Best Practices for Product Roadmaps — Jeff Lash
Finding Product Roadmaps’ best practices is a challenge for the teams. Thinking from the point of view of sales, marketing or engineering, the priorities always varies between the teams. But this is not negative. What Jeff Lash explains to us is that we have to adapt to the needs of each team to achieve the goal in the best way. And this is called to document and to communicate roadmaps — what Jeff really calls as the main problem.
With Jeff’s talk, we can retain different words like: agreement, alignment, gathering feedback, strategy and vision. If we add all the words, we can understand why having a good roadmap is important.
What is a product roadmap?
If you ask a product manager, a salesperson, an engineer or marketer you will receive four different answers because there are many different ways of defining product roadmap and that is part of the challenge.
PM: “A vision how the product may evolve to meet customer and deliver on its strategy”
Sales: “A guarantee of exactly what will be delivered and by when that I can use to close a sale”
And that is the internal way of seeing product roadmaps. However, customers, partners and influencers have another way of defining it — they are called external audiences.
“So they want to know what’s the strategy and the roadmap going forward before making a purchase decision, or partners that you have to integrate with, or influencers like analysts.”
The problem comes when you try to use the same product roadmap for different situations and it comes into conflict. So Jeff starts by explaining to us what a roadmap is not, even for agile companies who think they don’t need to draw a roadmap.
How to define a product roadmap?
“Product roadmap comes before you actually start building the product or if you’re talking about the next version, or next evolution of the product before you actually start developing it. And we defined the product roadmap differently than what we call the future roadmap, which comes in that growth phase.”
And what is the difference in product roadmap and future roadmap? The product roadmap is the short-sighted vision, which ranges from 6 to 12 months, which allows you to perceive the product, predict small problems that may happen, and actually achieve it. The future roadmap, on the other hand, is what we call great insight and prediction of the potential direction we must take for our product to evolve.
Try to figure out if you are facing one of these problems …
“And I can guarantee, if you talk to an angry customer who’s upset that something wasn’t delivered on time, and you tell them ‘Oh, well, there was that box in the roadmap’. They don’t really care. They’re probably gonna cancel anyways.”
It’s really important that you document, present and communicate your roadmap well, in order to satisfy your customers.
FOUR KEY PIECES OF ROADMAP ADVICE
1 — Tailor the Specificity of the Time Horizon
2 — Group Items Into Appropriate Categories
- Benefit, Problem or Need
- Product Strategy and Objectives
- Market Segment
- Aspect of Product
3 — Focus on Benefits and Value, Not Features
“So as an example, instead of saying, ‘We’re going to increase our storage capability to one terabyte’ — let’s instead say, ‘We’re going to solve the problem and allow you to store more legacy data’ because that helps you fulfill an auditing requirement. That’s what customers care about. They don’t care about how much data they store, they want to make sure we don’t get audited or if we do get audited, we don’t go to jail.”
4 — Choose the Proper Level of Detail
- There are no templates. Because product roadmaps are going to change on all these factors.
- Your roadmap has not to be a static one page document. Because you have lots of ways of doing it: animations, clicks, and other options that will allow salespeople or partners analyse it in different ways.
- Always ask why. Because that way you can better integrate the team that is mapping the roadmap, and not doing it just because.
Do it yourself…
👉 Watch Jeff Lash’s Talk at Productized 2019
👉Access Jeff Lash’s presentation here
Best Practices for Product Roadmaps - Productized 2019
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About Jeff Lash
Jeff Lash is VP and Group Director, Product Management Research and Advisory for the SiriusDecisions Product Line at Forrester, where he advises b-to-b product management leaders on how to elevate the abilities and expertise of their teams to improve maturity, drive measurable and repeatable product success and business growth… He has 15+ years of experience in product management, product marketing, user experience, and product development. Since 2006, Jeff has authored the popular blog ‘How To Be a Good Product Manager’ and dispenses product management wisdom (and humor!) in 280-character increments on Twitter as @jefflash.
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