Overcoming challenges

  • 23 November 2021
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In the Product Strategy Playbook, which I mentioned in yesterday's post, one of the last sections focuses on the impact of a solid product strategy when your organization finds that it needs to pivot.

"For some businesses, it was relatively obvious how to pivot during the pandemic. With restaurants closed for long periods of time, specialist point-of-sale software firm Toast found that its clients suddenly had no need for their primary product: on-premise ordering and payments systems. However, the company was able to pivot its focus to the online ordering tools that it had previously developed for pizza deliveries and other take-outs but were now required by most other restaurants."

Reflect on a time when you have needed to pivot your product's positioning. What would you have done differently knowing what you now know? What recommendations would you give to other product managers who find themselves in a similar situation? 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.


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Start by testing an MVC (Minimal Viable Change) to your existing solution instead of starting from a blank slate.

At first, you might feel tempted to test your pivot by building a new feature from scratch. MVP-style, free from any constraints of integrating with legacy systems or features. Problem here is that it will take a few iterations before you get something meaningful up & running for customer testing.

  • If the idea is validated, you’re at risk of continuing development in a silo & postponing integration with your existing solution.
  • If the idea is nixed, you’ll have spent a lot of resources and might have reached the same conclusion with a prototype sooner.
  • If the feedback is lukewarm, you might land in a situation where a few die-hards push you to keep the new solution alive. This will eat up a lot of resources for low impact.

A smarter approach would be to start from your existing solution. Leverage the complexity you’ve already mastered to start off on a more mature foot. Make a small incremental change in the direction of your pivot. Because you’re building upon an existing system, you’ll get to a testable prototype sooner. And you’ll be in better shape to react when the feedback comes in.

  • If the idea is validated, you continue building upon your existing solution. Making adoption easier. Reducing the likelihood of product & technical debt.
  • If the idea is nixed, it’s a cheap fail.
  • If the feedback is lukewarm, you might decide to fold the change into your existing solution without developing upon it further. As you didn’t deviate much, product & technical debt remain limited. You can continue by testing a different incremental change. (Note that you should try to pull out the unsuccessful change as often as possible, otherwise you’ll risk creating a product filled with ‘long tail’ features).

Hope this is of use to someone out there.

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“Make a small incremental change in the direction of your pivot.” Fantastic advice, @pstrouven_pxc. Thank you!

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