February Event Review: “Positioning Products As A Mission Statement” with Alan Wortman
By Sol Solorzano
February 2016 Event
Alan Wortman, Product Management Director at Logitech and Marketing Instructor at UC Berkeley Extension, was our speaker for the February 2016 meeting. His presentation proposed the use of product mission statements to describe products and their purpose in a way that can be understood by all stakeholders across organizations, especially those working on related projects. Furthermore, Alan proposed to use product positioning statements as the mission statements. By doing so, the mission statements provide further alignment with external stakeholders, especially customers’ understanding and product expectations.
Similar to an organization mission statement, a product mission statement can be a powerful communication tool to provide an overarching description of a product and its purpose that can be accessible to staff members in any role, level, and development stage. However, organization mission statements are typically designed to support long lasting strategic vision and direction, which can be too broad to effectively describe a product-specific strategy. Leveraging a product positioning statement as product mission statement provides a more focused way for all stakeholders to understand the product.
As product managers, we have all experienced situations in which different stakeholders arrived at a different understanding of product purposes, in part because products are described across different artifacts for different audiences, leaving room for different interpretations. Disconnected product or project expectations among Sales, Product Management, Engineering, and other organizations not only result in inefficiencies, but can lead to product failure. Therefore, it is critical that all stakeholders have the same understanding of the product’s mission and execute accordingly.
Successful product mission statements do not happen by miracle, as Alan said; they require a well thought and executed method, just like well-crafted company mission statements. Alan proposed moving the positioning statement development process to the beginning of the product development cycle, so that it can be leveraged as the mission statement. The proposed method to craft successful mission statements involves defining:
- Who is the user?
- What is the user’s problem we are trying to solve?
- What is the product?
- What does the product do?
- How is the product different?
Then we use the resulting information to create a positioning statement in this format:
For (Market Segment)
Who (Problem Statement)
The (Product Name)
Is a (Describe Product)
That (Explain WHAT the Product does)
Unlike (Main competitor or substitute)
The (Product Name) (describe benefits)
The resulting positioning statement serves as the mission statement during that provides alignment during the development process, as opposed to just being used as a marketing too. Alan provided useful tips on how to build alignment around the mission statement (such as socializing it and using it to headline all product requirements documents), and how to keep it relevant and up to date.
Alan presented examples of products with successful mission statements that are clear and easily understood by all, and contrasted with examples that fail to describe product missions. Some fail because they did not take into account who the user is or the problem they are trying to solve, while others fail because they did not express the product’s usefulness or how it differs from competing products.
Meeting attendees got a chance to practice in an exercise on how to make product mission statements.
Sol Solorzano has over ten years of experience managing enterprise automation software products. She has worked at leading companies like Oracle, Siebel, Cadence, and Intel in various technical, management and customer facing roles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sol-solorzano-1533201.