Manage your product as a portfolio – even with only one product

product as portfolio

A startup product manager shared her challenges in juggling competing priorities and stakeholders’ needs.

So I recommend adopting Responsive Product Portfolio Management and use Dragonboat as a tool supporting it.

She was puzzled “but we only only have 1 product. We don’t have a portfolio. Isn’t portfolio management only for large companies with many product lines?”

Good questions! Is portfolio management only for companies with multiple product lines?

A digital product is a “One Product Portfolio”.

While traditional product portfolio management applies to multiple independent products a user may separately acquire, a digital product is a “one product portfolio” as it is actually a bundle of products for multiple use cases and markets.

For example Google Search is a one product portfolio. Within Google Search product team, there are many product managers, each is involved in building a facet of Google Search product within the overall product portfolio.

In addition to thinking of use cases of a product with a logical separation of the portfolio, the portfolio concept in product management needs to be broadened further.

Every product manager leads multi-dimensional portfolios.

Every product manager needs to support

  • a number of customer segments such as new, existing, enterprise, SMB, users, partners
  • a number of investment categories, such as core/ current product, new product expansion, or Product innovation vs tech platform refactor. 
  • number of business outcomes – sales are pressed by prospects demands, support are challenged by existing customer issues and feature requests, marketing needs to align product with market positions and competitive differentiators, technology team needs to address upgrades and tech debts, and product has product visions and innovations

Making product and prioritization decisions for these competing needs, the portfolio management skill becomes essential.

In the Financial world,

Portfolio management is the art and science of making decisions about investment mix and policy, matching investments to objectives, asset allocation for individuals and institutions, and balancing risk against performance. Portfolio management is all about determining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the choice of debt vs. equity, domestic vs. international, growth vs. safety, and many other trade-offs encountered in the attempt to maximize return at a given appetite for risk.

– Investopedia

Every product manager is constantly facing the decisions about the product investment mix to maximize desired outcome. This is portfolio management in practice.

For product managers, the art of portfolio management is even more challenging than the financial portfolio management, because the definition of desired / best outcome is much broader than monetary value, while the invested capital (resources) is also more complex than monetary (more complex than ROI)

Now you can see the same roadmap could be 3 or 4 different types of portfolios based on how you view them. How do you use this information? 

  1. Prioritize and allocate accordingly – for example a newer product may focus on retention to increase stickiness and then you will focus on acquisition as you have “keep retention under control”. Then you may move efficiency and so on. Understanding the state of the product helps to decide where to focus and be intentional on investing your product features and team capacity towards each
  2. Effectively and quantitatively balance competing stakeholder demands. The failure of a product or company is “peanut buttering” as the famous Yahoo memo
  3. By looking at different dimensions, you will not unintentionally miss key strategic vectors when you linearly prioritize features. 

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Ready to take control of your product roadmap? Sign up for a 14 day free trial of Dragonboat and adopt portfolio management to lead outcome-focused product teams.

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