Product planning constitutes a significant part of what a project manager has to do. It is one of those things that come first when trying to develop a product. The process encompasses everything you have to do to develop a winning product.
In this article, we attempt to answer the question, “What is product planning?” in a clearer way. You will also learn about some key steps to take to do it correctly.
What is Product Planning?
Product planning is a process that ranges from the generation and evaluation of ideas to the development of products in a resource-efficient manner. It covers everything you have to decide or do to make a winning product. The aim is to achieve the goals of a product strategy while using available resources optimally.
There’s a difference between product planning and go-to-market planning. Some people might assume that the former subsumes the latter.
By product planning, reference is to the determination of decisions and actions needed to build a winner. Go-to-market planning has to do with the decisions and steps required to promote the adoption of the product. Planning helps you to identify priorities. That way, it becomes easier to create a roadmap.
Planning is an Ongoing Process
It is funny how some product professionals view planning somewhat like a one-time event. They think it’s something to do at one or two meetings before starting to develop products. That’s a wrong approach to planning a product’s development.
We all know that change is a constant thing in life. You could find out in the process of developing a product that things won’t work out as you have planned them. What would you do then? Abandon product development midway?
As a product manager, you should approach planning as a process that is not done until you have a finished product. New user knowledge, new trends in your market, and changing levels of available resources might warrant revising your earlier decisions.
It will help to make stakeholders know that product planning is never a one-time thing. This will prepare their minds for tweaks to the original plan that may be necessary along the way.
How to Do Product Planning
We have in this section some steps you can follow when trying to product planning. You may think of these in hierarchical terms – working from the top to bottom.
Define your objectives
Product planning depends greatly on the product strategy. The latter usually comes as objectives that keep to the SMART principle – that is, specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.
You have to define the objectives that you are trying to achieve. They promote a more-specific approach to achieving broad business goals. The objectives have a link to product ideas that you come up with.
It is valuable to work with themes when doing planning. With the aid of these, you can communicate strategic objectives more easily and clearly.
A theme is a collection of features that aim at achieving a strategic objective. It can be of use for easily identifying what should receive more attention when doing your planning.
A project is a collection of activities that add value. It is an extra effort you have to make to achieve the objectives you have identified. Analogous to Epic in Scrum, projects are blocks of tasks lasting for one to three months.
Projects, or feature projects, aim to make products more worthwhile to users. This could, for instance, mean adding a new feature or improving an existing one. It is a good practice that you identify the projects to focus on when doing planning.
After defining the foregoing, you can then start to determine what projects come first. Use a scoring system to figure out products that will be impactful for your strategic objectives and rank them accordingly. You should bear in mind the resources each project would require to achieve when prioritizing. This process will influence what makes it to your roadmap.
Some Tips for Success
Here are a few tips to help ensure your planning efforts lead to a winning product:
You should try to get feedback from relevant stakeholders after creating a plan or a draft. Experts advise starting with those that are closer to you for fine-tuning the plan before sharing with others.
Emphasize ongoing process
We pointed out earlier why it is wrong to view planning as a meeting or a just once event. It is important to try and make relevant stakeholders in your organization to see the process more as an ongoing one. They should be more welcoming to possible changes down the line.
It is useful to summarize whatever research you might have done to support your planning process. Have your findings in fewer words that are easier to understand. Some stakeholders might not have the time to study all the data you come up with.
Communicate with teams frequently
Finally, you want to encourage regular communication with your teams. One of the benefits this can afford you is that teams will have more room to suggest helpful changes especially when they are made to know that product planning is an ongoing process.