The Art of Strategic Product Building

Ned Lowe
Jun 27, 2023

Building a great product requires a lot of time, effort, and resources. But over the years, we have built ways to maximise the probability of success, while minimising the cost. MISSION+ wants to share that know-how to help leaders achieve their goals.

It can be all too tempting to jump straight into developing a product, chasing a strongly held vision of what could be. But that doesn’t always deliver the expected outcome. Strategic product building aims to reduce the risk of wasted effort.

Strategic product building starts with a collaboration between those that own the product, and those that build it. The most important responsibility of both groups is building and responding to the feedback loop.

The Feedback Loop

At the heart of strategic product building is a belief that iterative feedback is core to creating products that people love. This is provided through discussions with real users, but also through tracking user event metrics, like automatically counting how many times people use certain functions. Some form of these feedback loops must be continuously present throughout the product life cycle.

Product Owners must talk to as many people as possible, and analyse data captured from those conversations, or from automated means within the application. This provides a key input to the prioritisation process.

Product Builders must integrate feedback capture within the application, through automated tooling or embedded user interaction. It can be tempting to deprioritise this, but existing tooling is cheap, readily available, and could save you thousands of dollars in misprioritised features.

The Owners

Product Ownership is Key

The strongest teams are composed of product builders, whether that is engineering or design. But they don’t own the product vision; that belongs to you, the product owner. After years of building dozens of products, we believe the presence (or not) of a strong product owner is the single biggest predictor of the success of a product build. While we love to give input, MISSION+ cannot fill this gap; you must have a strong, cohesive and detailed view of your product if you wish to be successful.

A strong product person surrounded by mediocre engineers has a chance of success. A weak or non-existent product person surrounded by the best engineers in the world will likely fail. The engineers will build the wrong, albeit technically excellent, product that will never achieve traction.

A good product owner lays out a vision for the product, responds to the feedback loop, and confidently prioritises features. This rallies the team around a single set of goals, and ensures what is built is what is actually needed.

Ready to Build

Are you ready to build? Have you validated your idea? Are you sure you have a product, not a feature? Before jumping into an engineering effort, there is a lot of feedback that can be established through prototypes, mock-ups and wireframes.

Investing time and resources to resolve ambiguities early will save money in the longer run. Start developing code when you’re Ready to Build. You’ll know you’re ready when:

  • You’ve spoken to as many real potential customers/users as possible;
  • You have prototyped/mocked as much as you can for your feedback sessions;
  • You have a dedicated product owner, with few other distractions;
  • You have an idea of how much runway you need, and the money to support that; and
  • You are mentally in the right place; building is hard.

The Only Constant Is Change

The product owner must embrace change, and respond to the data captured from the feedback loops. Are you iterating to respond to feedback, or iterating to a fixed goal?

Creating detailed upfront estimates of what is required for a product are inevitably proven wrong once the detail of delivery is discovered. Thirty years ago, the Agile movement began to argue that trying to plan everything up-front was impossible; twenty years ago the Agile Manifesto was published, succinctly capturing that thinking.

Roadmaps are critical for overall business strategy and company alignment, but the level of detail reduces the further out you go, where ambiguity is higher. Do not avoid detailed long-term plans because they are hard, avoid them because they are impossible and therefore different methods must be used. An agile approach allows us to refine our approach as feedback is received, ensuring we build a product that people actually need.

The Builders

Be Uncomfortably Simple 

Projects go off-course all the time, blowing through budgets and timelines. The root causes are all too common: building the wrong thing, misaligned vision, hidden complexity, unknown requirements, or assumptions around what the customer wants or needs. Yet they are entirely avoidable.

Uncomfortably Simple engineering breaks down development into small, iterative changes that are demoed every step of the way. It is much easier to notice that something isn’t working out when change is regularly reviewed by real users.

Investing in a 'launch pad,' where automation in the build, test and release pipelines gets a new feature in front of real users as soon as possible is essential. This allows you to launch multiple rockets in a short period, facilitating feedback from customers more rapidly.

Nearshore Opportunities, Globally Minded

South East Asian builders go from strength to strength, and every year the pool of exceptional talent grows larger. Take Vietnam’s talent pool as an example of building a workforce exceptionally well-versed in the latest technological advancements. Vietnam is training more than 80,000 IT university graduates annually to strengthen its tech workforce. The country also boasts a steady year-on-year workforce productivity growth of 15%. Furthermore, the Vietnamese government has strategically issued a national plan focused on the research, development, and application of artificial intelligence (AI) through to 2030. . 

MISSION+ pulls in this talent, evaluates the best, and connects them to the most appropriate products. Offshoring is a way of gaining access to a broader range of talent that is not normally available, at an attractive price point. Furthermore, when needs are elastic, an outsourced team can accommodate the ebbs and flows of demand.

Teams are strategically located to minimise any timezone differences, and are close enough to join regular team meetings and team-building exercises. More than skills and location, it is critical to connect talent to projects that align with their own values. Having the team aligned around a single mission is essential for moving quickly and effectively as one.

While the raw talent of the region grows, there is no compression algorithm for experience. Bringing in experienced startup consultants, who have been in the trenches of outsourcing and product development, can help provide guidance to enthusiastic founders and teams. By providing engagement oversight, they ensure your goals are met, and the best technical management techniques are applied to your projects.

The State of the Art

The ecosystem for open source or reasonably priced frameworks, libraries and tools has exploded. Savvy strategic product builders take advantage of what is out there, instead of spending time reinventing the wheel.

Small, iterative releases are core to our ideology, but by utilising frameworks we can stand on the shoulders of giants and massively cut the time spent on solved problems. Authorisation, wireframing, monitoring, code vulnerability scanning, deployment - there is an almost endless list of product building steps where well-deployed tools can save huge amounts of builder time; the trick is getting to know the landscape of what is available.

By keeping up with the state of the art, and adopting modern techniques, we build better products, faster.

The Art of Strategic Product Building

By working together, making small iterative changes, and by listening to the feedback loop, Owners & Builders will create amazing products, and have fun along the way. MISSION+ continues to learn and refine these techniques, and will continue to share these learnings with our community. Reach out at if you’d like to discuss our approach or you want help with your products. Happy Building!

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