There’s no shortage of Canvases to boost your product development process. But this recently published Product Strategy Canvas by Melissa Perri caught my eye.
What is a Product Strategy Canvas?
In short, it’s supposed to provide simple step-by-step guiding for every entrepreneur/product manager/CEO, etc. to nail down the most important aspects of a product strategy.
Thereby, it mostly focusses on a mix of vision, market challenges and exceptional conditions. There is an inevitable overlap with Pichler’s Product Vision Board, but I see the Product Strategy Canvas being a bit more focused on the meta level and outlook of your product and leaving out some of the opera.
Here are also some explanatory notes from the creator Melissa Perri to put the canvas into context:
Product Strategy is a system of achievable goals and visions that work together to align the team around desirable outcomes for both the business and your customers.
Product Strategy emerges from experimentation towards a goal. Initiatives around features, products, and platforms are proven this way. Those KPIs, OKRs, and other metrics you are setting for your teams are part of the Product Strategy. But, they cannot create a successful strategy on their own.
What to use it for?
The obvious answer is: To define your product strategy. The more granular one is: It depends.
No, really. It depends during which phase of your product discovery, company-wide strategy process or quarterly OKR planning you bring in this canvas.
While you’ll probably bring in more formal ways (like .ppt) to outline your plan to the board or shareholders, the Product Strategy Canvas can be seen as an excellent more informal tool to exchange first thoughts with your people manager or product colleagues.
It’s lightweight enough that correcting filled-in assumptions doesn’t hurt even after the 5th time but at the same time binding sufficiently to commit yourself to it in front of your (development) team.
A perfect use case for it is to, e.g., often kick-off an offsite to tackle your team’s next project or a design sprint. It helps to outline the product’s intent and to give at least some rough indication about market conditions and business goals. Comparable tools for this job are for example the XING-developed Auftragsklärung format.
How to read and use a Product Strategy Canvas
The template only consists of 4 different sections so here’s about how to use those in a bit more data often.
Considered the most difficult part to write down, the vision section forces you to nail down your product’s long-term strategy in one sentence usind the following scheme:
In <time frame> <Company, divison> will be <Vision Statement>.
The most important thing to consider for this section is simply to aim high enough. A product vision should include a bold perspective, making a major difference for your (potential) users and the market. So, try to void expressions which are too granular (‘[…] make the button easier to discover.’) or too specific (‘[…] improve our conversion rate by 5%.’).
The challenge states the one critical metric which needs to be moved above/below a certain threshold in order to succeed with your vision. Think of the ‘Objective’ from your OKR process.
Borrowing a bit from there, here’s some help to approach this definition process:
- Objectives should empower employees to take ownership of the part of the business they’re being held accountable for.
- Provide a clear line of sight by being specific regarding content and ambition level.
- Consider the measurement of succeeding/failing right from the start.
I’m a bit skeptical on this section, as it pre-defines the first step the product team has to take right upfront. It has a certain micro-management approach to say take your team by the hand and lead them right to the first thing they have to accomplish. Ideally, they’d figure it out on their own.
Nevertheless, you should come up with a broken-down success metric of your previously defined challenge. Remember to adjust the timeframe and ambition level in correlation to the share of the overall goal.
Here’s where to put in what you know so far. But it’s not meant to be a brain dumb of your year-long observations. Instead think of the one proven metric/fact/user feedback which matters as a starting point to aim towards your overall vision.
The Product Strategy Canvas has it’s parallels to other frameworks like OKR, Auftragsklärung, Product Field or the Product Vision Board. Personally, I don’t like the overall package as much as the other ones because of it’s bluntness and the aspect of dismissing some parts of product development I consider to be critical (e.g., Stakeholder) and will think twice about before using it.
By the way, you can download a blank copy of the Product Strategy canvas here.