Create a customer value proposition by planning a value-oriented roadmap instead of a features-oriented roadmap.
We are now in December 2020. Most of the product managers are in the midst or at the end of the 2021 roadmap planning process. Many companies have various approaches for planning the roadmap, from planning only for the next quarter to full planning for an entire year.
The typical process is to define the planning required period for the roadmap. The product manager writes the features and user stories in the backlog, which contains a large variety of ideas from all kinds of different teams in the company and outside (You can read here more about the process of gathering and building a roadmap at this blog post). After gathering the ideas and suggestions, the product manager prioritizes the features in the backlog.
The most straightforward formula is the ratio between the feature value proposition and the efforts and costs to develop this feature. There are also methodologies like ICE and RICE scoring models to do the prioritization process. At the end of the prioritization process, the product manager performs a roadmap that describes which features are planned and when they are planned to be developed.
As experienced product managers, we can notice that this approach’s main problem is that it does not materialize as defined in the roadmap. The world is very dynamic and changing all the time. If we compare the roadmap planning we did at the end of 2019 with the capabilities/features that the organization developed and deliver during 2020. For most of us, the answer we find is that we did not do everything we planned. Based on the priority formula presented earlier, the product manager can conclude that we did not create the impact and the customer value proposition we expected to produce.
In this situation, we can stop and ask only one question — why do we continue to behave this way in annual planning?
As product managers, why do we present the roadmap we have built to our organization, salespeople, marketing team, and customers if we know that by the end of 2021, we will not be able to develop and deliver all the features we have planned?
This article presents a practical approach that is different from a feature-oriented roadmap approach, which focuses on a value-oriented roadmap. The prioritization is based on achievements that we, as product managers, are interested in achieving without detailing the specific features that the organization will develop over the coming year.
The value-oriented roadmap is based on initiatives, and within it, the product manager defines the customer problem. In other words, the roadmap presents the issues in which the organization will invest product and R&D efforts to solve the problem and produce significant achievements in this field. Instead of committing a long time in advance on the features that the development team will develop, the product manager’s commitment to the other teams in the organization and the customers is on the accomplishments he wants to achieve.
Value-oriented roadmap design allows both customers and internal teams to perform annual planning for themselves based on the product roadmap. Customers are interested in estimating when they will get a product solution for their problems and their needs. The sales and marketing teams are interested in producing a sales story and preparing to promote deals with the prospects. Designing a value-oriented roadmap creates commitment and alignment between everyone.
The message that the product manager conveys is that he can commit to answering customer’s problems and can’t commit to developing a particular feature at a specific time. As part of the roadmap planning process, the product manager might think that it needs to develop a few specific features to solve the customer’s problem. But he might also discover that other features are more adjusted to fulfill the same goal. Instead of committing to the customers and the marketing & sales teams that the development team will have developed a specific feature, the product manager focuses on the value proposition, the impact, and accomplishments during 2021.
Written by Maayan Galperin