Thoughts on Dropbox 2018 Product Strategy Update work
There are many activities spinning-up around how we get better input into Dropbox’s product strategy. This document is meant to communicate a broad framework for how I see this working, which should help to ensure the various efforts are focused well and aligned broadly.
My view is that this process should balance top-down with bottom-up, be almost entirely transparent, be incredibly inclusive of various potential inputs and sources of insights, and be done regularly.
Doing this regularly is important; annual and not something only undertaken once every few years. The reason for that is that many things are changing month to month and year to year – what our customer needs, the market, competitors, technical possibilities, product progress, etc. To that end, I’d like for Dropbox to be updating a product strategy memo on an annual cadence. Our intent is to start this process now, resulting in a strategy memo delivered to the company in June of this year.
Note that this process does not replace things like Company-level Goals and OKRs, the QSRs, etc. This process shapes what the product organization (EPD) will be pursuing, and informs exploration of inorganic options.
Like so many other development activities, there are two things to consider – the process of the work, and the inputs/outputs of that work.
One key input is an understanding of the company’s goals and situation. Our business aspirations, an expression of that in terms of financial goals and constraints, and what the senior leadership of the company want to see are key inputs. Hopefully that outlook is understood by the team, but it is the responsibility of the product leadership team to ensure that important input is understood.
Besides the broader company position, there are a lot of important inputs that shape strategy. Its useful to break the inputs into discrete “domains” of topics. Minimally these include:
Existing Groups in EPD
Each of these should be given a voice into the product strategy. To that end, each “domain” will have time to review its views and work with the product leadership, and ensure a synthetization of that view on our world is heard.
There are minimally three classes of outputs that are “final work products.”
Domain-level report-outs – these documents should synthesize the work of the various inputs – the audience for this work is a broad set of leadership, and is required for the product and company leadership to make strategic decisions. These report-outs hopefully are also useful for those teams in shaping their work and how they will interface back into the work that the product org does.
Product Strategy Memo – this is a sizable, but readable document that outlines the underlying work, the strategic rationales and lands the strategic initiatives that the product org/company will pursue. The audience for this document is the whole company
Key Insights (i.e. what are the user and Dropbox problems we’ve identified)
The market – trends, competitors, customers
Our position – inventory of advantages/assets/capabilities
What we believe – leadership POV
Where to Play
How to Win
How to execute
Specific descriptions of the investments we’ll make and how they come together to fulfill the strategy (both capabilities to develop and product/GTM efforts to execute)
Workstreams – unless the orgs and their activities are perfectly already aligned, the work will result of a set of workstreams. The can include things things like
Driving a change to the product organization – investment levels, mission directions, new missions and even eliminating old missions
Work to investigate and ultimately to prosecute acquisition activity
Domains – each input area should setup a working group and leadership to ensure the right perspective is created, is communicated, etc. A leadership group culled from the domains will be part of reviewing the strategy, first in draft form
Product Leadership – ultimately responsible for shaping the product strategy. The memo and bets are set by this group
Dropbox Senior Leadership – provides input through the domain work, and in an explicit review and approval process once strategic initiatives are created
Below is a high-level process flow. Specifics of who is in what groups, what the meetings are, who is in them, etc. are all things that are worked out as the concepts behind this document are implemented.