the OKR framework, an alternative to ensure that your results are measurable is another framework called SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound. To learn more, this
and
do a good job explaining.

Identifying Your Goals, aka OKRs
OKRs
0
Objective
H1'21 Results
H2'21 Results
DRI
Objective #1
3
KR #1
KR #2
Person A
KR #2
KR #2
Person A
KR #3
KR #3
Person B
Objective #2
1
KR #1
KR #1
Person C
Objective #3
1
KR #1
KR #1
Person D
Objectives should ladder up to company level priorities
Include no more than 5 Objectives, and no more than 3 Key Results per objective. List out your OKRs in priority sequence (i.e. O1 = top priority and KR 1 = top KR)
In the "Latest Baseline Measure" column, identify the historical metric where possible (e.g., if your KR is related to increasing NPS, then include the latest NPS measure, ideally from the end of Q2). The purpose of this is two fold: (1) to ensure your KR is actually measurable, and (2) for you to gut check whether your KR is aspirational enough.
Identify the DRI (the person accountable for the KR in the DRI column)
Goals are usually set on an annual basis. However, it's important to add quarterly milestones (with goals) and add pacing on a continuous basis. This ensures the team and leadership know how they are tracking toward the broader goal.

After identify your goals, the next steps are:
Clarifying what you’re not doing
Making an investment case
Identifying your dependencies
Identifying and mitigating your risks
Summarize your plan in the form of a roadmap document

Make an Investment Case
What do you need to roll out your plan?
Resources
0
Role
Priority
Justification
Target Date
1
PMM - Enteprise
P0
Necessary to support increased focus on Enterprise customers
Q4
There are no rows in this table

Identifying Your Dependencies
Identify dependencies/ asks that you would need resolved in order to roll out your H2’20 plan. Indicate whether the dependency is on EPD, or another team. The expectation is that you work through this with leaders your team is dependent on before check-ins. Identify whether the dependency has been agreed upon.
Dependencies
0
Dependency
Details
Department
Point of Contact
Signed-off?
1
Billing system pricing & packaging changes
In order to execute on site plan optimization, we need the billing system to be able to support legacy plans/ policies
EPD
Jane
No
There are no rows in this table
Identifying & Mitigating Your Risks
Identify the top risks and work through how you would mitigate it
Risks
0
Risk
Likelihood
Mitigation Plan
1
Customers react poorly to packaging changes; impacts to expansion are more significant
Medium
Instrument KPIs to monitor impacts closely. Setup a working team post launch (CST, Marketing, BizOps) to review impact weekly for the first 8 weeks. Agree with executive on team at which point we would consider reversing decisions.
There are no rows in this table

Roadmap Template

Taking all of the inputs above — including your vision and mission statement — synthesize in the following roadmap template:

Vision
: What the world looks like if you’re successful.

Mission:
What the team needs to accomplish to create this world.

Values/Principles:
Are there principles for your area of work that are important for everyone to align on first?

What success looks like:
These are your goals/ORKs for the next 12 months (make sure your impact is quantifiable)

What the gaps are today:
What are we not able to do and/or what are we not doing well today, why?

Strategy
: Provide an overview of how you plan on delivering impact (value for our users and winning the market)

Strategic Priorities:
Itemize the major bets or investments you believe you need to make in order to be successful with details on their importance, what success looks like, and the risks:
Strategic Priorities
0
Lever 1 - Expand enterprise offerings
Why is it important
Leverage highest value customers with best ROI to strengthen the business
What success looks like
10 new SMB and 5 large enterprise customers
Risks / Dependencies
BD, Marketing, and Partnerships
Lever 2
Lever 3

Overall Dependencies
What are your dependencies on other teams?
What are some assumptions that you’ve made around work happening on other teams that are actually critical for your strategy?

Investment Required
This is the similar to the contents of the Resources table above. In roadmap templates, it’s useful to describe different investment chases (e.g. staffing today vs. doubling the team vs. increasing the team by 50%) and walk through what happens in each scenario.

What happens if we don’t invest at all?
Describe what happens if the company ramps down investment and stop investing in this area, e.g. 0% investment case.

Investment for new initiatives:
For new initiatives (e.g. no funding today), present what happens to the company or product if the team continues to not invest vs. invest minimally vs. invest meaningfully.
Recommended funding - This would be to achieve the outcomes in your strategy
Minimal funding - Bare bones funding scenario. It’s okay if there isn’t a delta between this and the recommended funding above. Idea is that we’d love to consider a few different options.
No funding - What do we lose out on as a company if we don’t fund this now? If possible, include thoughts on what happens if we fund this at later intervals (beginning of 2021, H2 2021, 2022)
Initiative
Investment Level
Headcount Required
Key Outcomes
Enterprise Expansion
3
No Funding
1 PM, 2 Eng
No additional enterprise clients by EOY 2021
Recommended Funding
2 PM, 2 PMM, 6 Eng
2 large and 6 SMB enterprise clients by EOY 2021
Minimal Funding
1 PM, 1 PMM, 4 Eng
1 large and 2 small enterprise clients by EOY 2021
Initiative 2
3
No Funding
Recommended Funding
Minimal Funding
Open Questions
It’s often not possible to have everything fully researched before you create your roadmap. Include a section for open questions and a plan for answering these unanswered questions and validating unvalidated assumptions.

Your roadmap template is a plan for a period of time, e.g. a half or a quarter. For each feature you build and ship, you will need a product requirement doc, otherwise known as a “PRD.”

Product Requirements Doc (PRD) Template

1. Problem + Opportunity

User Problem
What is the user problem? Describe the problem we are trying to solve in 1-2 sentences.
Link to relevant research: User research and data; Competitive research and if relevant, identify how what we’re building will be different/better
Business Opportunity
What impact will this have on our business? On what time horizon?
Walk through why this feature is critical to your overall strategy
Success Metrics
What is your definition of success?
Include measurable (metrics) and immeasurable (feelings) goals
What is the estimated impact of this initiative / feature? On what time horizon? Share north-star impact, next 12 month impact, impact over the half
Why is this the best way to measure success?
Identify your non-goals
List explicit areas we do not plan to address
Explain why they are not goals
Risk Assessment
What assumptions have you made in the user problem or business opportunity that might not be true?
Identify your known unknowns

2. The Solution

Key Features
Identify your design constraints
Technical feasibility considerations (from discussions with engineering)
Usability/desirability considerations (from user interviews, in collaboration with design and user research)
Viability considerations (anything to consider from a strategic or business perspective that constrains your solution)
List the features that shape the solution, in priority order

User Flow
Show what the end-to-end experience will be for customers
First link to low fidelity explorations
Walk through how your design constraints led exploration of your solution space and map how user feedback on your early designs and explorations contributed to your final design
Later link to high fidelity designs
In-depth details should be left to high fidelity mockups (i.e button color, microcopy, etc.) but major decisions should be captured
Address common scenarios and edge cases
It’s natural that your flows will change over time as you iterate. When changes occur, document them and notify contributors

Managing Scope
Always ask if a smaller component can be shipped independently
List features you are saving for later

3. Launch Plan

Define the various phases that will get this product to market, the purpose of each phase, and the criteria you must meet to move on to the next one. Highlight risks and dependencies that can throw a wrench in timelines or progress (and ideally contingency plans). Example phases include:

Key Milestones
TARGET DATE
MILESTONE
DESCRIPTION
EXIT CRITERIA
1
5/13/2020
✅ Pilot
Internal testing with employees only
No P0 or P1 bugs on a rolling 7-day basis
2
6/16/2020
🛑 Beta
Early cohort of 20 customers
At least 10 customers would be disappointed if we took it away
3
7/10/2020
🛑 Early Access
Invite-only customers from sales
At least 1 win from every major competitor
4
8/5/2020
🛑 Launch
All customers in current markets
Measure and monitor
There are no rows in this table
Launch Checklist
Team
Prompt
Needed?
Action (if needed)
1
Product Marketing
Do you need a GTM plan? (e.g. pricing, packaging, positioning,
Work with [person] with at least [x] weeks notice to kickoff workstreams
2
Analytics
Do you need additional tracking?
Work with [person] on logging
3
Sales
Do you need sales enablement materials?
Work with [person]
4
Marketing
Does this impact shared KPI?
Work with [person] on goal adjustment
5
Customer Success
Do you need to update support content or training?
Work with [person] on updates
6
Partners
Will this impact any external partners?
Work with [person] on communication plan
7
Globalization
Are you launching in multiple countries?
Work with [person]
8
Risk
Does this expose a risk vector?
Work with [person]
9
Legal
Are there potential legal ramifications?
Work with [person]
There are no rows in this table

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