How to hijack the roadmap
…and have them thank you for it
ProductCamp LA - 2016By Andrew Gilligan
• 10+ years in Product Management
• 2 acquisitions
• Small startups and big startups
• I mostly studied art in college
• I have made many mistakes
• I have hijacked the roadmap twice
• are ﬂexible
• always changing
• ﬁlled with assumptions
• subject to bias
• do not build organizational alignment on their own
• point people in general a direction
• rarely take into account maintenance and feature debt
Lets build this thing
Then this thing
Our competitors have this
Oh, sales needs this
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
You have a big vision:
“The users are begging for ___, we are in a perfect place to try”
“We are churning on features when we should be building growth”
“We have a north star, but we may need a new one”
“The future is headed to ___, let’s make sure we are a player”
“If we could have a focus of force for just 6 months, we could do it”
… and want to rewrite the roadmap.
• Challenge the existing plan and create better outcomes
• Focus on impact by tripling down on a speciﬁc initiative
• Try not to piss too many people off by calling the baby ugly
• Defend your ideas and honestly judge their likelihood of success
• Fill a vacuum (If no one has a better idea, why not yours!)
Reﬁne your vision:
- There is a lot at stake
• The existing way of thinking will be an obstacle
• Bigger companies have more mass, use Judo
• Stay within the core strengths
• Pick a “north star” and reﬁne the pitch
• Be an expert, you are about to ask for an investment
Seeding your vision:
- It sounds better when they say it.
• Inﬂuence the inﬂuencers
• Inform the people who are trusted
• To ﬁght bias: seed doubt, then offer “what if?”
• Call it as it is
Reduce risk & remove blockers
- Find the gatekeepers before you start
• There is always a hidden obstacle, ﬁnd it
• “If this was going to fail, how might it?”
• What can be removed?
• How will I measure my success, how might that fail me?
Pitch it:Convince all the people
• Work on the narrative
• Make it make sense for everyone
• Pitch to engineers, to support, to ops, to data warehouse, to sales, to
• Find a sponsor if possible, ally as well
Product ideation sessions:
- winner takes all game of chance
• In high competition planning environments, take a chance
• Ideation sessions work best with effort/impact/time to market sizing
• If you socialized your ideas well, you reduce your risk
Sell it:Product validation and market feedback
• Make a prototype, get it in front of people
• Take the objections head on and challenge your own assumptions
• User Experience feedback interviews and Client Councils to validate
• Be bold, but safe
• Go-to-market is yours
- put it out in the world, you’ll learn more
• If you don’t ship it, it doesn’t exist
• Do whatever it takes, but make sure your product works
• Pick your success metrics, but be honest about impact
- Optimize for the users you have
• You designed your product for user X and use case B, but who’s
your best user in the wild?
• Highest engaged users should be investigated, how can you
replicate their success for others?
• Don’t let the iteration stop, don’t let the investment drop unless
it’s a failure
How do I deal with ____?
• a CEO/Founder that wants to control everything?
• a divided company that wants to go in a different direction?
• an eng team that isn’t up to the job?
• a great product with no traction?
Startup vs Big Company
How do challenges differ when the company is big or small?
How do you manage stakeholders in large organizations?
How do you get alignment when there is drastic operational changes?