PRODUCTHEAD: Outcome-driven product roadmaps
PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.
Outcome-driven roadmaps shift the focus from building features to solving user problems
A product roadmap is a communication tool first and foremost
A now/next/later roadmap helps teams to focus on the bigger picture
Delivering outcomes instead of outputs is harder, but more valuable
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I’ve been chatting a fair bit about outcome-driven product roadmaps recently, so I thought it would be helpful to talk through a bit of context.
Time horizons #
You have an overall product goal — it is an outcome that’s fixed, far-off (10 years+) and hard to achieve. It’s the point at which you could say your product has ‘won’. Your product goal is your guiding North Star to which all your efforts are aligned.
Your product strategy is about the broad approach (your current best guess at your plan) you’re going to take over the next 5-10 years to reach your product goal, and is very high level.
Your roadmap provides a bit more detail about the steps you reckon right now will get you from now to roughly 6-12 months away.
The product backlog provides the next level of detail down again, and is focused on an even shorter timescale, perhaps the next few sprints.
Prototype for your strategy #
You can almost think of a product roadmap as being a prototype or experiment to be tested for your broader product strategy.
You could imagine yourself saying to your team, “Let’s try devoting some time and energy to these things on our roadmap because we reckon they’ll move us closer to our goal for the product.”
Adapt and evolve #
When circumstances change, you’ll need to adapt the route you’re going to take to get there (your strategy) — but the goal remains fixed. You’re still trying to reach the same destination (your product goal).
Just think about how companies adapted to the recent COVID pandemic.
Some prioritised the development of products in their portfolio that were suddenly far more needed (Google Meet).
Some had to divert their channel focus from walk-in stores to e-commerce.
Others had to adopt a different business model to continue generating revenue (Mind The Product’s move to a subscription model).
Just as you need to change your strategy in the face of changing circumstances, so too should your roadmap change as you learn more, or circumstances change. It’s not a static plan, it’s an emerging set of steps to help you move forward in the relatively short term.
Balanced portfolio of bets #
Rather than experiments, another way of thinking about the roadmap is to consider it like a balanced portfolio of bets. The bet is that you believe making some change in the product will cause some measurable change to occur.
Your bets differ in terms of risk and reward. Your roadmap is effectively a balanced portfolio of bets, in which you’re trying to avoid high risk / low reward bets.
Thinking about the roadmap in this way tacitly accepts that few items are ‘sure things’. It’s okay for bets not to pay off, providing you learn why, in order to make a better bet next time.
Risk is something to take into account, not something to be avoided entirely.
Speak to you soon,
what to think about this week
Most roadmaps have a big problem in common. They’re just variants on lists of features, typically arranged on a timeline (albeit a vague one). And the problem with a list of features is that the rest of your company, and your clients, think it’s a commitment. That creates a lot of external pressure to build the things on the list, even if they don’t really solve a problem, or they solve a problem that’s no longer your most important one.
[ALICE NEWTON REX / MIND THE PRODUCT]
When using a roadmap, you always knew where you were and where you wanted to go, and you had all these different routes to choose from. Some routes were shorter, some were longer but more scenic. It was ultimately up to you to choose your optimal path. Product roadmaps should work just like their namesake, but their intended purpose was lost somewhere along the way
As a new decade starts, I want to reflect on the advent and growth of something truly important in our industry: the lean roadmap for product managers.
This is the story of how it was invented in a cafe in south London.
[JANNA BASTOW / PRODPAD]
Do you ever feel like breaking up with your roadmap? In his talk from #mtpcon San Francisco 2018, C. Todd Lombardo takes on a topic that is emotional to most of us as product managers – the product roadmap.
[C. TODD LOMBARDO / MIND THE PRODUCT]
One of the most important, and arguably hardest jobs we have as product managers is to work with our team to sift through information, read between the lines, and verify what is fact and what is merely opinion.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
When you start out as a head of product (or product director or VP product), you’ll probably need to create a community of product people. In this latest entry for my series of 100 things I’ve learned about product management, I share my advice to help you get the ball rolling with your own community of practice.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
There’s an ongoing debate about generalist product managers versus emerging product manager specialisms (such as ‘growth product manager’). I think there is room in our profession for both. Let me explain.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
upcoming talks and events
I’ve spoken at various product management and technology conferences around the world and online. I share ideas primarily on the topic of product management, and this tends to overlap with agile and ethical product development, leadership and strategy, and fostering healthy product cultures and communities.
“Day 2 saw an impressive presentation by Jock Busuttil on user testing. He asked the attendees to lend each other a smartphone and take a picture. What a turmoil that caused ;-) ”
Marketing & Business Development Director, BlueGlass Interactive
If you’d like to book me to speak at your event, please get in touch.
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PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from four seasons in one week.
Read more from Jock
The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management
by Jock Busuttil
“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”— Lyndsay Denton