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  • JJ Rorie

Elevate Your Product Strategy Game

Episode 084

In this episode of Product Voices, Gayatri Diwan, a seasoned product leader, joins to discuss product strategy and its importance in product management.

She emphasizes that product strategy should answer three important questions:

  1. Why the product is needed

  2. Who it is being built for, and

  3. What it aims to achieve.

Gayatri also shares her seven-step plan for creating a product strategy:

  1. Who is your customer?

  2. What is the problem statement?

  3. What is the impact and benefit to the customer with supporting data?

  4. What is the ideal state? What does good look like?

  5. What is our criteria for success and how will we measure our success metrics?

  6. What are the core product tenets or principles?

  7. What are the key pillars and themes we want to invest in?

Throughout the conversation, Gayatri stresses the significance of involving the right stakeholders, having a shared understanding of the problem, and aligning with them for success.

The discussion touches on the impact of AI on product management and strategy. While AI brings efficiency, the basics of product strategy remain the same. The main speaker urges responsible use of AI, emphasizing the need for understanding AI and ML models, data integrity, and responsible decision-making.

In the closing moments of the episode, Gayatri shares her words of wisdom for product managers and leaders. She encourages them to build their product strategy skills, even with smaller products, and have a growth mindset to try new things, fail fast, and iterate.

The episode concludes with a fun lightning round where Gayatri reveals her favorite movie (The Italian Job), her favorite quote ("Everything is intentional"), the animal she would be (a cheetah), and the place she would like to visit (Madrid, Spain).

Overall, the conversation provides valuable insights into the importance of product strategy in achieving product vision and success, as well as the key principles and steps involved in its creation.



Connect with Gayatri:

Gayatri's Favorite Resources:


Intro 00:03

Welcome to Product Voices, a podcast where we share valuable insights and useful resources to help us all be great in product management. Visit the show's website to access the resources discussed on the show, find more information on our fabulous guests or to submit your product management question to be answered in our special q&a episodes. That's all at product And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform. Now, here's our host, JJ Rorie, CEO of Great Product Management.

JJ 00:37

Hello, and welcome to product voices, we've got another great episode for you talking about product strategy and digging in a little bit about what that means and why it's important and how to do it. And you know, some of the other nuances that come along with product strategy. So very important topic. Something that that is, is covered from time to time, but also never really hits the mark. There are so many times when I am meeting with a client or working with a product team. And, you know, product strategy is just one of those things that yes, we all think we know it, we know what it means. But we all have a little bit different perception of it. And it's not that easy to really do well. And so we're going to dig into product strategy and what that looks like. And again, just how we can continuously improve ourselves on building, creating and executing product strategies. And I'm so excited to have my guest with me today. Gayatri Diwan is a seasoned product leader. She's got over 12 years of diverse product management experiences at Expedia, Amazon, Deloitte consulting, she spearheaded the vision and product strategy across multiple B2B, B2C, and AI ML product portfolios while leading teams to build best in class products. She's a real expert, I am so excited to have her. She's been, you know, not only at these awesome companies, but she's a product advisor to startups, she mentors, folks across the product community, she really gives back to the pm community. And for that I'm grateful and I've loved getting to know Gayatri. Also, by the way, you can always reach out to her on LinkedIn. And those links will be on the show notes because she is a true expert and will give you great advice and mentoring and loves to talk product. So with all of that Gayatri, thank you so much for joining me. I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Gayatri 02:34

Thanks, JJ, for the lovely introduction. You're too kind to me, product strategy is such a critical element and backbone in the product management world. So super thrilled to be a part of this conversation. And also, it's an honor to be part of Product Voices.

JJ 02:54

I'm so glad that we can make this happen. So let's just start with the basics. Before we kind of dive deep what, you know, what is a product strategy? Why is it important? Tell me kind of the basics of of your philosophy on product strategies and why they're so important for for product things?

Gayatri 03:11

That's that's a great question. You know what, I'm going to flip your question on its head and take a minute to talk about what is not product strategy. Product Strategy is not a product feature factory. It is not your vision, I see it as a connecting tissue between your product vision and your product roadmap. Now, Product Strategy cannot exist on its own right without a governing product vision. Now for starters, let's talk about product vision first and then discuss what is product strategy and its importance. Now, in my opinion, product vision is something that should be aspirational, you know, key differentiator, and what value your product brings to possibly millions of your customers. Which it should be something that is simple, not fluffy. Now, we may not know how to get to the vision, but product strategy will help us get there. So product strategy is I feel it's quite fundamental in a lot of organizations. And it is something that sets the foundation and overarching plan on how the company plans to achieve the vision. Simply but you know, Product Strategy boils down to the three W's a, why do we need this product? B? Who are we building the product for and see what are we building and what are the outcomes we want to achieve? All in all, you know products strategy really matters, since it provides clarity to our business stakeholders to really understand the direction in which your product is headed, and how it strives to achieve the right business outcomes that is aligned with your business strategy.

JJ 05:15

I love that and I really, really, I agree with all of it. And I really love the kind of the three areas right it's, it's the why the WHO ARE THE for whom and the what, and you didn't say how write a product strategy doesn't get necessarily down to the minutiae of we're gonna do it exactly this way. But it's the way we're going to do something, something that's often forgotten, in my opinion, or at least communicating the why the why is underlined to the who and the what usually, but it's not as communicated as well, which I think is a really important point. So I love that that's, that's a really, really great primer for product strategy and philosophy on it. So let's dig a little bit now. So tell me, you know, in your experience, what, what are the steps or the thought processes that you go through when creating a product strategy?

Gayatri 06:08

Yeah, you know, JJ, I'm gonna have to say this, you know, product strategy is more of an art than a science. That's reality. And like it or not, I'm a firm believer of first principles, and really going with the customer first mindset. With that said, I'm also a big advocate of Amazon's working backwards approach. And something that I use myself since my time there, there is a mental model that I usually follow while building a product strategy. And I believe it is useful no matter what level you are in your Pm career. Now, it's a seven step plan. And it's a beefy one, but important. So strap it step one, who is your customer? You know, obviously, it has to start with your customer, there is no product without the customer. So we really need to know who is your target user, and for whom you're creating the product? Step two, what is the problem statement? What are we really solving for? You need to do your research, whether it's data, interviews, focus groups, do whatever you need to, but you really need to understand what do your customers want? What are the jobs to be done? And is there a product market fit? It is very critical to understand that. Step three is, you know, what is the impact and the benefit to the customer? Now, I really can't stress this enough, JJ, but we need to have a data driven impact. You know, as they say, data helps win arguments. And in my honest opinion, I feel arguments are like opportunities to create a shared understanding of the problem and its benefits. Step four, it's a favorite of mine. What is the ideal state? And you know, what is good look like? Now, for user, what is the ideal experience for them when they're using your product? You will be surprised at how many teams and even organizations miss this critical step. It can be as simple as just defining the ideal experience. Experience just said the back of the envelope, and it's done. But it is a critical step. Step five is you know, what is the criteria for success? And you know, how will we measure our success metrics? Now, the success metrics, obviously, right will be driven by what outcomes your product strategy is trying to achieve. Step six, it's another favorite of mine. By the way, what are the core product tenants or principles? Now, as a product strategy leader, you're almost like the captain of a ship that is trying to steer the ship to its ultimate destination. And the path to the destination can be full of you know turbulences. But I've realized over the years that these product principles really help you stay guided and grounded. Also, these product tenants will help you make some good product development decisions. It will help us make better trade off decisions to break the tie or conflicts between products, especially when they're trying to compete for the same resources. And then Step seven is you know, what are our key pillars and themes that We really want to invest in how do we want to differentiate from a competition with Game Changer capabilities. These are more of, you know, the product capabilities. And then you follow this up with a minimum lovable product, you know, how did how does it look like? And what's the roadmap? Now, this is not a secret recipe, JJ. But I think I've laid out the steps to help you uncover most of the blind spots. It's my TLDR version. And oh, by the way, I'm in the process of finishing a blog post on this framework, which I will share with you, JJ. And feel free to share it with your audience. But just two quick things I want to add here is, this mental model may change a bit, depending on the type of product you're dealing with, right? Is it a zero to one product and existing product, or b2b or b2c? And there are some nuances in there. And then lastly, above everything, you know, product strategy is a team sport, and a continuous journey that needs to be evolved along its way. It's not something that's, you know, build ones, and just throw it away.

JJ 11:15

I could not agree more with all of this. And I absolutely love number four, especially one of your favorites. I mean, all of these are so important, obviously, and I love the mental model. I love the framework. I think that the entire framework helps, as I was mentioning earlier strategy is this, you know, big broad thing that everybody thinks they know, but do they really know? Or do they really know how to do it. And so having a mental model like this, having a framework that just allows us to check the boxes, make sure we're doing it, make sure we're covering all the bases? is really, really important. So yes, absolutely, we'll, we'll share their blog posts, because I think it will help people. But back to number four, right? What is the ideal state? And I agree with you, I think a lot of people forget that. And frankly, I hadn't even thought about it in that way. And I've done a lot of product strategies, but and I think all the others I covered in some way. But that one, I really hadn't, you know, kind of pinpointed and I think that's a great point about, you know, if we're building a strategy we're trying, you know, we're trying to adhere to this vision, we're trying to do something amazing for the future. And without really showing that kind of ideal state of what that looks like, you know, you you, it probably lends itself to some of that confusion about what a strategy is, and what it's what we're supposed to be accomplishing. So I love that that's a really, really great piece to that overall mental model. So definitely, I'm definitely going to start working on that as well. So I love it.

Gayatri 12:41

Appreciate that, JJ, you know, and like, as you mentioned, to write ideal experience, that is something really critical. We talked about, you know, product vision, what we want the product to look like, but you know, the whole ideal experience comes together when you are building the product strategy. And this is something that really needs to be considered. And lot of organizations forget that. So something that keep in mind, even as I'm building my product strategies today for my different products with a different companies. Yeah,

JJ 13:16

absolutely. And so, you know, that that being one mistake that people make, right, and as we've discussed, you know, companies forget about trying to paint that that picture of what that ideal should be or could be. So that being one mistake, what other mistakes do you see people and teams making? Or what pitfalls Do you see that that, you know, are quite common that folks need to watch out for as they're building product strategies?

Gayatri 13:44

Yeah, mistakes, right? We all make mistakes. And that's how we learn, you know? Absolutely, at least I know. Based on some of my experiences, I can share some watch outs JJ that I pay extra attention to, you know, while developing a product strategy. It may not be a comprehensive list, but here are the four things that are on top of my mind. First is product market fit. Product Market Fit is very critical for your product. You know, without it, your product will not be successful. And it's advisable to go back to the drawing board. When you don't get it right. There's no harm in you know, restarting and going back to the drawing board and making sure you have the product market fit. Second, engaging the right people early and having a shared understanding of the problem. Now, I didn't mention right that product management and product strategy is a team sport. So we really need to involve the right people to ensure that we get a well rounded perspective as you formulate the strategy. Of course, we need to align with our stakeholders and get their buy in, that's good. Third is having the right processes mapped out for a successful pilot and the launch. Now, never launch product in silos without mapping the whole end to end workflow with products and processes in mind, we really need to identify, you know, where there are crossovers between product and process. And often this gets ignored since product and technology tends to get over indexed on and we ignore the processes. And this is where, you know, things break, and you don't have an end to end well formulated strategy. And for it's, it's also, you know, one of my favorites, and very controversial one too. Good strategy needs to be coupled with solid execution. If you have a good strategy, but poor execution, it's a disaster. But a mediocre strategy with solid execution is still better, and it will help you survive. But regardless, you know, you need a great strategy, and a solid team to build and execute the plan.

JJ 16:24

You know, strategy is just such a to me, it's always been a lot of fun. I've always loved the strategic creation, you know, the, you know, strategy building process. And, to me, it's, it is so important to the business, obviously, that it's, you know, it's like the foundation of what you're going to be doing over the next year, or two or three, and it's so much fun, and you really can't do it in a silo. I've tried that before, before I knew what I was doing. I tried to put a product strategy in place and, you know, hold myself up with some data for a few months and said, Okay, you know, I emerged with this brilliant strategy. And guess what, it didn't work, right, because nobody else was involved. And nobody else gave their input. And, of course, they're not going to buy into it. So, you know, it's just, it's so important that you've mentioned a couple times just how cross functional it is. And I love that, that advice and in those pitfalls, because sometimes it's even, you know, just like having a mental model or framework to look at, and to at least refer to just just having an idea of what to watch out for, is also very valuable. So I love for I love, I love what you shared there, and thanks for that advice.

Gayatri 17:36

Absolutely. JJ, you know, and I think the idea is also, you know, to bring everybody together along the journey, you. And that's I know, a lot of organizations have product reviews, you know, where you discuss your, you know, product strategy and product roadmap, and what are you planning to do for the next 18 months or, you know, two years, few quarters down the line. But it's very important to bring your key players, from different organizations, whether it's the operations, whether it's marketing, and not just the engineering and UX, and your designers, maybe even legal team, having their perspective and having the buying really helps formulate a good, solid, rounded product strategy. And you have already tried your best to, you know, watch out through the corners, and try to take care of the most of the knowns.

JJ 18:34

Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I mean, you just get a better strategy at the end to your point, right? You just You just flat out get a better strategy. And then, of course, to a point you made earlier, you have such a better chance of executing it if you do that. So. So I love that. So the next question I have for you is a bit of a an interesting one. And I'm asking because I know how seasoned you are in AI and ML, and you've done a lot of strategy work there. And so of course, it's the talk of the town. It's the talk of the day, everybody wants to talk about AI, and what's it going to do to product management? What's it going to do to everything right? Well, what do you think? I mean, is it is product strategy going to change with, you know, AI and the wave of charge, GBT and generative AI? Is that only applicable for AI type products? Or is that something that we got to look at across the board? What do you think? Yeah.

Gayatri 19:29

Now, with the AI, I believe we are at a big paradigm shift in technology. It has been around for quite a few years with you know, computer visioning and the deep learning models. And generative AI has picked up recently given its virality and you know, more adoption, given its chat friendly format. Now, each company you know, tech on on tech is now thinking about the generative AI product. strategy. So yes, it is an important area to have a point of view and see how AI can be relevant to your users. So think use cases of what your users want, and can AI enable them. Now the base foundation and mental model of, you know, product strategy of, you know, how you identify the user, the problem statement, and the three W's that we discussed earlier, that does not change, we still need it. AI will be used to generate efficiencies, but product will be needed to rally people together and still chart out the product development, a machine cannot do that for you. Now, I have learned machine learning teams at Expedia to do personalization, enhanced imagery, text enhancements, or recommendation systems. And the even did an early trial of GPT. Three, the basics of pm stay the same. But the key understanding of the machine learning models, the domain, and the language of communication with the right prompts are the main differences. One needs to deepen their understanding of AI and ML models, you know how these models are trained, you know, their accuracy, how precise they are. And at the same time, we need to ensure that using these models responsibly. Now we really need to be careful of data in and data out. Since it is important that the input data is trustworthy. And the output data, it's not hallucinating. So this is where it can get dangerous. So always verify the data. As they say in the spidey world. With great power, comes great responsibility. So use AI responsibly. I know I sound like a pure commercial here. But the key thing to note is that AI is a key enabler, and eventually, there will be an AI copilot for everything.

JJ 22:23

Oh, yeah, it's gonna be an interesting time, isn't it? I love it. So I love I love you taking the time to answer that from your perspective, because I knew you would. And you would have a good a good view of that. So I guess, finally, but I do have a final final so so I'm not gonna let you go even after this fun, fun little final thing after this. But my final real question for you is just, you know, any other pieces of advice, you know, final words of wisdom that you would leave for product managers, product leaders out there who are, you know, building product strategies, whether it's their first time or or not, you know, any kind of words of wisdom for them? Yeah,

Gayatri 23:03

I love mentoring and talking product in general. So, you know, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I would say there are two pieces of advice that I would like to share to all the PMS. First is I would encourage the PMs to build this product strategy muscle at every chance they get. Even if it's for a small product with a smaller user as outreach, just go for it. And then second is have a growth and resilient mindset to go and try new things. Fail fast and iterate. That is the new mantra.

JJ 23:40

I love that such good advice. And actually, that's going to play in Well, I think, for my next little lightning round, trying something new. I want to learn a little bit more about you. And have everyone out there learn just a little bit more about you have have have a little fun with this. So I'm going to ask you a few questions. You're going to answer quickly. And we're going to find out some really fun stuff about you. So Gayatri, what is your favorite movie?

Gayatri 24:07

Favorite movie? I love The Italian Job.

JJ 24:11

Oh, okay, good one. Good one. And maybe you can use the quote you just used or maybe not. What's your favorite quote or saying?

Gayatri 24:19

Oh, yeah, I love this quote. And I know we had spoken about this too. In our early conversations. I've written this on my whiteboard in my home office. Everything is intentional.

JJ 24:33

That's so good. Everything is intentional. Okay. If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Gayatri 24:43

Wow. Animal huh? I would love to be a cheetah who's fast and quick, agile and, you know, ready to roll. You know taking the punches and still move on and still go towards its target.

JJ 25:03

I love it. A cheetah. Okay, very cool. And lastly, if you could visit any place in the world, where would it be?

Gayatri 25:09

One place? Hmm. I have a long list of places. Oh, wow. I know this is one of the places on my mind. Definitely want to go visit Madrid in Spain. That's definitely one of the places we do enjoy soccer quite a bit and our family. So why don't make a trip there sometime, hopefully, hopefully next year in the next couple of years.

JJ 25:37

Fabulous. Fabulous. I actually we were in Madrid a few years ago and I got a Real Madrid hat. So I'm not even a huge football soccer fan. Although I love the US women's team when they when they play all day, they didn't play too well this year. But yes, I have a Real Madrid soccer hat. And you know, I look like a Real fan. So, Gayatri, this has just been so much fun. And thank you for playing along with the lightning round that was fun to learn that you want to be a cheetah, you want to go to Madrid, you know, we had a lot of fun with that. So thanks for entertaining me. But most importantly, thank you for the wonderful, amazing insights and experiences that you've shared with us. I really greatly appreciate it. And thank you so much for joining me on the show. I've loved the conversation.

Gayatri 26:23

Hey, JJ. I do love the you know, like lightning round and really enjoyed our conversation. So thank you so much for inviting me. It's been fun.

JJ 26:32

Well again, thank you. And thank you all for joining us on product voices. Hope to see you on the next episode.

Outro 26:40

Thank you for listening to product voices hosted by JJ Rorie. To find more information on our guests resources discussed during the episode or to submit a question for our q&a episodes, visit the show's website product And be sure to subscribe to the podcast.


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