Product planning encompasses a systematic approach to developing successful products. It’s an ongoing (and vital) process for PMs to engage with.
Product planning can feel overwhelming for many product managers, often seeming to cover their entire role.
Yet, without a clear strategic plan, efforts become fragmented. Communication falters, stakeholders are left out, and products can miss their mark, failing to align with business and market needs.
It’s no surprise, perhaps, that 66% of product development projects either end in failure or run into significant delays.
Seeking a more structured approach? We'll explore the key stages of product planning, blending industry best practices with expert insights. By the end, you'll have a clear roadmap on how to go about product planning and, ultimately, be prepared for the entire product life cycle.
Let’s get started.
Product planning is the broad, systematic process of developing successful products.
And we mean broad. Product planning covers the entire product lifecycle, from ideation through to sunsetting.
Product planning is internally focused, covering the key decisions, actionable steps, and concrete tasks necessary to develop products.
In essence, it’s everything you must do that affects the product itself. This often includes:
As you can see, product planning encompasses a lot, throughout all stages of a product’s lifecycle. It necessitates collaboration, strategic thinking, and, above all else, organization.
Without adequate organization and efficient repeatable processes, product planning efforts can face one of two major hurdles.
The first is underutilization: Inadequate resources are allocated toward planning efforts, and products (and business outcomes) suffer.
The second is fragmentation: Diverse teams work on their components of product planning, leading to inefficiencies, information siloes, and oversights.
Having a centralized tool to manage collaboration, research, strategy, and execution of product planning is a huge benefit. With Ignition, teams enjoy an AI-powered suite of tools for end-to-end product planning, execution, and measurement. See Ignition in action today.
Importantly product planning is not a one-off activity. It’s an ongoing process that requires regular effort, refining, and optimization.
When teams think of product planning as an activity, some might think once they’ve created their master plan, they can move on to execute it and never look back.
But, this approach leaves products vulnerable to shifts in the competitive landscape and changes in market demands. By making product planning an ongoing process, teams can continually adapt, refine, and, ultimately, excel.
Product planning should be an iterative team effort, complete with efficient workflows and routine check-ins with stakeholders. And ideally, upfront effort should lead to more efficient future processes. By defining repeatable frameworks for product planning, teams can accelerate planning efforts for future products while implementing key insights extracted from past outcomes.
But what does the product planning process actually look like?
Each product will follow a somewhat different path to market. With that said, most product timelines flow through the following strategic product planning stages.
Product concept development is an exciting, creative, and energetic component of product planning. This is where teams cast a wide net to come up with product ideas, from the mundane to the extraordinary.
Brainstorming is essential, as is giving an equal voice to all relevant stakeholders. Some corporate initiatives, like the Kickbox Method (popularized by Adobe), encourage employees at all levels of the corporate structure to submit and validate product ideas.
Alas, not all product ideas are good — and not all good product ideas are actually viable in the marketplace.
So, phase two of this stage is initial product screening and validation. This is where teams conduct quick market validation efforts to narrow down the potential product list to include only the most promising.
With Ignition, it’s easy to prioritize the products and features with the highest revenue potential. Ignition integrates with CRMs like Hubspot, Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics to identify deal-blocking feature gaps. You can sort potential features by their revenue impact and easily promote the most impactful ideas to product roadmapping efforts.
Through this process, teams can identify promising product ideas and determine which product concept(s) to allocate resources to.
Here’s where raw creative ideation gives way to business reality. Teams conduct initial product discovery efforts, get a rough idea of customer pain points and personas, and further refine the product concept.
This is still a high-level strategic step. And it should still involve a broad set of stakeholders, from development teams to product and marketing managers.
Teams can work with the data and insights they have available (analyzing customer CRM data with Ignition’s AI-enabled tools, for instance) to refine concept development — while also identifying the data (both qualitative and quantitative) that still needs to be gathered in further stages.
Now, teams move from heady conceptualization to gathering real-world data. Teams gather feedback from existing and potential customers, begin internal and external market research efforts, and conduct initial price-point analysis.
This is where a company’s toolset becomes incredibly important to organization, efficiency, and, ultimately, success. For best results, teams should combine internal data, external surveys, and broader market research and statistics.
With Ignition, teams can easily gather research data with integrated research studies on pricing, client personas, branding, and more. Plus, AI-powered tools help teams analyze customer conversations and feedback to quickly extract insights like desired features and price sensitivity.
If you’ve invented a cure for cancer, you can skip this phase.
Otherwise, it’s time to find out who your competitors are, what they’re up to, and how you can beat them.
This phase is highly analytical — and super important. Ignition makes the process simpler and more organized by automatically gathering competitor intel (pricing, news, customer reviews, and more) and instantly creating competitive battlecards. It’s simple to share the battlecards with your revenue teams so they can have the information they need without having to go looking for it.
With robust battlecards, teams can start to leverage insights on competitor public relations, reputation, pricing, and more — and exploit any weak points.
Now, the focus shifts to business and finance objectives. Here, teams examine pricing strategy, product financial viability, target margins and conduct initial revenue projections.
Determining product OKRs and establishing trackable metrics are also key steps. Product adoption, revenue impact, and customer satisfaction scores provide a starting point — but teams should customize the metrics and objectives to fit their product category and enterprise goals.
This phase, by definition, involves more input and oversight from executive and finance teams. Initial analysis for new products will rely on projections and publicly available data, while ongoing refinement of business objectives can utilize real-world existing product data.
Next, teams move toward product design and task planning, leading to the creation of an MVP.
Memes aside, minimum viable product iterations should be fully functional products, albeit with a limited feature set. During this process, teams must identify the most vital features and functionalities to incorporate into the MVP.
It’s all about solving core problems of key user personas without spending too much time or resources refining all the minute details.
Now is not the time to polish a fully loaded product — it’s time to bring a viable prototype to market based on the most essential features demanded by your customers.
ROI-based prioritization is essential here, and by definition requires a certain level of a.) keen market awareness and b.) operational ruthlessness. Ignition’s tools help teams clearly identify missing features that could be blocking deals — and prioritize the products and features with the highest potential.
Ignition’s product management tools guide teams throughout the entire roadmapping, development, and GTM process with AI-powered tools that automate customer research, easily shareable roadmaps, automated internal comms, and an AI chatbot — ChatGTM — that allows team members to query any document and instantly find the information they need.
Once your product is ready, it will need to be released for testing. This is the first real opportunity for your new product to interact with users (be it internal or external) — exciting! — and a good opportunity to monitor feedback — scary!
Here is where projections and best guesses give way to real-world data. And it’s crucial that teams closely monitor errors, feedback, and user behavior to inform future strategy.
Releasing the product to a subsection of the market is a good way for teams to evaluate the true value proposition of the product — and whether the market’s reaction lines up with projections.
Any and all data that comes in should then be used to refine the product further — whether that’s adding features, altering pricing tiers, or going after a different user persona.
Finally, the full launch plans can be completed, scheduled, and executed. A robust commercialization and Go-to-Market strategy should be a top priority.
During this phase, product marketing teams will be fully engaged in setting launch goals, prioritizing the best channels, hitting the right messaging strategy, and creating the most impactful marketing assets.
And with the product launch begins a flood of real-world data — plenty for analysts to sink their teeth into, and a starting point for future strategy, pricing, and messaging iterations.
As a leading Go-to-Market software suite, Ignition is the go-to for teams looking to efficiently and productively manage the entire GTM process. With Ignition, product roadmaps, market insights, asset management, analytics, and communication come together for greater visibility and collaboration.
Here, the buzz of an initial launch gives way to the day-to-day tasks of product management — and the need to adapt to changes as they come.
Teams should continuously monitor sales, revenue, and any other OKRs they deem relevant. This helps to track not only product adoption but also overall product performance from a business objectives standpoint. Here, Ignition’s launch metric analysis features can help teams aggregate data to monitor campaign performance and enable efficient collaboration between all stakeholders.
As market forces shift, new competing products are released, and demand changes, teams need to continually adapt. That might mean altering pricing strategy, adding new features, or bundling products to reach new markets.
Product roadmaps should be continually updated and enhanced, with iterative releases scheduled to fix issues, add features, and match user interests.
All good things must come to an end, as they say.
At some point in time, most products will reach an inevitable point of diminishing returns. When it no longer makes sense to allocate additional resources to the development, maintenance, or even marketing of said products, it’s time to consider taking the product off the market.
This isn’t necessarily “pulling the plug.” Many products are wound down over months or even years. A recent example of sunsetting that impacted many people was Adobe's decision to sunset their Flash Player.
Ultimately, sunsetting is all about recognizing when it’s time to move on — and carefully executing an exit strategy that frees up resources for more enticing ventures.
The long and winding road of product planning is sure to have some bumps along the way. Overcoming these challenges is mainly a function of the toolset that a company utilizes, the teams they include in the process, and the amount of high-level strategic planning they employ.
Some of the main challenges product teams may face include:
Understanding true customer needs: As many as 40% of new products introduced each year fail. Understanding true customer pain points, based on accurate data, is key to creating products that have a viable market. Ignition enables teams to gather and automatically analyze customer conversations to extract insights using AI-driven tools, and to gather user insights from external studies and surveys.
Prioritizing the right features: 80% of features on common software products are rarely or never used — and publicly traded cloud software firms spent $29.5 billion developing these (mostly unused) bells and whistles. That’s enough to kill most startups.
Prioritizing features based on their potential ROI is vital for the survival of your enterprise.
Adapting to changing market dynamics: A robust product planning effort in 2024 may not be very relevant in 2025. Markets change, customers change and even shifts in macroeconomic conditions can have significant effects on the product planning process. To stay nimble, you should include high-level strategy meetings — perhaps quarterly — to review any market shifts and adjust plans accordingly.
Aligning teams: Team collaboration has the highest correlation with product launch success, according to a McKinsey study. It’s equally important in the entire product planning process.
Many teams are involved in the product planning process. Aligning teams from such diverse operational areas (and correspondingly diverse skill sets) is a challenge. With Ignition, teams can collaborate and communicate efficiently with automated internal comms, robust integrations with third-party tools, and a centralized source of truth.
Setting realistic timelines: Go-to-Market and product planning efforts are often rushed, leading to missed opportunities and unnecessary operational stress. IDC estimates show that 10% of revenues are lost to poor GTM alignment. Setting realistic timelines for projects requires a bit of patience and a lot of planning — and ideally, a centralized and efficient system for roadmapping, task management, and collaboration.
We’ve covered the phases of product planning, as well as common stumbling blocks that teams may face. Now, let’s look at best practices to keep your process running smoothly.
Did we already mention this? Yes.
Is it worth mentioning again? Absolutely.
Only by thinking about product planning as an iterative process — and by creating repeatable frameworks to optimize it — can you truly adapt and gain market share.
The idea is pretty simple.
New data or feedback comes in → insights and trends are extracted → tweaks to strategy are implemented. All while keeping a close eye on the metrics that matter most to your product and your business goals.
Getting clear on who is involved (and who should be but isn’t yet) is key to product planning success. The planning process will likely involve individuals from:
Then, finding a way to collaborate with these stakeholders (without overwhelming them with unnecessary updates) is key.
With Ignition, stakeholder alignment has never been simpler. Ignition integrates with and automatically pushes data out to common third-party tools (CRMs, analytics, project management, comms, roadmapping tools), so not everyone needs to be an Ignition pro to stay informed.
Product planning can get messy without the proper tools.
You likely already have a hodgepodge of solutions deployed, from product marketing tools to CRMs to internal comms. But, it’s difficult to find a single tool that combines all the functionalities you need for successful product management.
Ignition provides a centralized place for research and insights, product management, Go-to-Market planning and execution, and measurement tracking. Its AI-powered features automate repetitive, manual tasks — and also gives teammates outside of the product teams greater access to customer insights.
Take Ignition’s ChatGTM bot for example. Anyone in your organization can ask questions about the state of launch plans and other data stored in Ignition. This cuts down on one-off messages, and gives your sales and marketing teams the information they need to make your products successful.
Product planning is a process that the best product teams will engage in on a regular basis. It’s a broad term that has a broader impact — on your customers, your product, and ultimately the success of your efforts.
The fragmentation of product planning in many modern companies can lead to misalignment of goals, duplicated efforts, and worse outcomes. This leads to huge financial losses and can be the end for many companies. A centralized product planning system is not only important, it’s survival.
With the right tools, product planning is more effective and efficient. Ignition is the first solution of its kind — with tools for end-to-end planning, stakeholder alignment, product management, and much more.
Want to know how Ignition can help your product planning efforts?
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