Creating a product strategy can be tricky, and aligning your team around it can be a daunting task in itself. It is not uncommon to find that team members have different interpretations or approaches to the same strategy, which then leads to misalignment within the team. We then in turn ask ourselves - but how did this happen, were we not reading the same document?
It’s in this gray area that the product value concept plan (VCP) was born.
The VCP gets rid of a lot of that ambiguity and makes it very clear that there’s a direct relationship between the strategy we are aiming to execute on, and the value the product is meant to provide our customers.
Let’s explore the VCP and how it can help align your team further.
Product Strategy vs VCP focus
The product strategy and VCP are quite complementary to each other.
I don’t like to prescribe to a specific template, but at a high level your product strategy should focus on the following areas:
What you want to achieve
- Product vision
- Business models
Customers and market landscape
How you will achieve things
This looks fairly comprehensive, but there’s still a few unanswered questions - the most direct being one: how do we know where we are providing customer value?
Adding focus to customer value actually helps us deliver on business objectives.
Customer value -> build better solutions -> higher adoption -> higher impact on goals
In doing that, it means we've got to really understand where customer value and assumptions intersect with our business goals.
It's these value assumptions that regularly go undiscussed, are not defined, or are missing entirely from the product strategy. We need to validate those assumptions and gather as much evidence as possible to proceed with a particular direction.
The VCP framework
The VCP adds to your product strategy by adding focus to three areas that as discussed, tend to go undefined, or even worse, assumed.
Let’s explore them below.
Product strategy documents will usually include something around a target customer, but usually in the form of personas - with focus on their industry, sector, role and some high-level information around their frustrations and outcomes. This is a good base, but there’s a lot more to learn and understand about your intended audience.
I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole about whether personas are good or bad - everyone has a love-hate relationship with them. But it is important to consider that personas should not remain static, and need to be continuously updated and evolved as your product and your market grow and mature.
So where does the VCP complement your target customer profile?
By adding focus to areas like:
- What are the use cases for the different solutions you offer?
- Where is the intersection of personas vs use cases, and how might you then help support the market further (and move into new markets)?
A persona profile focuses on one single intended audience, but it’s important to understand the overlap between them, and how your product may support them further.
Customer value is probably one of the most important things to outline in the VCP. It helps clarify the perceived value by the customer, and how you might be able to provide that.
Mapping this out is a great team exercise to help everyone think about the customer and putting their needs front and center.
As an example:
For every business objective that you have, map out some perceived customer values. For instance, you might have “Increase acquisition” as an objective, for which confidence in your product and company is a perceived value by the customer.
Then the question becomes: Why? Why is it that the customer has to have confidence in the product in order for that to help us increase acquisition?
It might seem pretty obvious - but again, it’s these “obvious” yet assumed statements that when undefined, make way for misunderstanding.
Behaviours and influencing factors are part of the psychological aspect of building products. What is your product helping the customer do, how do you build those habits over time, and what experiences help influence those behaviours further?
A good question to start out with is whether or not you are actually intending to change behaviours. When building solutions, you do have the ability to change the behaviour of the user, or create some sort of action users will take that will affect their habits (goes without saying, in a positive manner!)
It is these changes in behaviours, alongside product experiences, that provide customer value over time.
How it all fits together
Let’s use an example scenario to tie in what we’ve learned above.
Let’s pretend we are building a scheduler app and we want for users to be able to schedule faster.
Intended audience: Anyone having to schedule a workforce. (We’re starting high level here)
Customer behaviour: We are attempting to influence the ability to schedule faster. The modifier to this behaviour might then be to do so more more effectively with less gaps.
Customer value: The value for the customer there might be increased revenue. They can schedule faster and more effectively, therefore they can increase their own revenue.
Now that we have identified a behaviour we want to influence, and an assumption around what the value might be, the next step is to do some research around the assumption, the perceived value, and how you might potentially solve that problem.
A product strategy might help you understand problems to solve and potential opportunities, but without factoring in influencing behaviours, experiences, and customer value, we’re potentially missing out on building truly amazing products.