Discover more from Learn With Puppy
From Company Mission to Product Strategy to Product Roadmap
This article is a documentation of how I created product vision, product strategy, product roadmap, and product backlog for CoachArt when I first joined. Hope to get some feedback on how I can improve
Background and My First 30 Days
When I joined CoachArt as its first and only associate product manager, these were a few of the first things that I did:
1. Read everything I could find, internally and externally
This is so important because PMs are like parents a lot of the time 😂 If you don't get enough context to piece together the big pictures and investigate the nuances, you easily dismiss important signs or opportunities.
2. Talk to as many people as possible
It's important to know your teammates, personally and professionally (need to strike the right balance, of course). Communicate early and frequently about what they're working on, what problems they're facing, and what you do, and offer helps and supports. (Trust me, most people still don't have a full picture of what product management is 👀)
3. Look at all reports and dashboards
Data! Get to know your tech stack, but more importantly, look at what types of data and sources your organization have that can help you keep track of important metrics and what could be potentially missing that we need to implement in the future.
4. Created a Confluence space and pages
Since we don't have a product-dedicated space, I figured it needed to be the foundation of documentation and clear guidance in terms of product directions (at least this was what I've witnessed and internalized in many other places).
5. Start prioritizing and executing
They all say it is important to start shipping in your first 30-60-90 days, begin with something small but impactful. My experience? It really depends on your team size. Since CoachArt only has one software engineer, it is quite important for us to work on something truly impactful (and potentially large). So while I had plans to strategize, organize, and prioritize backlogs, most of my early days were jumping right in to help unblock the software development process, including wireframing, creating user stories, and lots of communications (our software engineers don't speak fluent English so sometimes it takes more attempts and different ways to communicate with one another).
Building Product Vision
What do you do when you're a newbie, scared of messing things up, and not 100% sure what you're doing?
No, you don't fake it until you make it.
You research and read and learn as much as you can and try to apply them to what you're doing.
So my approach was - to be very clear about CoachArt's organization mission statement and vision and create a product vision from there.
CoachArt's Mission Statement:
CoachArt’s mission is to create a transformative arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness.
Our vision is that one day every family impacted by chronic illness will be connected to a community of support and an opportunity to learn and grow together.
And from the above two, I tried two different product vision approaches:
CoachArt Connect Product Vision (GLEe)
Get big on technology platforms
Lead matching families and volunteers
Expand programs and users
Product Vision Board
Vision: Empower and connect all children and youths with chronic illness and all volunteers looking to make a social impact by sharing their arts/sports/music hobbies
Target Group: Children and youths age 5-18 with chronic illness + Volunteers that are eager to help
Product: CoachArt website, CoachArt Connect, other resources and supports
Business Goals: More students, more volunteers, more donors
Other Product Vision Examples
I love to see different examples to get inspired, so I deliberately put these inside the document:
Sonos: Fill every home with music.
Google: To provide access to the world’s information with one click.
Instagram: To capture and share the world’s moments.
LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful.
IKEA: ‘To create a better everyday life for the many people.’
Tesla: ‘To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Paypal: ‘That every person has the right to participate fully in the global economy, and that we have an obligation to empower people to exercise this right and improve financial health.
Building Product Strategy
This, was something that I got stuck with and struggled with a bit. And now that I look back and revisit, I feel that it can be changed and improved, a lot.
In a nutshell, I used Product Strategy Canvas which includes the following elements:
This vision is a slightly different version from the previous Product Vision mentioned. The format I followed was:
In X years, [Product] will be [what kind of leader] in [industry] by [actions that will be taken].
This is the place where you identify what you need in order to reach the above vision during that timeframe. The format:
In order to reach our vision, we need to achieve [a specific metric] by [Month, Year]
For example, in order to reach our vision, we need to achieve xxxx students and yyyy volunteers by December 2025.
Target Condition for [Year]
This target is the short-term goal for beating the challenge we set previously. For example:
In order to beat the challenge, we first need to achieve [some metric] by [Month, Year]
If the previous challenge time was December 2025, then this target condition can be December 2023. Make it realistic and contingent on current organizational goals!
This is the place where we assess where we are at right now so that we can have a holistic idea about how far we are from the target condition (short-term goal) and how far out we are from the challenge (long-term goal).
After building the Product Strategy Canvas for 2022/2023, I felt weird. I felt incomplete and not grounded by the "strategy". So I decided to continue to "funnelize" the strategy. From the vision and strategy, I broke it down further to list Product Goals for the next 5 years (each with a high-level measurable):
Increase CoachArt Connect Adoption
Reduce match churn
Maintain user satisfaction
After listing the 4 big product goals, I then went through the existing backlog, grouped them by categorizing them with the 4 major goals, and re-organize them as initiatives that can be treated/seen as a bigger "theme".
Up until this point, I feel much more organized and confident in having an overview of things already there before I joined, and this also gave me a decent foundation to add new ideas/features/initiatives in the future.
Now that we have product initiatives tied to the big 4 major goals, I then asked my manager what the main business goals for this year are - meet the target matches/hours, retain a certain amount of matches, and maintain a satisfaction score as last year.
With the above 3 business goals in mind, I then created a roadmap by extracting the initiatives from the 4 product goals that are closely related to the business goals.
If you treat the x-axis as time, my y-axis has 4 different lanes (each product goal), and each lane has one or more initiatives spanning across some times, depending on the scope:
You can see the size of each lane means if they have more or fewer initiatives than others across the year.
Things I still need to learn and practice regarding the above points
As I mentioned earlier, we only have one outsourced full-time software engineer with a medium language barrier. He works project by project and usually only gives estimation before the start of the project (and only if we ask). So the roadmap created above was mainly based on my discretion.
So far, the roadmap still looks decent with some initiatives needing to be shifted to next year due to a significant delay over the summer when the laptop of our software engineer broke down, and it took the agency almost 2 months to get him a working laptop.
But I understand this is not how PMs work in other tech companies 😂 You always involve software engineers early in the roadmap planning phase, right?
So a few quick notes on what I hope to get better at around these:
How to involve software engineers during the planning phase
When and how often should we revisit product vision, product strategy, product goals/initiatives, and product roadmap
How can I create a better product vision and strategy that is closely aligned to the organization's vision and goals
Better measurables and metrics tracking
Thank you for reading thus far!
Keep learning 💪
Thanks for reading Learn With Puppy! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and learn together ❤️