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How to Build Roadmaps that Stick - Roadmapping 301 (Bruce McCarthy) ProductCamp Boston may 2013


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Wouldn't it be great if no one could argue with your roadmap? Wouldn't it just rock if you could cut through the endless debates and circular arguments, get to consensus, and just execute?

I'm Bruce McCarthy, VP of Product at NetProspex and Chief Product Person at UpUp Labs. In 17 years as a product person, I've built a roadmapping methodology on 5 pillars:

* Strategic goals
* Objective prioritization
* Shuttle diplomacy
* Transparent themes
* Punctuated equilibrium

At last year's ProductCamp, my standing-room-only session on prioritization was a huge hit with product people. This year I will focus on translating your priorities into a roadmap that will inspire your whole team to buy-in, stick with it, and over-deliver.

This presentation was delivered at ProductCamp Boston, May 4, 2013 by Bruce McCarthy

Published in: Business, Technology

How to Build Roadmaps that Stick - Roadmapping 301 (Bruce McCarthy) ProductCamp Boston may 2013

  1. 1. Roadmapping 301Advanced Roadmapping ClassBruce McCarthyChief Product Person,’m Bruce McCarthy, Founder and CPP of Reqqs - the smart roadmap tool for product people. I’ve been in productmanagement for 17 years at companies like iMarket (bought by Dun & Bradstreet) and ATG (bought by Oracle). Myday job currently is VP of Product at NetProspex in Waltham.I’m here to talk about how to develop roadmaps that stick. This is the advanced class because you guys are wellbeyond the basics of H-M-L.I developed this methodology over time in various jobs. I’ve seen it work over and over again where gut instinct orendless meetings fail. In talking with other product people, I’ve found the good ones usually develop somethingsimilar. I’ve really just tried to standardize it and genericize it a bit so everyone can benefit.
  2. 2. Do roadmaps stillmatter?2In today’s agile world, do roadmaps still matter? Aren’t we allowed to change direction after each sprint? Actually,I think roadmaps are needed even more in an agile world. Yes, you can correct course after each sprint, but youshould be correcting course toward something - toward a vision of where you want your product or your companyto be in a year or 2 or 3. You need to stake out that vision and then you need to work out what you think is thebest path to get there. That’s your roadmap.
  3. 3. R3Your roadmap is also a shield against the constant onslaught of potentially diverting requests from all quarters.
  4. 4. “Did [Previous PM] send you hisspreadsheet of [5 trillion un-prioritized] feature requests?”- VP Product Management4In my experience, large spreadsheets of past feature requests are not usually worth the time to review. Anythingreally important will come out in customer or other stakeholder conversations
  5. 5. “We need this to close[big deal] this quarter!”- Key Sales Person5I know a VP of Product who reserves about 5% of his dev team’s capacity just for these things.
  6. 6. “37% of our Support calls are about[oldest, hairiest part of the code].Can’t we fix it?”- Support Manager6This is a tough one because it’s so reasonable. Look at the ROI on these requests carefully, though, as they won’thelp with new customer acquisition and they will suck up your most senior resources for an extended period.
  7. 7. “[Shiny tech thing] will make[your top priority] much easier!”- Tech Lead7Make them prove it with a schedule for your top priority with and without the shiny tech thing.
  8. 8. “[Previously irrelevant competitor]just shipped [shiny feature]. How arewe going to leapfrog them?”- VP Marketing8I’ve always preferred to solve market problems before marketING problems. Your prospects may not pay nearly asmuch attention to your competition as you do.
  9. 9. “We gotta drop everything and workon [meaningless buzzword]. It’sgonna be huge!”- VP Sales9I’ll talk in a little while about how to roadmap around “transformational items”
  10. 10. “If you don’t support [obscureplatform] I can’t buy your stuff.”- Key Customer CTO10Just say no. I used to have the job of determining which 3rd parties to support. It’s really a very simple job. Ifigured out that it cost about $1 million per year to add a new supported platform to our testing matrix. Thatmade the ROI decision really easy. We only ever made an exception once for a multi-million dollar deal.
  11. 11. “You can’t add [my pet idea] withoutdropping something else? What, isyour whole team lazy?”- CEO11This is my favorite - actually heard - CEO quote. And *proof* that CEOs are bad at math.
  12. 12. Roadmaps InspireBuy-in from execsStick-to-itiveness and over-delivery from your teamConfidence from Salespeople &customers12A lot of that confidence is about your company and your product, but a lot is also confidence that *you* knowwhat you’re doing
  13. 13. 5 Roadmap Pillars1. Strategic goals2. Objective prioritization3. Shuttle diplomacy4. Transparent themes5. Punctuated equilibrium13
  14. 14. Strategic Goals“A strategic goal is usedto define the desiredend-state of a war or acampaign.”From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia14
  15. 15. SMART GoalsSpecificMeasurableAttainableRelevantTime-bound15Your goals usually come from your CEO or your executive team. Strategic goals help you prioritize projects. Moretactical goals are what gets your projects approved. Revenue is nearly always on the list. It’s your job to take whatthey give you and translate them into “SMART” goals.SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound
  16. 16. Typical GoalsGrow the user baseIncrease customer satisfactionImprove performanceIncrease referralsValidated learningIncrease revenue this yearTransformation (revenue in future years)Generate buzz16A tip for when your CEO asks what you are doing that’s “transformative” or “paradigm-shifting” is to think of it asthings that won’t generate significant revenue this year but have a chance to grow it a lot in future years byentering new markets or serving new needs.I’ve never been able to get away without including some kind of “coolness” or “buzz factor” goal for anything butinternal projects. If you skip that, someone always complains that we’re not taking into account that we need togenerate excitement in the market to be successful.
  17. 17. Pick 2-4 goals17If you try to pick one goal, there will always be people (including you) wanting to cram in “just one or two otherlittle things.” If you pick too many, there is no focus to your project and it’s really hard to prioritize.But if you pick somewhere around 3 goals, you get a more balanced view and it’s easier to prioritize.
  18. 18. 5 Roadmap Pillars1. Strategic goals2. Objective prioritization3. Shuttle diplomacy4. Transparent themes5. Punctuated equilibriumP18
  19. 19. PopularityYour CEO’s GutSales RequestsAnalyst OpinionsMost of your customers aresmallHe’s no longer in touch withthe marketThese change every weekThese are mostly backward-lookingObjectivePrioritization is NOT19
  20. 20. Math makes (almost)everything better20There is a better way.
  21. 21. Value / Effort = Priority21A simple equation. It’s really the familiar ROI calculation. Effort is the investment you make to generate value inreturn. The items in your backlog that have the highest ROI are the ones you should do first, right?
  22. 22. Value / Effort = PriorityValue = EstimatedContribution to DefinedGoals22
  23. 23. Feature G1 G2 E PA 1 1 2 1B 1 0 2 0.5C 2 -1 1 1(Goal1+Goal2)/Effort = Priority23Removing the QA step to ship early means negative numbers for quality (G2)There is a lot more detail on this prioritization methodology in my Prioritization 301 presentation on SlideShareand at
  24. 24. 5 Roadmap Pillars1. Strategic goals2. Objective prioritization3. Shuttle diplomacy4. Transparent themes5. Punctuated equilibriumPP24
  25. 25. 25Henry Kissinger was Nixon’s Secretary of State and famously settled things down in the Middle East after the 1967war using shuttle diplomacy.
  26. 26. Shuttle Diplomacy“Serving as anintermediary amongprincipals in a dispute,without direct principal-to-principal contact.”From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia26This is probably THE most important part of the process. You need to get buy-in from your key stakeholders foryour roadmap to be approved and to stick over time. The best way I have found to do this is to meet with themindividually.
  27. 27. Typical StakeholdersYouYourbossSalesTechleadCustomers PartnersC-suiteLegalSupportAnalystsArchitects OtherPMs27When I showed this slide to my wife, she said: “Why you still you’re job I don’t know, but it does explain all thebeer.”
  28. 28. “I’ve got a draft set ofpriorities. Would youhelp me refine it?”28Don’t go to them with a finished set of goals and priorities, but ask for their HELP and INPUT in the process. Makethe process transparent to them, invite them into it and you’ll get a much better reaction.
  29. 29. 29
  30. 30. “I’ll present ourpriorities to the executiveteam on Friday”Collaboration30When you collaborate on the development of your plan with your key stakeholders, a magical thing happens.“Your” plan becomes their plan, too. This makes the big review meeting with the execs to approve your roadmapmore of a formality because everyone around the table had a hand in putting together the plan.
  31. 31. 5 Roadmap Pillars1. Strategic goals2. Objective prioritization3. Shuttle diplomacy4. Transparent themes5. Punctuated equilibriumPPP31
  32. 32. Transparent Themes“A group of features tiedtogether by a simple, clearbenefit, usually to the user”From Bruce’s Product Person Dictionary32You’ll see in a minute what I mean by“usually”
  33. 33. Themes Are VagueHigh-level, few wordsMake the benefit obviousMany details rolled upCut features & still declarevictory!33Yes, they are vague on purpose. Clear in benefit - but vague in implementation.You can decide to cut specific features within a theme without dropping the theme itself. This helps you manageexpectations and preserve the roadmap in the face of shrinking budgets, shifting resources and slippingschedules. It allows you to publish a roadmap months out that you can show to execs and even to customers andstill feel confident you can deliver.If someone asks about a specific feature within a theme (does Easier Scheduling include popup calendars?), youranswer should be: “We’re looking at the best way to make scheduling easier as soon as we can. Popup calendars issomething we’re looking at but I don’t want to pre-judge exactly how it will come out.” It’s like the Presidentsaying “all options are on the table” about Iran.
  34. 34. Typical ThemesSimpler WorkflowFaster CheckoutBetter SchedulingSocial ConnectionsReferral ProgramNew Platform34Benefits to customers are things like the first three. Many individual features or tweaks to the UI would roll up intothese themes.The next two are more like epics, large features with lots of parts you might keep or cut depending on how theschedule goes. These are valid for the roadmap, too, as long as your stakeholders see the value in them.Something infrastructure or engineering-oriented like a new platform, API or refactoring can appear on yourroadmap. My bias for customer benefit would argue against it, but if it’s going to leave a large hole in yourroadmap because it’s necessary and it eats up a lot of time, then you should include it on an internal roadmap(never an external one). At worst, it will prompt a healthy discussion of whether the work is worth the investment.
  35. 35. Cutting a themeneeds an explanation35The essential difference between a feature and a theme is that you can usually cut a feature without drama, butcutting a theme requires an explanation at the executive or customer level. A theme is what’s visible on yourroadmap, so publish that with caution.
  36. 36. Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4Theme A Theme C Theme DTheme E,Phase IITheme BTheme E,Phase ITheme FTheme GWeaselly Safe Harbor Statement36
  37. 37. 5 Roadmap Pillars1. Strategic goals2. Objective prioritization3. Shuttle diplomacy4. Transparent themes5. Punctuated equilibriumPPPP37
  38. 38. Punctuated Equilibrium“A theory that evolutionproceeds with long periods ofrelative stability interspersedwith rapid change.”Websters College Dictionary38
  39. 39. Change yourroadmap everycouple of cycles39
  40. 40. Roadmap ChangePeople expect itYou probably didn’t shipeverything you wanted toThe market situation has changedYou have more informationExecs have ADD40
  41. 41. Lather, rinse, repeat41How do you change your roadmap? Start over at the beginning.
  42. 42. 5 Roadmap Pillars1. Strategic goals2. Objective prioritization3. Shuttle diplomacy4. Transparent themes5. Punctuated equilibriumPPPPP42Ask if your strategic goals are still correct then re-prioritize the things you haven’t yet done, get buy-in, roll up tothemes... and you’ve got a revised roadmap to publish.
  43. 43. Related Topics1. Internal vs. external roadmaps2. Revenue recognition3. Multi-product roadmaps43
  44. 44. Discussion44
  45. 45. For Slides & ExcelTemplateBruce McCarthyChief Product Person,