As part of my product management toolkit, I’ve thus far covered the creation of a product vision and the definition of a product strategy. The next thing to look at is goal setting: what are the business goals that a product strategy and or roadmap need to align with? I’ve learned the importance of goals to help define or assess a product strategy. I would even go as far as saying that if your product strategy, roadmap, backlog or — low and behold — your actual product don’t align with your business goals, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Tool 3 — Goal Setting
What are goals? — This is what Wikipedia has to say about “goals”: “A goal is a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve; a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavour to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.” In other words, what is it the that we are looking to achieve, why and by when?
I typically look at goals from either of the following two angles: metrics or ‘objectives-key-results’ (‘OKR’s). From a metric perspective; what is the single metric that we’re looking to move the needle on, why and and by when? What does this impact look like and how can we measure it? For example, a key business goal can be to increase Customer Lifetime Value with 1% by June 2016. To be clear, a metric in itself isn’t a goal, the change that you want to see in metric is a goal.
From an OKR perspective, the idea is to outline a number of tangible results against a set, high level, objective. For example:
Objective: To enable sellers on our marketplace platform to make business and product decisions based on their sales and performance data generated from their activities on our platform.
Result 1: Our sellers making key business and product decisions before and throughout Christmas 2015
Result 2: Our sellers can look at their historic sales data so that they’ve got more sales context for their decision-making
Typically, there will be a set of overarching business goals that have been established and our responsibility as product managers is to link our product goals to these objectives, so that our product strategy is fully aligned with the business strategy.
What goals aren’t — Goals aren’t a strategy or specific features. This might sound obvious, but often see cases where people do confuse things; setting goals without a strategy to achieve them or having a roadmap that doesn’t align with business goals.
In contrast, the point of a strategy or a roadmap is to highlight the ‘how’, the steps that need to be taken to achieve specific goals.
When to create goals? — It’s simple: if you join an organisation and hear “we don’t have business goals”, you know what to do! My point here is that a product strategy or roadmap that isn’t aligned with broader business goals, is just a loose collection of features or random solutions. The one thing to add is that some early stage startups tend to get really hung up on a whole range of specific goals or metrics. I’d always recommend to keep it simple and focus on a single goal or metric, understand what your (target) users’ needs are and how are they actually using your product.
Characteristics of good goals — I can imagine that a lot of you will have a heard of SMART goals:
- S = specific, significant, stretching
- M = measurable, meaningful, motivational
- A = agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
- R = realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
- T = time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
Example taken from: http://business.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Examples_of_SMART_Goals_and_Objectives
Main learning point: In my view, setting and understanding goals is just important as creating a strategy to achieve them. Before I delve into creating a product strategy or roadmap, I’ll always try to make sure I fully understand the business objectives and translate those into specific, measurable product goals.
Related links for further learning: