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Develop a strategy

Once you have a vision, you need to align on how to realize it. Your strategy outlines a plan of action to achieve that vision. It is not every detail of execution, but rather the approach or direction you will take. Given the problem you’re trying to solve (why you’re here) and the vision (what you’re trying to do), it explains what the high-level goals and objectives are (the specific things your partner wants the product to accomplish and for whom), the priorities, and the constraints so that everyone can understand the logic behind the strategy you’re pursuing.

Once you’ve set the strategy, you can start to plan the execution details, and the strategy will help you prioritize the work you take on and evaluate your success. The strategy is not written in stone, however. Priorities, available resources, and costs may change. Plan to periodically review the strategy to ensure it’s still the best way for your partner to achieve their vision.

Considerations: A good strategy…

  • Clearly articulates short-term and long-term goals that will help the partner achieve their vision

  • Establishes priorities that help inform plans for the features and functionalities you’re going to implement

  • Explains the value proposition of the recommended approach and the tradeoffs associated with alternatives

  • Has realistic technology maintenance and staffing implications for the partner

  • Is developed with input from subject matter experts from the project team and partner and ensures that stakeholders are aligned and prepared to execute on the strategy

Activities: How to get there

  • Work with your partner to develop short-term and long-term goals that tie into the vision so that you understand what outcomes are most important to achieve and how success will be defined.

  • Consider the resources, constraints, and dependencies you have to work with, including available budget, personnel, timelines, and risk posture.

  • Understand who can exert influence.

  • Think about market differentiation as it relates to your product’s value proposition (e.g. competitors, build/buy analysis, existing systems, how tech changed over time, etc.)

  • Identify, inform, and engage stakeholders that can provide additional resources, including decisions around legal/policy, compliance, technical, or security matters.

  • Develop criteria to evaluate and compare strategy options based on the partner’s goals, resources, organizational context, and the pain points, opportunities, or priorities identified during discovery.

  • Identify options for the future “to-be” state and evaluate against your criteria.

  • Work with your engineering lead to secure alignment on the technical approach, including the technology stack that will be used, where the product will be hosted, and how an Authority to Operate (ATO) will be secured.

  • Work with your acquisitions lead to consider whether the work can be performed and sustained via the agency’s current team or if the agency needs to acquire additional support (in-house or via vendor).

Incorporation: What to do next

  • Be ready to speak to the value of the proposed product or service to a variety of audiences.

  • Develop an actionable roadmap to execute on the vision and strategy.

  • Regularly reconsider the strategy and adapt goals based on changing circumstances, external inputs, or new directions.

Resources

  • What is strategy: An overview of what strategy is and how it fits between vision and execution.

  • How to define high-level goals: An overview of how to break a vision statement into customer promises – the end user experiences you want to enable to deliver on the vision – to inform your product strategy and roadmap.

  • Strategic framework [1]: The Mission Model Canvas, a framework for developing or documenting strategy that focuses on defining mission success, the beneficiaries, the value proposition, the stakeholders whose buy-in is needed, deployment needs, and more. Explanatory videos are also available.

  • Strategic framework [2]: A workshop that helps partners imagine where they want to end up at various points in the future so they can identify what they can do right now.

  • Strategic framework [3]: An overview of how to create a product strategy that draws from key objectives and user research to brainstorm and prioritize solutions.

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18F Product Guide is a product of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services, and is managed by 18F.

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