A product roadmap visualizes and communicates the product plan including what and why of product building. Roadmap creation is often a huge topic for most organizations. This article is a continuation of my Product Management article series and talks about Product Roadmap and Customer journey.
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What is a Product Roadmap?
In my experience, I have seen product roadmaps with fixed release timelines. That kind of rigid timeline can get a Product Team in a lot of trouble and potentially create hardship with the business team for not meeting delivery dates.
Agility and flexibility need to be taken care of while analyzing a correct roadmap. That's why thematic roadmaps have gained popularity.
Evolution of Product Roadmaps
In the early days of technology, product roadmaps were merely a Gantt Chart with features and timelines.
It makes a product roadmap more inclined towards feature orientation than solving problems. In my experience, leadership should focus on problem-solving than any other thing!
Product roadmaps should address the opportunity from a business angle. Historically, the more a roadmap time stretches, the confidence level of a solution lowers. Time issues are due to market changes, client commitments, evolution of technology, and priority shifts. To avoid these, software development has transitioned from Waterfall to Agile. Agile practices allow teams to react to market and user changes rapidly. However, the Product Roadmaps fails to keep up with Agile Software Development methodologies. It has to do with the paradigm shift in the company culture and constant communication with product leadership.
Prioritization – I can't think of a conversation about product roadmaps without prioritization. Once opportunities find their way to a product backlog and user journey maps are created, it is time to conduct a round of prioritization. This round of prioritization becomes necessary to include changes that come along the way. A widely used model and one of my favourites are Kano Model, named after the Japanese professor Noriaki Kano. This model was originally used in Six Sigma and quality and control evaluation. This model can be used in the technology space to evaluate customer satisfaction based on functionality level.
In the above graph, opportunities in the top right corner must be given a high priority than the rest of the quadrants.
Audience - In my experience, there is no silver bullet for a roadmap visualization. Often, product roadmaps can take on different views depending on the audience. It's common to have C-level executives who want to see a roadmap of the past 1-2 years or an engineering team or a client who wants to hit a specific milestone. That is why not all the product roadmaps are the same. I try to stay away from communicating fixed deadlines. However, not all Product Managers have the leverage to push an organization to stay away from dates (a harsh reality of product and roadmaps). These days many software solutions allow roadmaps to be transformed based on the audience.
Developing Product Roadmap
Below is Github and Slack's product roadmap. Both organizations use a Kanban-style product roadmap. Github communicates quarterly, whereas Slack communicates timeframes without dates. The right way would be to communicate a shared understanding of the problem.
GitHub’s Product Roadmap
Slack’s API Product Roadmap
Customer Journey Map
Overview – The customer journey map is one of the most critical visual display tools in the product/UX space.
It serves several purposes:
- It is a great exercise for the team and everyone involved in understanding a specific persona and its user phases.
- It helps build a shared understanding of the users' actions.
- It calls out pain points and opportunities for a specific user during the design phase.
When I first started this exercise in my product manager career, sticky notes in a workshop-like environment were very common. However, some companies are now outsourcing this task to different agencies using specific software to craft and tailor a user journey map that can be shared throughout the organization. Details matter the most irrespective of a scrappy approach or a slick visual design.
The biggest misconception about Customer Journey Maps is that it is a "one and done" exercise. If you're in the product space, Customer Journey Maps will not be a new concept to you. There have been times when I have worked with clients who were very excited to tell me they have a Customer Journey Map. However, as I started to dig through the journey map, things became tricky. Mapping task is an art.
Persona and Phases - It is different when talking about building a persona profile, especially in a B2B environment. An accountant for a small CPA firm can have different duties, responsibilities, and pain points from someone at an enterprise-size firm. It is when organizations must be careful about market segmentation and their impact on personas and call it out in the Customer Journey Map.
When documenting, it is essential for the team to call out the "big actions". A good ice breaker exercise would be when a team starts to create the customer journey map.
For example, think about all the steps you took to get out from getting out of bed to brushing your teeth to taking a shower, to putting on clothes, and to driving to work. Think about the experience you had with every step in the process. Now think about how you felt in each step. Were you mad, happy, sad, excited, or indifferent? Now think about all the tasks involved in each step. How long did each step take (on average) and where are their opportunities to shorten your shower time? What actions could you have been taken? These are all related questions that you would want to answer in a Customer Journey Map.
Pain Points and Opportunities – As stated previously with our "Get to Work" example, each step in the process will present some pain points. I know for me spending time to make breakfast is not enjoyable. Hence, that can be considered my pain point.
Below is a great example of a Customer Journey from Quarloo.com. It shows Michael's journey to find contact information for an agency or electrical official. The following key components are represented in the Customer Journey Map:
- Pain Points
We have explored the details of building a Product Roadmap and Customer Journey mapping. Product Roadmap and User Journey mapping unveil the importance of business and product teams to plan before jumping the gun. While the plan and roadmap do not always stick to the hard and fast number timelines, it gives a readymade action plan to change things with agility whenever required.
At Qentelli, we work with clients to infuse product mindset in teams to go beyond the development process and break the traditional outsourcing model by a product-led approach to software delivery partnerships.