One of the aha moment for me as a product manager has been understanding what really product roadmaps are. Product roadmaps are product management 101 and every product manager is required to maintain one. So did I. I had a laundry list of features that we wanted to do in next release and releases after that. Features that customer wanted, features from marketing wish list, features that would help in sales wins and features that would make CEO happy. At every release, I would pick up few features, throw them in a release plan, spec them out, get management buy-in, evangelize to various functions, present to engineering and I was done.
I was reborn as a product manager when I realized how inefficient this practice is. I have learned my lessons through sweat and tear and realized that feature driven approach is completely useless and counter productive. The problem with this approach is you end up doing a bit of everything. You have features to make everyone happy but that’s not how you create excellent products. The right way to create a product roadmap is to draw a product strategy first - product strategy aligned with business strategy. It helps you understand business goals and missing links in the shortest path to achieve goals. Once you have the strategy ready, it becomes obvious which features aligns with strategy and which ones does not. Creating roadmap is child’s play after that. You just need to prioritize various features and map them into releases. Anything that is not aligned with strategy is low priority and you are free to deprioritize and cut corners if required. Everything else that aligns with strategy must be prioritized and mapped into various releases.
Another lesson that I learned is analogies work great in communicating product vision. As a product manager, you are thinking about product all the time. The nuances and details are clear in your mind but not in others mind. Therefore, having an analogy for the product vision helps others relate the end goal with something tangible and understand the overall direction of the product. Let me explain this concept by an example. Let’s assume that you are building an online marketplace. The product vision is to build a marketplace that users can access from web and smartphone apps and it is seamlessly integrated through both the channels. One possible analogy for this vision is Petronas Twin Towers in KL – the end product has two towers namely web and smartphones and they are seamlessly connected to each other, similar to Petronas structure.
Once you establish the analogy, it is easy for others to understand the end product by relating it with something tangible. And as a product manager it is easy for you to define releases and communicate progress by putting dates against various construction stages.