Hear a cautionary tale of what can happen to a roadmap without stakeholder alignment, and present tips for winning that alignment.
- A product roadmap, no matter how good it may appear to be, has no value if key product stakeholders aren't aligned around it. I've seen it happen over and over again. The CEO and the product leader at a startup are preparing for a company presentation, and together, they create an excellent roadmap for the development of the product based on a brilliant strategy for leapfrogging the competition. It correctly prioritizes strategic features while delaying some others that some executives have been asking for. They present the roadmap at a company-wide meeting, and it seems like everyone is aligned.
But a few weeks into the execution of the plan, things start to go wrong. Development falls behind schedule, and when the VP of engineering is asked about the delays, he says that the plan wasn't realistic in the first place. "I could've told you on day one we couldn't "hit those release days," he says, "but you didn't ask me." Then, when they finally release the strategic features, sales are lower than expected. When asked about missing the numbers, the VP of sales says it doesn't have the features his customers have been asking for, so there's no way he can hit the numbers.
He also says that he knew about this ahead of time and could've told them, but wasn't asked. So what's the problem here? Why isn't this new roadmap working? Well, the problem, of course, is that the CEO and the product leader didn't take the time to get the team aligned around their roadmap in advance. It didn't matter that the roadmap was excellent and the strategy behind it brilliant. It was never going to work. So the reason you need to get key stakeholders aligned around your product roadmap is that product development doesn't happen in a vacuum.
The purpose of product development is to serve the business, to support the company's overall strategy, usually by winning customer adoption, loyalty, and ultimately, revenue. And that almost always requires that all of the different functional groups in your company work together, including sales, marketing, customer support, and so on. If any of them aren't on board and doing their part, it's going to present a major barrier to the success of the product plan achieving its intended objectives. There are many ways to get alignment around a plan, but alignment is easier to achieve when you include your stakeholders early in the process, when you take the time to ask for their feedback and address it, and when you keep all of your stakeholders updated as the plan takes shape and evolves into its final form.
When people are involved in making something, they feel ownership, and they'll promote and defend it. Sometimes, all of the meetings required to build alignment can seem redundant and laborious, but I promise you that it's worth it. If you find yourself wondering whether you really need to spend so much time on building alignment, think of it this way. The stakeholder alignment itself is actually the goal, and the resulting product roadmap document is only there as a reminder of what you are aligned around.
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.
LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
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- What is a product roadmap?
- Roadmaps in agile organizations
- Selecting stakeholders
- Researching customers
- Identifying milestones
- Estimating effort
- Maintaining the roadmap