Roadmapping That Works

Thanks to everyone who attended last week's webinar. I appreciated all the great questions. The recording and slides are now available as well as a full set of Visio and Excel templates below. I will also post the questions and answers from the webinar. I plan to add a lot more content in the coming weeks to provide greater detail about our product roadmapping framework and how to use it.


Basic Template - Excel / Visio

Expanded Template - Excel / Visio

Advanced Template - Excel / Visio

productcampRTP 2014 Presentation

I enjoyed spending Saturday at pcampRTP and appreciated the opportunity to present Finding the Best Frameworks for Product Management. The concepts in the presentation have been percolating in my head for a long time and I finally had a great venue to get the ideas organized, expressed and validated through feedback from a terrific audience. The roadmapping concepts resonated most and I plan to follow up with several more posts on roadmaps.

I look forward to seeing the other presentations once they're shared by the organizers. Some highlights - Mark McClear from Cree delivered a great keynote about their LED light bulb history from a product adoption point of view. Greg Hopper presented a fantastic overview of Product Strategy Lessons from Apple - a light speed talk in over 90 slides in 40 minutes. I can see how his courses at Duke must interest students.

Steve Johnson will be at the next pcamp in Boston on May 3rd. I recommend attending if you're in the area since time at these camps is well spent. 

It's difficult to manage P&L...

It’s fairly common for product managers to be asked to act like “mini-CEOs” or “the president of the product. Good idea in concept but harder to implement in real life.


Even if you don’t have actual control over P&L, you can control reporting of P&L. Try using a scorecard approach, a key deliverable in a product playbook.

I was working with a team on their scorecard but alas, all of their metrics were focused on development productivity: how many defects, how many hours, how many stories, how many features…?

But what about metrics on the business of the product from your perspective?

  • What are development costs against plan? Revenue against plan?
  • How many calls to support? Is that more or less than the monthly average? What is the trend?
  • How many leads from marketing? How many were rejected by sales?
  • What is your win rate and what are the top reasons by you lose?
  • What are the trends in Net Promoter Score or other loyalty-related metrics?

Fundamentally, what are some of the business metrics you should have at your fingertips? What questions are your execs asking that you should be able to answer? Be the source of metrics on the business of the product!

What other metrics would you capture?

Your first days... as the head of product management

Take time to work on the business, not just in the business.—Richard Rhodes


Do you lead a new product management team? Where should you begin?

In The Earth is Flat, Thomas Friedman expressed his view of the government’s primary role: to provide infrastructure. Make it easy to start a business, protect our persons and property from harm, provide ways to get products from point a to point b (ie., roads), and enable information transfer (such as phones and internet).

What is the role of senior leadership, particularly the head of product management? Isn’t it the same? To provide infrastructure.

In my experience, decisions are being made at all the wrong levels of most organizations. Executive teams are dabbling in product and portfolio prioritization while product managers are trying to determine (or guess) the product strategy. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

The product manager is expected to represent the business of the product so your dev teams can make technical decisions. At the start of a project, the product manager (or product owner or product leader) should express the strategic direction, the roadmap, and the business issues. But what seems to happen in real life is product teams make decisions in the absence of any meaningful insights from management about the product and portfolio direction.

What should you tackle in your role of VP of product management?

Think infrastructure.

Optimize your processes. What processes do you have in place to turn ideas into products? And how do new products get to the market? Fundamentally, product management needs repeatable processes to define and launch new product capabilities. Development teams have adopted agile methods to optimize their delivery of new products. Shouldn’t you do the same?

Clarify roles and responsibilities. What is the product manager’s role? How about product owner and product marketing manager? Do they have different responsibilities? Just as you need optimized processes, you need clarity on the roles and responsibilities of product management. Profiling your team will identify where individuals need help as well as skill areas for future staffing decisions. For instance, if you’re strong in technical expertise, maybe you need to staff up for business expertise. 

Identify up-skilling requirements. Identify the strengths and weaknesses on your team and develop a plan to bring each employee up to speed. HR professionals often recommend allocating 3% of an employee’s annual compensation for training and coaching.

Improve internal perceptions. How do other departments perceive your team? If their perceptions aren’t favorable it’s often because they have expectations that are out of sync with yours. While many departments expect product management to provide product and domain expertise, most leadership teams rely on product management for business and market expertise.

* * *

In my experience organizations are unclear about the roles and responsibilities and titles of product management. Some product managers are technical; some aren’t. Every product manager uses different templates, tools they’ve found or developed or brought back from training sessions, each with a different look and feel.

As an product management executive, you want a common set of methods so you don’t have to “learn” each deliverable every time. Clarifying responsibilities, processes and deliverables are the first steps to optimizing product management. 

See Rich Mironov's "What We Need in a VP of Product Management" for a different take on the success profile of a product management leader.

Inspiration: Take time to work on the business...


 Take time to work on the business, not just in the business.—Richard Rhodes

According to some surveys, product managers and product marketing managers spend up to 50% of their time in unplanned activities. They’re the janitors of the product, cleaning up the messes made by others. 

As many of us approach the end of the fiscal year, now is the time to look beyond product firefighting and plan to start the new year with a leadership view. Take time to work on the business. Let’s look beyond the daily product difficulties and perform some retrospectives. And not just development process retrospectives -- extend your view to the business objectives and your business planning processes and also your market review and market successes. 

What will you do differently next year? Take time to work on the business. Look at your product process from from idea to retrospective.