Product Strategy vs Feature Tactics: Managing a Digital Product

by Nicholas Henkey — on  ,  , 


As a digital product manager, you're responsible for guiding the strategy and implementing a strategic vision for your product. With that said, you also need to keep stakeholders and clients happy. While managing this conflict, it is easy to get caught up in short-term wins at the expense of long-term success.

It's important to remember that while short-term tactics may provide a quick boost, they're not a guarantee of long-term victory. In fact, they can and do lead development teams down dead-end paths. As a product manager, that is a terrifying thought to me! So how can you strike the right balance between short-term gains and long-term success?

A company's strategic profile should be based on a clear understanding of how it achieves superior profitability. It should not be based on a collection of successful tactics devoid of conceptual unity.

W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne - "Blue Ocean Strategy"

One approach is to focus on building a strong foundation for your product. This means investing in things like user research, design, and technology infrastructure that will support your product's growth over time. For companies, often this means spinning off a feature from another successful product, since you will be able to migrate a portion of an existing client base. Alternatively, in the book "Hooked" by Nir Eyal, he recommends building something that you would like or would have liked in your recent past.

Another key is to stay focused on your strategic vision to deliver maximum value. Don't get sidetracked by every new trend or feature request that comes your way. Instead, keep your eyes on the big picture and make sure that everything you do is aligned with your long-term goals. By keeping your attention focused on the most important strategic objectives, you will be able to keep your costs low and client base riveted.

My favorite, third key, and "North Star" is the data. With any digital product, we product managers have access to a ton of data. SaaS users in particular leave fingerprints all over the place while logged into our systems; even products subject to privacy regulations have anonymized workflow data. We need to know what parts of this data are most important to a product's core competency. Any feature that does not fit in with the core product metrics needs strict scrutiny before it touches a technical team.

Of course, there will always be times when you need to make quick decisions and pivot in response to changing circumstances. But by keeping your focus on the long-term health of your product and investing in the right areas, you'll be better equipped to navigate those challenges and set your team up for success.