Product Management is changing.
Initially, Product Managers were only expected to manage the products that were already in the market (Horizon 1).
Over the last 20 years, Product Managers have moved from managing products to becoming drivers of change, orchestrating development for ideas that are yet to go to market (Horizon 2). This is a direct result of the digital transformation that has given ubiquitous access to internet and mobile services (and much more).
We are now on the cusp of the next evolution of Product Management. This is being driven by the science fiction-like changes that are presenting themselves in our current world. We now live in a world where we co-exist with artificial intelligence, the first self-driving cars, virtualised and distributed workplaces, personal 3D printing machines and so much more. Among these, we are enduring world-changing disruptions in the form of pandemics and conflict that will forever transform our experience.
It is in the face of this change that Product Management must now also embrace “future” products. Largely, the time scales that we use to consider for Horizon 3 initiatives have been compressed to the present day.
To help us frame this journey into an uncertain future, we will be guided by the time-tested rules of nautical voyage planning. The rules of voyage planning allow a ship to set sail on a voyage to a land it’s never seen before and arrive safely at that chosen destination.
The Product Navigation Framework comprises the following steps:
Appraise is the second step in the Product Navigation Framework. At this point, the team must have a Destination Statement to Appraise so that we can begin to make the future more of a reality. It is the first opportunity to examine what the organisation has, and what it will need to reach its destination. It is also time to expose the risk of voyaging to the destination. Appraise is a step that cannot be completed hastily. It requires commitment, research, analysis and much debate.
What is it?
Appraise what is needed to begin the journey into the unknown. More than likely, the organisation of today will need to change in some manner to deliver us to the destination. We may need a different operating environment, to amass brand-new technology and systems, acquire new companies, and appoint new people to lead the charge into the future. During Appraise the team identifies the organisational capital (physical and intellectual) required to take the leap forward and avoid running aground along the way.
The goal of Appraise is to expose the risks and what is required to Chart the path. The first step is to understand what is needed to deliver us to the destination. This will inform how we bridge the gaps we have and remove any barriers as we progress through our journey. Finally, we want to assess and document the risks associated with this journey and start advocating.
How do we Appraise?
- Investigate – The organisation capital required to journey to the destination
- Compare – Our future organisational capital needs to our current organisational capital and assess the risks of journeying to the new destination
- Advocate – Align stakeholders and advocate for the future destination
We have to consider how the organisation will deliver the new future by actioning the next level of research – which is more detailed and in-depth than the initial exploration we performed in Gaze.
To continue from our example, we will investigate how to deliver the following:
We will offer a carbon & plastic net-zero shopping experience by 2030 in all our stores to reduce the impact of shopping on the planet. If we don’t significantly reduce carbon and plastic waste, the earth’s temperatures will rise and waste will continue to build up. If we do not offer this future, our customers will find alternative solutions, our revenues will diminish and our organisation may become obsolete.
We will re-use our waste to create renewable packaging that does not depend on natural gas and petroleum. This will create an additional revenue stream, re-use the waste we create and encourage suppliers to use packaging with lower environmental impact.
From this statement, brainstorm and group-source what organisational capital is required to reach the destination. Include diverse stakeholders, as organisational capital requirements will be widespread.
Organisational capital includes but is not limited to:
- Technology – tangible materials, systems and tools that are used to innovate, scale and operate businesses, products and services.
- Intellectual Property – intangible, original knowledge that is created to innovate, scale and operate businesses, products and services.
- Commercial Property – land and buildings used to support innovation, scaling and the operations of businesses, products and services.
- Culture – the company values, mindset, behaviours, structures, traits and norms that empower innovation, scaling and the operations of businesses, products and services.
- Work Experiences – gained work experiences, skills and talents that enable innovation, scaling and the operations of businesses, products and services.
- Economic Capital – the money and commercial models used to innovate, scale and operate businesses, products and services.
- Partnerships – the relationships formed to innovate, scale and operate businesses, products and services.
- Organisational Processes – a series of interlocking actions taken to innovate, scale and operate businesses, products and services.
Here are some ways to investigate how to reach your destination:
- Literature Review
The simplest way to begin investigations is to conduct a literature review and create an Ecosystem Map that lists industry bodies, experts, suppliers, providers, would-be competitors and consultants. Utilise non-traditional platforms such as Reddit and Twitter to learn more about the ecosystem.
If possible, draw the interconnections between each of the parties to understand the strong and weak ties and prioritise companies or persons of interest.
- Global Site Visits
Using the Ecosystem Map, pinpoint and visit companies that the Appraisers can learn from. Visit as a small, cross-functional team to obtain a broader sense of what it takes to successfully deliver new opportunities in that environment.
Prepare before each visit by doing research on the companies the team is visiting. This will help Appraisers create detailed questions to uncover details about the technical aspects of operating in the industry, plus the cultural aspects required to operate well.
When on-site, watch how and where work is being conducted, understand what is required to operate in that industry or market. Probe about the team culture and how they operate. Understand the skills required to build as well as operate the business. Learn from their challenges and more importantly, how they evolved from their mistakes.
Share insights as a team and summarise key learnings after each site visit.
- Speak To Industry Experts
Using the Ecosystem Map, select target industry experts to set up a time to meet. Assign team members and different industry experts to approach.
To ensure that the time with the industry expert is used wisely, create a detailed set of questions and an interview plan to target the right information and advice. The questions asked should be related to their expertise, so it is important to read their publications and opinions.
Compile key learnings after each discussion into a 1-pager presenting the benefits and disadvantages of different approaches and options. Importantly, share amongst the team to solicit deeper discussion.
After the Investigation activities, the team should gather to apply the research and brainstorm the capital required to journey to the destination. Systematically detail the organisational capital required to reach the destination and indicate when it will be needed – immediately, medium-term or late in the journey. This will help to prioritise the most important elements that are critical to beginning the journey.
Then, conduct a thorough audit of the current organisational capital to determine the gaps. Stakeholders across the organisation will be needed to help assess the current state and gaps.
Assessing the risks of this journey is another crucial part of Appraise. Identify and categorise the types of risk associated with each gap the team has identified. Understand if these risks are preventable (usually to do with internal process & capability), external (to do with external factors, like competitors) or strategic (to do with the destination selected). Plans can be set in the next stage of Chart to mitigate preventable risks, while monitoring can be set for external and strategic risks.
Following on from our example, create an Appraise Comparison Table:
(Immediate impacts – must be filled now in order to start Voyage)
(Medium term impacts on Journey, will need to be filled along the way)
(Long term impacts to success of journey)
While it is unlikely that we’ll know everything we will need for the entire journey, Appraising will broadly help us establish what our requirements are before we begin the Voyage.
Every journey needs supporters. As a part of Appraise, the team has to probe and monitor the sentiment of key stakeholders; those who are funding the journey and those who are non-believers. Appraisers will have to determine our key stakeholders’ risk appetite and their desire to reach the future destination through the chosen solution. This will enable Appraisers to formulate and communicate appropriate information. For an undertaking of this size, use a Stakeholder Map to identify and strategically appraise each stakeholder to determine the level of advocacy the team can expect to receive during the journey.
Continue to share and reinforce the story of the future destination through regular roadshows. Keep stakeholders motivated by showing progress even at this early stage, and welcoming their questions and concerns during each roadshow.
Appraisers have yet to Chart the journey or begin the Voyage, so regular, broad communications to the whole of the company are not required for now. At this stage, it’s more important to keep the communications to a small group.
By the end of Appraise, we have a more detailed understanding of what will be needed to reach the future destination. The journey may seem daunting, but the bravest destinations are always far from our current state.