The Value of Strategic Planning to Reach Product-Market Fit.

Denison Wright

VP Engineering at Sonatype



Once, I joined an organization that was attempting to bring a product to market. In my first couple of weeks, I observed teams working following an agile process, delivering features every week. But after a series of conversations and analysis of the situation, my conclusion was that the company had not yet reached product-market fit yet it was operating like it had. It lacked a realistic and cohesive product vision, roadmap, assumptions to validate, and plan to make it happen. The scope of the problem being undertaken appeared too big for the current funding and staffing state of the organization. How to proceed?

Actions taken

I held a series of conversations with key people in the organization to surface my concerns and offer some ways to deal with them. If we could all agree on the current state of the situation, then we could work together to form a plan forward.

Working with the head of PM, we reviewed and revised the product vision and MVP roadmap. We reviewed and got agreement by the executive team. This was intended to improve clarity and focus, both internal and externally. We also needed to find some partners who would be willing to work with us to adopt the early phases of the product and provide critical market feedback in the process.

We also held several reviews with members of the engineering team to discuss the MVP roadmap at a high level and attempt to rough-estimate to get a sense of the magnitude of the effort ahead of us. With this information we could determine if we had the right size team to work in the time window to take advantage of the market opportunity, and if we had enough funding runway to allow us to make progress, iterate, learn, adjust, working towards product market fit.

The information above allowed us to refine our plans, secure additional funding, and to adjust our team to be better equipped to execute against the problem we were trying to solve.

"If we could all agree on the current state of the situation, then we could work together to form a plan forward."

Lessons learned

President Eisenhower once said something along the lines of "plans are worthless, planning is indispensable". Sometimes people are in a rush to get started, but taking pause to assess the situation and capabilities can enable you to figure out what problems to actually take on and how to proceed. Planning at every level is essential. At the strategic level, it allows you to set things up at the macro level, which will provide the supporting framework for the lowers levels. Flexibility to react to reality on the ground is also critical.

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Denison Wright

VP Engineering at Sonatype

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