If you Build it, will they come?


It Depends! 

Do you have a strategy?



By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland, USA

In spring of this year, we received approval to launch a new master’s degree that is a Master of Professional Studies in Product Management. We are jointly offering this degree with the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), another business unit in the A. James Clark School of Engineering. Since product management is such an important topic, we thought we would share a very informative presentation on the topic from our 2021 Virtual Project Management Symposium .

Our newest adjunct professor, Tushar Rathod, presented on “Product Strategy: Framework and Execution” and explained that a product strategy is more than just an idea and a roadmap. A project strategy is an organizational function that links the needs of the user, the business and the technology with a focus on what to create, and more importantly—explores the why.

A roadmap that explains the steps to completing a product is essential, but it’s not the same as a strategy. Tushar pointed out that not many companies or product managers have defined actual strategies, although they’ve got very detailed plans, or roadmaps, that show how goals can be achieved. It’s not enough.

Plans are about creating certainty and direction. But strategy is a bit more elusive, and no matter how clearly illustrated the goals in the plan might be, the key to success is having a strategy—a set of key choices with an eye toward the as-yet unknown factors in the project that will guide future decisions and move the roadmap forward.

His presentation is a walk-through of what project strategy is, beginning with product fundamentals.

What is a product?

Products are simply a collection of features that provide value to customers, and the goal of managing these products is to maximize the value delivery through a continuous prioritization of effort. A product is different from “Operations” which focuses on consistency, efficiency and predictability of a set or a sequence of tasks. A product is also different from a project in that a project is a one-time lift to a defined end-state. A product, on the other hand, is neither predictable nor does it have a defined end-state; it is a continuous journey of discovering and delivering value. Throughout the life cycle of the product, a product manager is seeking to build capabilities that organizations look for to deliver value rapidly, while expanding on features that the customers need.

Once that’s been clarified, the first fundamental question is simply, “What do I build?” Tushar says this question begins to be answered when the product manager brings the outside-in perspective; that is, when the customer is brought to the table. That’s when the next set of critical questions can be addressed. What are the customer’s specific needs? How will your company’s technology plan ensure the product is feasible and reasonable? Does it all align with the overall business strategy and goals? Through a continuous alignment while answering those questions, an efficient product manager can maximize customer value by evolving the business model and building technical capabilities.


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How to cite this paper: How to cite this article: Cable, J. (2021). If you Build it, will they come? It Depends! Do you have a strategy? Advisory, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue XI, November. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/pmwj111-Nov2021-Cable-If-you-build-it-will-they-come.pdf

About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he has been a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer two undergraduate minors, 3 master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu.

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/