Agile · Principles · Product management

ASPIRE – from Steve Johnson

Let me begin by saying that if you care about product development and product management then I encourage you to follow Steve Johnson on Twitter (@sjohnson717) and check out his blog (  His insights are consistently useful, his experience helpful broad, and his writing style clear.  If you follow me on twitter or read my blog you may have noticed that I regularly comment on and retweet his material.  The following blog post comes directly from thoughts of mine about one of Steve’s presentations on assessing potential product opportunities against core organizational strengths.  Using this kind of evaluative tool can provide great perspective on whether or not to pursue such an opportunity.




Steve suggests the above mnemonic—ASPIRE—as a way to helpful identify an organization’s core set of competencies; evaluating potential product ideas through this rubric can ensure that the product team and the company stay focused on the most valuable priorities.  You can read his full eBook here, but I’ll summarize what struck me most below.  First, the acronym itself.

Authority. Clients look to us to solve these problems.

Systems. We have proven methods in place.

Passion. We’re fanatical about the product category, the persona, and their problems.

Innovation. We have solved a problem in a unique way.

Resources. We have the ability to deliver on our vision.

Expertise. We have proven skills in this area.

When I think about my current firm and where we find success from a sales perspective, I think it begins with our Authority; existing clients trust our expertise and new prospects quickly grasp that our practitioner-developed tools come with a wealth of market knowledge behind them.  This links the A with the E (for Expertise) in ASPIRE; our incredibly strong development team and our deep subject matter knowledge equips our sales team to talk confidently about the problems we can solve.

Especially when competing for prospects, our maturity in Agile software development has proven to be one of our key Resources in winning business; we have a dedicated team and a strong methodology that together allow us to roll out complex feature enhancements quickly and reliably.  We think carefully about what functionality to prioritize and then we devote the attention required to developing it; and we combine useful features with top quality service to provide holistic Systems for thrilling clients.

From software developers to our client support team and from our sales and marketing folks to our product managers we hire for Passion and seek to focus as a company on solving problems for a target market and for specific types of firms.  Our zeal for positively impacting our clients and our markets sometimes pulls us in too many directions, but we never settle for delivering ‘adequate’ solutions when we can see a path toward something better.  This means thinking consistently about Innovation – about new problems to solve and better ways to provide existing solutions.

I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture of our company; we struggle in each of these six areas as we strive to grow our product business and we have sometimes vigorous debates about the best path forward with our products and in our market.  But I think this set of factors already provides a useful tool in helping us think about how to leverage what we do best, and I expect there is more we can use as we evaluate future opportunities.  We do ASPIRE to be the best we can be though in truth it’s not that simple.



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