This is a guest post by Erietta Sapounakis who writes at Eriontheweb.
Erietta attended one of our Product Talks recently and this is a summary of a roadmap panel discussion.
The panelists during the event included:
- Michael Pearson, Director Product & e-commerce at Expedia
- Michael Bromley, Head of Digital Strategy and Chief Innovation Officer at SMS Management & Technology; and
- Chrissie Zenonos, Head of Product at Mi9 (Channel 9)
While the panelists weren’t in perfect alignment they generally agreed on the following.
What is a product roadmap?
- A communication tool
- A list of priorities
What should a product roadmap communicate?
- Needs, problems
- Goals and objectives
- The business value to be delivered
- The vision
- The capability
How should a product roadmap behave?
- It should be flexible
- It should accommodate a test and learn approach
What value do product roadmaps provide?
- Provide visibility to different teams to enable them to align to a singular vision
- Show how everything fits into a greater scheme, to provide context
- Provide clarity to tackle ambiguity
What a product roadmap is not, or should not be or do
- Should not be a features list
- Should not describe granular detail
- Should not explain how something is to be delivered
The aversion to product roadmaps was best expressed by Michael Bromley:
“Because I can’t predict the future I don’t try.”
And with technology and the market changing so rapidly its easy to see why people need to work in differently. What the panelists had in common was a way of working which was flexible, agile, and iterative, applying a test and learn approach. From what I could gather Michael Bromley, of SMS and Chrissie Zenonos of Mi9 could do away with the traditional concept of a product roadmap deliverable because they worked with co-located teams. They used walls of post-its and the business model canvas as alternative tools. Michael Pearson of Expedia, unlike the others was still an advocate for product roadmaps. He works with distributed teams of developers and needs to communicate the wider context and timelines to engineers and call centre channel teams who need to know when a feature will drop. His version of a product roadmap is a JIRA workflow where the hypothesis to test eventually becomes the code then the feature.
My big takeaway was realising that so much documentation—product roadmaps, feature lists, test schedules, project plans, even the business case—are really communicating the same thing. The challenge is rationalising tools that so many feel so comfortable with to avoid duplication, focus on communicating the vision, and work iteratively and flexibly towards achieving it.
Any time you have a new product idea everything is an unknown.
- Who is your target customer?
- Why will they like your product idea?
- What will the product do?
- Will the market buy the product?
- What will the product be competing against?
- How much will it cost the business to make and offer the product?
- How will the business make money and will it be enough to make a profit?
There can be hundreds more.
Some of these questions we may think we know the answers to, others you may have no clue about. It is possible and quite common to become overwhelmed by all the things that you don’t know. Fear of the unknown can cause an inertia that prevents action.
As early as possible we need to start trying to convert unknowns to assumptions and assumptions to reliable data points and facts to reduce the risk of product failure and to help develop confidence the idea. Continue reading...
Our mates at iSelect are looking for a Product Manager. Take a look at the job description.
This role primarily focuses on the continued improvement of the iSelect online consumer experience, identifying areas of opportunity and performance improvement to ensure an engaging, effective and optimised user experience.
You will work closely with stakeholders across the iSelect business to facilitate ongoing growth in Health Insurance, and hyper-growth in its newer business units including Energy, Personal Finance and Broadband.
HOW YOU DO IT
Success is based on:
• Creating a plan for the development of the product in conjunction with business sponsors
• Working with business sponsors to develop requirement briefs and with business analysts, web developers and software developers to deliver those requirements.
• Analysing, assessing and interpreting market information from a wide variety of sources, and making recommendations that contribute to the future direction of this particular business unit.
• Tracking performance across key consumer and business metrics
• Maintaining effective relationships with external partners and suppliers, and internal groups
• Working to agreed revenue targets and continuously make improvement to maximise revenue opportunities
WHAT YOU ARE and WHAT YOU HAVE
• Strong consumer/user experience background in online environments
• 3+ years online Product Management experience
• A natural born communicator with water-tight judgement and an engaging creative streak
• Very strong relationship management and influencing skills
• An enquiring mind and a keen interest in all areas of external stakeholder engagement
HOW YOU FIT
We are a fast paced and energetic business which is characterised by an innovative, growth orientated culture. We have high levels of empowerment and accountability which are underpinned by a pragmatic, down to earth approach.
We are progressive in our ideals and have a strong motto of “nothing is impossible”. Understanding this context is critical as is an approach characterised by innovation and curiosity.
A Product Manager who is passionate about actually making a difference to the lives of Australian consumers and who wants to make a valuable and lasting contribution to a company at the forefront of its industry, will have huge success in this role.
High energy levels and a love of having fun are also important to working in this great business.
If this sounds like you please apply now by sending your CV to email@example.com.
Exciting times for this organisation as they build a whole new service offering, which will include mobile responsive site, games, mobile apps and many online service related products for the health and well being sector.
Based in Sydney Inner West, the Product Director is a newly created role reporting to the CEO and will manage a team that’s responsible for product design, development and implementation, working very closely with the Service, Research and Marketing Teams as well as external stakeholders.
We’re on the search for a Digital Product Specialist, a Creative Technologist; strategic and creative thinker who has experience making technology investment decisions, has managed and motivated a team of developers and product people across full product lifecycle from concept to execution. We would expect the candidate to have experience in an innovative software product organisation or have a history working with design and development to produce a great user experience. Must haves are working in an Agile development environment, mobile-first design and A/B testing. .Net and Sitecore experience will be highly regarded.
Great company with a caring culture – please get in touch with Sally Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org
The topic of where User Experience (UX) belongs in an organisation’s structure is one that sparks many different opinions—much like that of Product Management.
I recently asked Matthew Magain from UX Mastery the question: “Is UX a part of Product Management?” His cheeky response was “Is Product Management a part of UX ?” I guess that’s a great question—is it?
Matt explained that the answer to the question really depends on the type of company. “In design-led companies, UX designers will have a seat in the board room; in more technology-centric companies, UX will be seen as subordinate to Product Management.”
UX is a Part of Product Management
My opinion is that, in most cases, UX should be considered very much part of the Product Management family. Product Management is a broad professional domain with a spectrum of activities that range from marketing to engineering. UX has a narrower but important focus and fits nearly within that spectrum.
Whilst UX makes a significant contribution to the product’s overall success, it is not the only factor. In many instances, the core product attributes have little impact (unless its not functioning) on the user experience. There are two main parties that a product serves; the customer and the business. In my experience, UX typically looks after the customer, whilst Product Management looks after both the customer and the business. Matt disagreed and explained “if a UX designer is ignoring business goals she is not doing her job. We stress this point in our writing and make a big deal of this in our training.”
Matt made a great point. If we want our businesses to thrive we should ALL be focused on the business goals.
Product Management Has Broader Accountability
Product Management not only has accountability for the product experience, of which UX is a component, but it also has to juggle the business needs and capabilities. There may be customer problems that the business may not want to solve (called strategy). Not all customer problems are created equal. Some problems are severe and prevent a large number of customers from achieving their goals. However, there are some problems that are trivial and only affect a small proportion of customers. As an independent entity, the business can choose to solve either one of those problems. Or, it can solve neither of those problems because solving them may not deliver a business benefit that is sufficiently attractive for the business to pursue. It seems counter intuitive but solving some customer problems may not be a good business decision. Unlike UX, it’s more likely that the Product Manager will work closely with various stakeholders to make the decision to solve the customer problem within a timeframe or delay solving the problem indefinitely
Ultimately, though Product Management is the custodian of the product’s value in the market and that means the product has to be priced accordingly, accessible to the target market, supported operationally and uphold all the promises it makes.
UX Closer to the Customer
When I grilled Matt further, he made the excellent point that “UX designers, by definition, act as stronger champions for user goals,” given that’s their primary purpose in an organisation. “The nature of UX work means we probably end up feeling closer to the user and developing genuine empathy.”
In reality, Product Management is often spread too thinly across many different activities, putting out many fires. We’re called upon to uncover why sales are poor, to ‘quickly’ respond to competitor challenges, to work closely with our engineers to resolve technical faults … the list goes on.
Yet as Product Managers, we know that the only way to develop long-term business success is by spending time with customers and solving lucrative customer problems.
Many Benefits of Having UX as a Part of Product Management
If UX isn’t a part of the Product Management team in your organisation, it should be. The relationship between the two disciplines is important for the success of the product.
There will never be an opportunity in a company, big or small, for Product Management to be solely focused on the customer. UX facilitates the transfer of rich customer insights into Product Management. Vice versa, Product Management can offer business information that may help UX design better customer experiences, which in turn makes for a better product.
And that’s better for your customers and your business.