How we put strategy at the center of product management

CJ Jacobs

Head of Product and Technology

We had a problem

Our team manages a broad range of digital products. Some of these products support the editorial side of our business and others provide digital marketing services to advertisers. We are also responsible for business enablement technologies, such as our data warehouse and Salesforce implementation.

Previously, our product management processes lacked consistency and transparency. We used a myriad of spreadsheets to capture requests, define features, and prioritize what to build. It was chaotic to manage all the pieces and difficult to focus on what was most important. We were so focused on shipping new functionality as quickly as possible that we lost sight of how we were tracking against the long-term strategy.

We needed to transform our entire approach to product management. It was critical to find a purpose-built tool that would bring our plans together in one place and allow us to drive repeatable success across the organization.

Aha! as a solution

We now use Aha! to define the strategy for each product — including setting a vision, doing SWOT analysis, and creating customer segment profiles. Capturing goals, initiatives, and KPIs make it clear what we want to achieve. The initiatives board is a great way to visualize the status of major efforts using a kanban-style approach to show the status of work.

The ideas portal helps us capture requests in one place. It serves as a “front door” to our products, enabling internal teams to submit and vote on ideas. The vote count provides a leading indicator of what people want the most, so that product managers can decide which ones to promote to features. We then use a custom Aha! scorecard to prioritize what to build and when.

Aha! is so much more than a roadmapping tool. It is a complete philosophy for setting strategy that empowers product managers to lead with confidence.

Each quarter, we review our plans with business leaders and report on progress against our overall roadmap. Once we all commit to what we will deliver, we use the two-way integration with Jira to coordinate implementation with engineering. Now that we have a firm handle on what we are building each quarter, we are starting to build longer-term roadmaps using one- and three-year planning horizons.

Life is good

Establishing consistent product management processes in Aha! drives alignment. We now have a visible plan that everyone can understand. Our method for prioritizing features is transparent and stakeholders can easily track the status of their requests — without having to ask what will be delivered and when.

Aha! takes the mystery out of product management. It is exciting to see the transformation that is happening as teams work together to build innovative products.

Team morale has greatly improved as well. Product managers now feel empowered to own strategy and lead with confidence. Now the business is assured of the team's ability to create a roadmap and deliver on it.