Part 1: Adjusting Our Product Strategy
April 27, 2020
 Part 1: Adjusting Our Product Strategy

This article is the first of a two part series on how we have adjusted our product strategy and processes at Elate. With this massive challenge and change for the world and the economy, we have been evaluating what adjustments we should make with our company and product strategy. 

For context, Elate is a B2B Operations platform that helps teams drive company-wide engagement for OKRs and goals, measures results in real-time through integrations, and powers data-driven business decisions. 

This series will cover two topics related to how we adjusted our product strategy and processes:

  1. Our Observations
  2. Actions We Took

Let’s get started.

Part 1 - Our Observations

I’m not the first one to write about what is changing in the world. By this point, we are all aware that companies are moving from the corporate office to home offices. The economy is struggling, revenue is hard to come by, and many companies are putting a pause on new purchases. Companies are doing everything they can to survive.

So with all of this change, how do we adjust our product strategy? Do we carry on business as usual, or do we completely change our course?

The first thing we did as a product team to evaluate this decision was to take a giant step back and reassess everything we were working on. We thought about what has changed in the world, how our customers have been impacted, what makes our company uniquely positioned to help, and what this means for our communication strategy. 

From this exercise, we had three major observations of what needs to, or has already, changed for our product team:

  1. We need to be incredibly flexible with our roadmap and prioritization
  2. We should help customers more, and ask for less time commitments from customers
  3. We are seeing an increase in product usage by our customers

Observation 1: We Need to Be Incredibly Flexible with Our Roadmap and Prioritization

As most people that work in product management know, a roadmap is a very fluid tool that changes frequently. Roadmaps are great for communicating where the product is going, but it is understood that the roadmap will not be completely accurate to deadlines and long-term initiatives. 

That being said, Elate’s roadmap has been changing more rapidly than any other time in my product management career. New features and product initiatives that made sense in the old economic climate don’t make sense now. Budgets are tight. Purchasing decisions are not taken lightly.

At Elate, we have been quick to focus our product roadmap on giving existing customers as much value as possible. However, we still want to ensure we don't lose sight of our long-term product vision. Losing sight of our long-term product vision would be a detriment to our company strategy and our customers. That being said, we have consciously decided to prioritize features for existing customers higher up on our roadmap. 

Action Your Product Team Can Take: 

Evaluate if your roadmap is aligned with the current economic climate and user behaviors. Talk to sales to see what they are hearing from your industry, and evaluate if you need to make adjustments to cater to your prospects and customers.

Observation 2: We Should Help Customers More, and Ask for Less Time Commitments

Elate takes pride in, and even makes product team OKRs, around being a user-driven product culture. We track user interviews, surveys filled out, NPS, and product analytics. We know that the best products are driven by user feedback, which is why we emphasize it so heavily.

That being said, we decided that now is not the right time to ask for a lot of time commitments from our customers. Now is the time to help. 

We put a temporary pause on scheduling traditional user interviews and asking for survey responses. Instead, we are asking ourselves how we can best support our customers. Rather than asking customers to review a mockup, we are asking if there are things we can do to enable them and make their lives easier. We are really reviewing product analytics in-depth, and letting customer actions, and inactions, dictate our priority. This is a simple change that is free to implement, but an impactful one for customers.

While getting less user feedback has been a challenge for our product team, we want to be the best partner possible for our customers. Admittedly, I’m not sure how long this temporary pause will last, but we feel that now is the time for us to help, not ask.

Action Your Product Team Can Take:

Discuss your current user feedback data collection methods as a team. Should you pause traditional user interviews? Should you continue them? Is there anything innovative you can do to help your customers? Can you utilize product analytics more effectively?

Observation 3: We Are Seeing An Increase in Product Usage by Our Customers

Executives are finding creative ways to align their team. Software plays a key part in making remote alignment easier. We are finding that people are getting value in the collaborative nature of Elate.

We had a hunch that our product would be useful for remote companies, but we couldn’t validate that until we had the data to analyze. As we suspected, usage of the platform increased significantly with the onset of remote work. Unique views of our product have increased. We saw a surge in total active users on the platform in March and April. Users are checking their goals regularly, communicating in the product, and creating team alignment in Elate.

I didn’t write this to give us a pat on the back for a job well done. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that remote work was less of a consideration for us before. Now remote work is the reality for every single customer and prospect, which impacts our product strategy. 

Action Your Product Team Can Take:

Brainstorm how you can add features in your product that are aligned to your long-term product strategy, while also catering to remote collaboration for your niche. Review product analytics and observe if analytics have changed since remote work became more common.

Part 2 - Actions We Took

These observations were incredibly helpful for us in adjusting our product strategy and processes. The next article in this series will cover actions we took from these observations. Stay tuned!