Product Roadmaps: The Destination and The Turn-by-Turn Directions

Can you imagine loading your family into the car for a vacation without knowing where you’re going? How would you decide where to go while you’re driving along? What would you pack? Would you end up somewhere that’s fun for the whole family?

As ridiculous as it sounds, many B2B companies find themselves in a similar situation when it comes to product roadmaps. When there’s no destination for your product portfolio (the strategic roadmap), every set of turn-by-turn directions (product roadmaps) can look attractive.

A strategic roadmap for the portfolio is an upstream vehicle that establishes the parameters for all product, marketing and sales initiatives. What markets are we targeting? Why? How are we supporting the strategic initiatives of organizations in those markets? What obstacles are we helping them overcome? How does all of the above support our organization’s goals?

Roadmaps That Simplify

The clarity of the strategic roadmap, or lack thereof, has huge ramifications on the downstream execution. When you know exactly where you’re going, it’s much easier to get there. A customer-focused strategic roadmap is a statement of direction that serves your organization’s goals best, but may not be in the best interest of each product. Philosophically, it’s a pill that’s often difficult for product managers to swallow because of the constant pressures to improve every product.

But in most cases, product managers don’t have to sacrifice improvements to their products for the benefit of the portfolio. It’s actually the reverse. Managing improvements to individual products is a lot easier because of the strategic portfolio roadmap. Here’s why.

When the destination for the portfolio is clear (customer goals and obstacles), it’s much easier for all product managers to determine what’s required of each product to remove those obstacles. By default, each product will get critical enhancements that collectively improve functionality and usability but also have strategic value to your target markets and to your own organization.

Imagine a product planning presentation to executives where the head of product management leads with something like “Over the next 12 months our goal is to help community hospitals improve their marketability by raising their patient satisfaction scores (HCAHPS).” That statement is the portfolio destination. Then each product manager follows with obstacles standing in the way of higher HCAHPS scores and product roadmaps to remove those obstacles – the turn-by-turn directions.

What’s the biggest difference between this product planning scenario and a typical scenario where every product manager is planning in a silo? Momentum – and it’s huge for two reasons:

  1. When there’s a common focus across your portfolio that’s centered on customer goals, it simplifies the day-to-day execution for development, marketing and sales teams because everyone is working toward the same goals and sharing the workload.
  2. For product managers specifically, they no longer have to go it alone for their products and compete with one another for resources. It’s a divide-and-conquer scenario across the product management team.

Try the vacation analogy to create your next series of roadmaps – strategic and product. When you know exactly where you’re going (customer-focused strategic roadmap), it’s easier to determine the best route for getting there (product roadmaps). Everyone will know exactly what to pack (features and capabilities) and a good time will be had by all (delivering high value to the customer and meeting your organization’s goals).

If your product or portfolio strategy doesn’t have a clear destination, contact Proficientz about our Product Portfolio Strategy Workshop and learn how you can identify the most desirable destinations and determine the most efficient routes for getting there.

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