One of the primary reasons that product roadmaps fail is that a knowledgeable and persuasive leader tries to shortcut the process. Learn how to avoid this common pitfall.
- In order for a product roadmap to be successful, it needs three things. It must be based on a sound product strategy. It must be realistic. And it must be fully supported by the key product stakeholders. And when a product roadmap fails, it's always because one of these things is missing. The most common failures I've seen come about because someone tries to shortcut the process and fails to accomplish one of these things. Many organizations have a strong and persuasive leader who cares deeply about the future of the business, who is very knowledgeable about the market, and who thinks that they know exactly what we should build next.
This is typically the founder, but it could be the CEO or the sales leader or even the CTO or product leader. What often happens is that this person uses their intuition to build a product roadmap and then uses their powers of persuasion to push it out to whole organization. While in rare occasions this person may be so talented that their intuitions are correct, take Steve Jobs for example, it often doesn't work out that way. If you are a product leader who is working with someone like this, you have an added challenge. You need to channel this person's energy into a process that will ensure you end up with a successful roadmap.
It's extremely important not to let this person's intuition, no matter how good or well-informed it is, dictate the roadmap. There are several good reasons to prevent this. First, their intuition can be faulty and there is information from the rest of the stakeholders that the leader doesn't have or isn't taking into consideration. You can end up with a roadmap that is based on flawed assumptions about the market or which is just plain unrealistic. Second, when other company leaders and stakeholders aren't part of the decision-making process, you can end up with a lack of alignment, meaning that some people will not be supporting it or worse actively trying to undermine it.
Here's the best way to handle this situation. First, try to spend some time with this leader at the very beginning of the process. Ask them for their ideas about the roadmap and the development projects that are most important to them. Also ask them for the thinking that underlies the selection of these projects. This person most likely has valuable knowledge about the market and the customers so make sure you capture that as well. After this person has been fully heard and their opinions recorded, explain to them the importance of including other product stakeholders in the process.
Let them know that stakeholders are more likely to be aligned and to actively support the plan if their opinions are solicited and incorporated. Also explain that it's a good idea to estimate development time for these projects so that the plan can be as solid as possible. If they object, reassure them that you can run the process quickly and that it doesn't need to slow you down. In most cases, this logic will appeal to those in charge and they'll support the rest of the process.
This course shows how to build a product roadmap for your business—and gain critical stakeholder buy-in. See examples of what roadmaps might look like, and spend time learning the tools and techniques necessary to map the projects for your specific organization. Instructors Teg Grenager and Eldad Persky help you create strong, dynamic roadmaps that will ensure your team is working on the right projects at the right time.
- What is a product roadmap?
- Roadmaps in agile organizations
- Selecting stakeholders
- Researching customers
- Identifying milestones
- Estimating effort
- Maintaining the roadmap