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Roadmap Personas: The Best Way to Set Expectations for Teams, Clients, and Leadership

Roadmap Personas: The Best Way to Set Expectations for Teams, Clients, and Leadership

When was the last time you had confidence in a roadmap to show you where the product could go and how the teams might take it there? Too often, teams can’t see the next set of necessary features, because the roadmap contains everything for at least five years. Can your customers depend on your roadmaps to know when to expect features? And, while some leaders want to see options, many want certainty about which feature will arrive when.

No wonder roadmaps get a bad rap. They don’t provide enough of the right information for anyone.

Instead, we have options in how we create and present roadmaps to which viewer. When we think of roadmaps as products, we can create personas. Then, we have options about which information we expose to each persona.

Learning objectives:
1. How to create a roadmap that helps the team focus on what they need to now, while offering a look-ahead to the future.
2. How to use your product’s place in the technology adoption curve to consider one of several possible customer-focused roadmaps.
3. How to show options in a rolling wave roadmap, especially if your product is full of innovation and not very predictable yet..

Johanna Rothman

February 28, 2023

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  5. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Our Agenda • Problems with

    current roadmaps • Personas and principles 1. Teams 2. Customers 3. Senior leaders • Bare minimum for how to in fl uence senior management 6
  6. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Car Roadmaps != Product Roadmaps

    • The term roadmap invites confusion between directions and products • Maps show us the way to get from Point A to Point B • Physical roads & bridges rarely change • Even if we change our driving goal, we still use established roads • Product goals can change (no longer Point B, but C, D, or E) • Creates backlog changes • Change which problems to solve and when 8
  7. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Product Roadmap Problems • Typical

    assumptions: • Even distribution of features across the backlogs (feature sets) • Feature arrival rate is predictable • Value of all features is similar 9
  8. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Roadmap Reality • Some feature

    sets become much more valuable, some less so • Arrival rates vary • Finishing rates vary 10
  9. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Long-Term Roadmaps Create More Problems

    • Lead to increased certainty about product strategy • Increase project/product WIP (Work in Progress) • Can lead to push-planning (stuff the desired work into a speci fi c time) • Decrease innovation • Instead of clarifying, we create clutter 11
  10. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Roadmaps Serve Several Personas •

    Roadmaps are an information product • Focus the team (near term) • Show customers/clients (and sales) our best future guess for the product • The big picture which often includes a forecast for senior leadership 13
  11. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman The Problems We Think Roadmaps

    will Solve • Many people still think roadmaps will help “Plan the work and work the plan” • But all product development is a function of what we have learned together • As we complete work, we check and adjust in the team • We also check our assumptions (broader than the team) • And we have the opportunity to change our mental model of what this product is and who it’s for 14
  12. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Think back to the past

    six months. How much certainty could you plan on? 15
  13. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Work changes. The market changes.

    Your customers change their minds about what they want or need. * 16 * Especially if you release often.
 If you don’t release often, customers might not care anymore.
  14. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Roadmap Success Principles • The

    route to a successful product can, should, and will change • The more often we fi nish and release, the more options we have for the next bit of work: • At the team level • For the product roadmap • For the project portfolio and corporate strategy • Therefore, we need to plan minimally, show our options, and use rolling wave planning to replan 17
  15. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Product Minimums • Minimum Viable

    Experiment (MVE): The smallest thing we can deliver to learn. • Minimum Viable Product (MVP): The smallest thing we can deliver to validate a business hypothesis. • Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF): Something of value to us: gain revenue or acquire a customer or capitalize the expense. Maybe all three. • MIFS: Minimum Indispensable Feature Set: the minimum number of MMFs to satisfy a customer. (Cell phone that only texts) • MAFS: Minimum Adoptable Feature Set. Useful if you need to replace a product. 18
  16. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Three Personas • The team(s)

    doing the work • A look-ahead for the customers and salespeople • Senior leaders and the tension between predictability and options 19
  17. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman 1. Roadmaps to Focus a

    Team • Teams need to know: • Overarching product goal. Set this with product vision and project charter. • Which users fi rst, second, and third for now? (rank the stories) • Stories can provide any of these values: • Increase knowledge • Decrease risk • Generate useful feedback 20
  18. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Time-Based Team Roadmap • The

    question marks mean “Expected at that time” • But too often, people push-plan as much as possible into a given time. • We expect to ship “all of it” at the end of the month (and quarter) 21
  19. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Consider Pull-Based Team Roadmap •

    “Same” data, less certainty • Notice the big black line • As the team completes its work, they can pull from below the big black line • The product leader can change everything below the big black line at any time 22
  20. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Team-Based Roadmaps of Any Type

    • Show what’s up next • Anticipated look-ahead for the next bit of work • Along with the product goal, supports the team in creating great products 23
  21. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Differences Between Time- and Pull-

    Roadmaps • Time-based roadmaps assume we know: • Where we want to go (destination) • How we will get there (route) • Pull-based roadmaps assume: • We have an outcome (maybe not a fully realized destination) • We know the minimal route for now • We will replan when we need to 24
  22. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman 2. Look Ahead Roadmaps for

    Customers • Technology adoption curve helps you see what your customers might want and when • The earlier your product is in its lifecycle, the more your customers want to know what’s coming next • Once you hit the Mainstream, very few customers care what you offer, as long as everything still works 25
  23. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Customers ask for roadmaps when

    they don’t trust you to release “necessary” features 26
  24. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman If your customers don’t need

    dates, don’t give them dates.* 27 * And if your salespeople want dates, ask them why they’re not selling what is already in the product.
  25. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Customers want to know which

    problems you plan to solve “next” or reasonably “soon.” They believe when you release often enough. 28
  26. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Why I Recommend “No Dates”

    • Things change: for the customers, the product, and the market • You need the resilience to manage these changes and not have to apologize to customers for your premature commitments • Update and release the roadmap every 4-6 weeks • Build trust with more releasing • You succeed with trust when few people check the roadmap 31
  27. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Questions to Guide Your Roadmap

    Choice • What do you want your users to know about in advance and in how much detail? • Do you want your customers to offer feedback on the product or the strategy? (Future-oriented might work) • How much, or how little, do you want to commit to on the roadmap? (Do you think your product strategy will change?) (If you expect change, consider Possibility-oriented.) 32
  28. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman 3. Senior Leadership: Predictability and

    Options • The senior leaders I know want lots of predictability. • But adaptability requires more information about options as the product development proceeds. • What kind of innovation does your product require? 33
  29. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Long Roadmaps Trigger Little’s Law

    • The more work you have in progress, the longer it takes to fi nish it. • That increases the average lead time (cycle time) • This holds true at all levels of the organization • The more extensive your roadmap, the higher the WIP and the longer everything takes 34 Average Lead Time = Average Work in Progress Average Throughput
  30. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman If you want a long-term

    roadmap, the team needs a relatively short cycle time* 35 * But the more they see in the future, the longer everything will take. No one can avoid Little’s Law.
  31. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Lean Roadmaps for a Longer

    Time View • If you must have a longer time view: • Specify problems, not features • Create Minimums for each problem • Show options, at the very least, below the big black line • Pull from below the big black line 36
  32. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Minimum Roadmap for Full Innovation

    • The more innovation your product needs, the shorter the roadmap must be • Clarify product strategy and product goal for now • Create shorter-term projects so you can stop when you have enough for now • Specify experiments to give you more information • Consider a 4-6 week roadmap with a 2-3 week rolling wave plan 37
  33. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Consider Personas for Effective Roadmaps

    • Roadmaps are an information product • Which personas do you want to serve and when? • Consider how you will show options and when to which personas 38
  34. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman How to Convince Your Management

    to Change • All about trust and in fl uence • Earn trust by fi nishing & releasing more often • Also proves competence • You’ve built rapport with the other person • Explore shared interests, short-term and long-term • Tell stories for connection. Data rarely changes anyone’s mind. 39
  35. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Takeaways • Plan for alternatives

    (show options) • Show problems at all levels: • Team • Product roadmap • Project portfolio and corporate strategy • Rolling wave planning with frequent releases 40
  36. © 2023 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Let’s Stay in Touch •

    Please link with me on LinkedIn • For questions, please email [email protected] • Pragmatic Manager: www.jrothman.com/ pragmaticmanager • Roadmap series: https://www.jrothman.com/ roadmaps • Flow roadmapping series: https:// www.jrothman.com/ fl owroadmapping • The feedback loops presentation: https:// www.productmanagementtoday.com/frs/ 21758457/short-and-sweet--a-deep-dive-into- concise-feedback-loops/ 41