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Digital Product Strategy – A Guide For Digital Product Leaders

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Carlos González De Villaumbrosia

November 15, 2023 - 10 min read

Updated: May 6, 2024 - 10 min read

Understanding and implementing a good digital product strategy is key in today's market.  In this post, you'll learn how to weave together market trends, customer needs, and technological advancements to create a strategy that not only responds to current demands but also anticipates future shifts.

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On top of that, this guide will equip you with the tools and insights needed to design and implement an effective digital product strategy. You'll discover how to:

  • Identify and capitalize on digital opportunities that align with your business objectives.

  • Understand your target audience's needs and how your digital products can meet them.

  • Integrate cutting-edge technologies to enhance your product offerings.

  • Foster a culture of continuous innovation within your team.

  • Measure and analyze the impact of your digital products to refine your strategy continually.

What strategy is

First, let's clarify what strategy is not. It isn't a to-do list, nor is it a set of arbitrary objectives. It's not about mirroring your competitors' every move or chasing every market opportunity that arises. Strategy isn't a static declaration; it's a dynamic, thoughtful decision-making process.

Then, what's strategy? At its core, strategy is a high-level, comprehensive plan designed to achieve overarching, long-term goals amidst uncertainties. It involves:

  • Setting precise objectives

  • Understanding the competition

  • Assessing your organization's capabilities

  • Crafting a plan that leverages your strengths and mitigates weaknesses

A digital product strategy is a long-term roadmap outlining the objectives and direction of a product or product line. It's not just about what you want to achieve but also how and why you plan to get there.

Key principles of digital strategy development

1.  Design is akin to strategy

In digital transformation initiatives, strategy takes on the attributes of design. It demands a deep understanding of the digital market, an awareness of online competitors, and an in-depth knowledge of your company's digital capabilities.

Approach your digital strategy like a designer would tackle a complex problem. Use a systematic, data-focused method to pinpoint digital opportunities and craft solutions that address them effectively. 

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This approach ensures that your digital strategy is not only innovative but also grounded in practical market realities and your organization's unique strengths.

2. View it as a gateway to innovation

Digital strategy should be viewed as an ongoing path of evolution and learning, rather than a static, one-off plan. It requires you to constantly adapt and update your digital tactics in response to emerging trends, technological advancements, and shifting consumer behaviors in the online world.

Consider how Netflix continually adapts its digital strategy. Initially a DVD rental service, Netflix evolved into a streaming giant, constantly adjusting its approach based on user data, technology changes, and competitive dynamics. 

3. Turn plans into reality

Effective execution is essential to any digital strategy. Without it, even the most meticulously crafted plan remains just a concept. The key is to establish an organizational structure capable of implementing the strategy autonomously and efficiently, turning theoretical plans into practical success.

For instance, Amazon's success lies not only in its visionary digital strategy but also in its exceptional execution capabilities. From its user-friendly website interface to its sophisticated logistics and customer service, Amazon showcases how integral effective execution is to a digital strategy.

The interaction between business and digital product strategies

It's essential to understand the difference between a business strategy and a digital product strategy. Both are vital to your organization's success, but they operate at different levels and serve unique purposes.

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Business strategy: your roadmap

Business strategy is your organization's master plan, outlining its mission, vision, and long-term objectives. It's the big picture that guides how your company will provide value, compete in the market, and be profitable.

This strategy shapes key decisions on resources, market positioning, and income streams, setting the overall direction for market expansion, diversification, or focusing on what your company does best.

Digital product strategy: zooming in on products

Shifting from the overarching business strategy, we focus on the specific details of your products through digital product strategy. Nested within your broader business objectives, this strategy addresses the 'how' – how your products will achieve these goals.

Digital product strategy is a detailed roadmap for a particular product or product line. It's about how your product will satisfy market demands, meet customer needs, and support your company's larger objectives. You'll define your target market, establish a unique value proposition, set your product apart from competitors, and plan its development over time.

Balancing both strategies for optimal impact

Your teams need to be adept at navigating both strategies and understanding how to align product decisions with the company's broader goals.

In training your teams, emphasize the importance of seeing the bigger picture while also mastering the details of product management. This dual perspective is key where agility and strategic alignment can make the difference between thriving and merely surviving.

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Benefits of a digital product strategy

The product strategy encompasses setting goals and the pathways to achieve them and executing them efficiently.

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Building a digital strategy is beneficial for several reasons:

1. Adaptability to market changes

A digital strategy equips businesses to quickly adapt to evolving market trends and consumer behaviors. This agility is crucial in the current market.

2.Data-driven decision making

Digital strategies rely on data analytics, providing insights that guide informed decision-making, and helping to optimize products and services based on actual user feedback and behaviors.

3. Enhanced customer experience

Implementing a digital strategy allows for a more personalized and engaging customer experience, key to building loyalty and customer satisfaction.

4. Increased efficiency and productivity

Automation and digital tools streamline operations, reducing manual effort and increasing overall efficiency and productivity.

5. Innovation and competitive advantage

A solid digital strategy fosters innovation, allowing businesses to stay ahead of competitors and capture new market opportunities.

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6. Scalability

Digital strategies can be scaled up or down easily, allowing businesses to grow at a pace that matches their capabilities and market demands.

7. Cost reduction

Over time, digitization can significantly reduce operational costs through automation and more efficient resource management.

8. Global reach

A digital strategy opens up global markets, removing geographical barriers and allowing businesses to reach a wider audience.

9. Revenue growth

By tapping into new markets, personalizing offerings, and improving efficiencies, a digital strategy can lead to significant revenue growth.

10. Risk management

Digital strategies include measures for data security, compliance, and risk management, which help prevent or forecast potential risks and issues.

Formulation and validation: a two-phase approach

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A well-structured approach to digital product strategy is key to ensuring alignment with your organizational goals. Let's break down this process into two essential phases: formulation and validation.

1. Formulation: setting the foundation

The formulation phase is about developing strategic awareness. It involves identifying the most viable paths for your digital product and is driven by the development of strategic themes. These themes consist of three critical components:

  • Strategic obstacle: Identifying the primary challenges or barriers your product is facing in the current market.

  • Prospect: Recognizing the opportunities that lie ahead and how your product can capitalize on them.

  • Resolution: Determining the decisive strategy - your 'Where to Play' and 'How to Win' in the market.

This phase sets the direction for your digital product. It’s about understanding the market, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and positioning your product effectively. 

The resolution is the outcome of this phase, providing a clear strategic theme that informs all future actions and decisions.

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2. Validation: testing and iterating 

This phase is all about testing your assumptions through experiments and identifying the most effective strategy. The process involves:

  • Identifying hypotheses: Pinpointing assumptions related to your strategic themes that need validation.

  • Conducting experiments: Implementing targeted experiments to test these hypotheses.

  • Selecting a winning strategy: Analyzing the outcomes of these experiments to choose the most viable strategy for your product.

Validation ensures that your digital product strategy is not only theoretically sound but also practically feasible and effective.

How to deploy your digital product strategy 

Deploying an effective digital product strategy is about having a great idea and translating that idea into a successful market offering. 

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Let’s dive into how you can ensure the successful deployment of your digital product strategy.

1. Aligning your digital strategy with business goals

Your digital product strategy must dovetail with your overall business strategy. Everyone involved – from your product teams to your stakeholders – must understand and support this strategy. This alignment ensures that your digital product contributes effectively to your organization's broader objectives.

2.  Executing your strategy with precision

Once aligned, transform your digital product strategy into tangible actions:

  • Develop a comprehensive product roadmap.

  • Align resources to meet strategic goals.

  • Set clear timelines and milestones.

  • Define Objective and Key Results (OKRs) to track progress.

This step is about turning your strategic vision into a workable plan that can be implemented effectively.

3. Adapting to market and customer dynamics

To keep your digital product relevant, you need to be flexible and ready to adapt. Regularly review your strategy and be prepared to adjust it in response to changing market conditions, customer feedback, and business priorities. This adaptability is key to staying ahead in the competitive digital space.

4. Measuring success and adjustments

Measurement is pivotal. Regularly assess your progress against the goals and objectives you’ve set. Utilize the data and insights gathered to refine your strategy and initiatives. This ongoing evaluation will help you stay on course and make necessary corrections to keep your digital product on the path to success.

Digital strategy tools

Now, let’s talk about the tools for executing your digital product strategy effectively. These tools will ensure that your strategy isn’t only well-planned but also well-executed.

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Product roadmaps

These outline the path your product will take, detailing the key features, enhancements, and milestones.

A product roadmap is not just a plan for your product; it's your strategic guide to shape and guide your entire digital product strategy. It's about plotting a course that balances ambition with feasibility, ensuring that your digital product evolves in a way that aligns with both market demands and your overarching business objectives.

Strategic Intent Canvas: connecting strategy with vision

To help articulate and align your strategy with your broader product vision, mission, and values, you can use the Strategic Intent Canvas. This tool serves as a concise summary of your strategy, ensuring consistency with your overarching goals.

The canvas helps in:

  • Clarifying your digital product strategy: Providing a clear visual representation of your strategy.

  • Aligning with organizational objectives: Ensuring your strategy supports your company’s broader vision and mission.

  • Communicating with stakeholders: Facilitating effective communication of your strategy across different teams and stakeholders.

Business Model Canvas: the culmination of your digital strategy

This model is the visible outcome of your strategic planning. It encapsulates how your product will generate value for your customers and revenue for your business. Your business model is the result of your strategy, not the starting point.

Go-to-Market Plan and OKRs

An aspect that often gets overlooked is the Go-to-Market Plan. Even the best business and product strategies can fail without a solid go-to-market strategy. 

Involving product marketers right from the start, especially post-product discovery, is important. They bring invaluable insights into customers, market channels, and competitors. Their expertise in developing go-to-market plans ensures that when your product is ready, it hits the market with maximum impact.

On the other hand, OKRs help you set specific objectives and track measurable results, ensuring that every team member knows what success looks like.

Updated: May 6, 2024

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