In the start-up phase a new business typically searches for the one product which can initiate some business momentum. Allied to this, following lean start-up methodologies, the product is often limited to a ‘minimum viable product’ and little attention is paid to further products or the evolution of that product into something more complete.
As the business moves into a phase of growth, the initial product becomes more complete and further products may be added to the firm’s line-up – typically products are managed in the same way as in the start-up phase. It is in this period that some Product Portfolio Management discipline can become crucial to maximising the prospects of the business.
However the traditional form of Product Portfolio Management is seen as a process for big companies with lots of activities to keep relatively remote senior management in control. So the question is how can a business benefit from Product Portfolio Management without incurring the overhead of doing so?
In a sense the question returns to one which is very familiar to a start-up: what is the minimum viable method of Product Portfolio Management?
Essentially Portfolio Management is about optimising the overall solution rather than focussing totally on the atomic constituents. What this means that any minimum portfolio management method must:
• Consider the business opportunity as a whole and so develop holistic objectives/prioritisation.
• Identify conflicts on resources between products/projects and arbitrate on them.
If these two aspects are addressed then portfolio management is already up and running!
As the business develops and grows further aspects of Portfolio Management can be added such as linkage to formal strategy, defined communications policies, standardised reporting and planned reviews.
A roadmap for Product Portfolio Management
It is recommended that any growing company should implement the minimum viable Product Portfolio Management Solution, anything less does not represent a step forward compared to managing products individually. An example template of this is Portgenie-MVP from All about the Product Ltd.
The first step of Portfolio Management(MVP) is enough to manage the portfolio operationally with consolidated plans and roadmaps without a dedicated Portfolio office, without a significant documentation, reporting burden or process load.
Elements of Product Portfolio Management can be added to the MVP state as needed by the particular business; if the company is operating over several sites then communications may be next key element to add or if strategy is changing then a formal strategic link could be added.
In essence this way of considering Product Portfolio Management makes it modular built onto a minimum core.
- Statement of business priorities
- Roadmap of product plan
- Resourcing plan of the roadmap
- Decision making and conflict resolution
- Internal/external communications policies
- Regularised reporting rules and formats
- Portfolio planning projects on a annual/six month cycle
- Formal steering and followup processes
- Linkage to strategic planning processes
- Defined linkage to go to market projects.