How to Rapidly Plan Digital Products and bring Amazing MVPs to Market Smarter and Faster

When it comes to planning new digital products, I find many organizations fall into one of two camps.

"Analysis Paralysis" Camp - These organizations are slow to endorse new product ideas. They send sponsors and product managers back for more and more market research, industry analysis, financial forecasting, and other activities to build up organizational confidence that they are embarking on a low risk, high reward journey. 

"Serial Initiator" Camp - This camp is just the opposite. They float many ideas around and rarely say no to them. Their stakeholders scramble and often compete for marketing, technology and other resources to bring their products to market resulting in many products that don't follow standards or best practices. They then compete with sales leaders to be top of mind when presenting new products to clients. 

These are not ideal ways to manage product pipelines or to drive a digital, innovative culture. 

What is a Product Pipeline?

StarCIO Product Pipeline

Product pipelines are similar to marketing funnels to manage leads or sales pipelines to manage deals. In a product pipeline, organizations start off with a lot of half baked ideas. As more discussion, research, and experimentation is completed around the idea, the product's target customers, value proposition, competitive factors, strategic requirements, and feasibility become better understood. This planning process - whether ad hoc or highly structured - ends up helping stakeholders define key artifacts such as product visions, journey maps, go-to-market strategies, technology architecture, and financial projections.

Unfortunately, many organizations don't define what's expected in their product development process. More specifically, they don't define what decision making criteria is used in making product investments. The culture of the organization often dictates what happens next. Conservative organizations often fall into the Analysis Paralysis camp and stakeholders are left guessing what to focus on and at what level of detail to get backing, approvals, or investment. More aggressive Serial Initiator organizations are likely to start working on lots of ideas skipping many of the disciplines that lead to amazing MVPs.

Rapidly Planning Digital Products

I share a big secret on how to rapidly plan digital products in my book, Driving Digital: The Leaders's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology

Driving Digital
Organizations that have invested in product management may have standards on artifacts needed for product approvals. What should the vision statement look like? How much market validation is required? What level of detail is required in financial projections? They may also define formal stage gates in their product development pipeline such as what artifacts and approvals are required to tap into budgets available for research or prototyping.

All important stuff and really good when you have experienced product managers that need formal guidance on what is expected of them. 


It's not necessarily sufficient especially if you have potential innovators or intrapreneurs that don't have all the training and skills of a product manager. Formal definitions of artifacts and pipelines define a target end state and don't always blaze an easy path for idea generators and influencers to develop a product.

My approach focuses on answering questions. Similar to how data scientists should be asking questions to find insights from data, innovators need to ask and answer key questions around the market, segments, personas, competitive factors, regulation, and other topics to drive smarter and faster from ideas to minimally sufficient plans that can fold into an agile development process.

A lot more in Chapter 6 of Driving Digital

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.