What are product goals and initiatives?

Product goals

Product goals help achieve the product vision and business objectives. Goals should relate to the broader product strategy. They should also be easy to understand, actionable, achievable, and measurable.

Aligning goals with product vision is just the first step. As Product Manager, you must also align and roll product goals up to the overall business goals. This demonstrates how the product delivery will enhance success of the business.

It also shows product stakeholders how their unique work matters. You rely on many teams for a product release, from Sales and Support to Engineering and Development. Product goals let each team know how their work contributes at a high level.

As an example, in our demo product for Fredwin Cycling, our goals are the following:

Goal: Become #1 in social fitness cycling software
Metric: +50% market share

Goal: Triple revenue year over year
Metric: +$50M revenue

Goal: Top rated social fitness cycling apps
Metric: #1 rated in iOS and Android marketplaces

Goal: Largest partner ecosystem
Metric: +100 partners

Your product goals must have measurable end results that can be achieved within a fixed timeframe (typically 3-12 months). Your objectives should represent the crucial accomplishments needed to make your vision a reality. They highlight what you hope to accomplish, and are often stepping stones to accelerating business growth and explaining bolder goals. They should also be reasonably easy to track, so you know how your team is performing against them.

Ensure that you're planning what matters by linking releases to the goals that they drive. By considering which goals (and initiatives) a release helps impact, you can identify what matters (and what doesn't).

It is also important to link features to goals so that you indicate strategic importance. This will especially help with prioritization of features. Having clearly defined goals helps keep the team on track and empowers you to tell key stakeholders why your plan is the best strategy.

Product initiatives

Initiatives are high-level efforts that you will complete in order to achieve a goal. They are a key piece of strategy, along with vision and goals. When you establish initiatives, you are simply specifying the work that needs to be accomplished in order to achieve the goals and deliver against the larger strategy that has been set.

You can establish initiatives at the company, product line, or product levels, and they do not necessarily have to be tied to goals. Initiatives can be themes that align to specific priorities in the organization or company (e.g. thought leadership). They might be projects that need to be completed within a specified period of time—even if it is over a few months. Initiatives tend to cross multiple releases or sprints and include many stories or requirements.

For example, Fredwin Cycling has five initiatives:

  • Enhance Tour de California coverage

  • Launch Giro d’Italia site

  • Mobile cycling tracker app upgrades

  • Partner self-serve sponsorship portal and API

  • Support Galileo GPS system

As we build out our releases and product features for Fredwin Cycling, we link these various initiatives to the work that is being accomplished in our features and releases. In this way, we can track progress over time via our product roadmap and then measure our success against our goals. This helps complete what we call the red thread of strategy throughout our roadmap, and helps us stay in alignment.

When you think about which initiatives you want to undertake for your company, you may be inundated with ideas. It helps to consider each initiative according to the value that it will add and the effort it will take to accomplish it. This exercise will help you prioritize which initiatives are most valuable and therefore deserve the most attention.

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