Product managers and stakeholders often have conflicting opinions when it comes to planning and development. But organizations need a thoughtful roadmap to guide development, marketing, support and everything in between. Fortunately, product managers can preemptively prepare for common concerns and take measures to keep everything on track.
Let’s take a look at five common stakeholder roadmap concerns. And how product managers can defend product roadmap to keep everything on track.Organizations need a thoughtful roadmap to guide everything from marketing to development, but it can be tough to manage conflicting opinions. Click To Tweet
What is a Product Roadmap?
Product roadmaps are high-level plans for the vision and direction of a product. Rather than getting bogged down in low level details, they communicate the “what”, “why” and “when” for milestones to guide the execution of a product strategy. Developers pull these milestones into epics and user stories that begin the Agile development process.
Product roadmaps should help:
- Showcase the vision and strategy.
- Provide a guide for executing the strategy.
- Ensure the alignment of internal stakeholders.
- Facilitate discussions about the product’s future.
- Support communication with external stakeholders.
Product roadmaps can be built using anything from a simple spreadsheet to a collaborative application. Since many development teams already use Jira, product managers typically use the same Atlassian tools to develop shareable internal product roadmaps that tie directly into requirements and user stories to ensure they’re always accurate and up to date.
Amoeboids’ Roadmap Portal – Source: Amoeboids
In addition to internal stakeholders, many organizations share their roadmaps with customers to solicit feedback and keep them engaged. Amoeboids’ Roadmap Portal integrates with Atlassian to provide a public roadmap through Jira Service Desk. Customers can submit feature requests and vote on what they’d like to see next to inform the direction of your product.
Common Stakeholder Concerns
Stakeholders have an important say in the direction of a product. Executives, sales and marketing, operations and support engineers, and many other stakeholders contribute insights on everything from high-level business goals to specific challenges that customers face. A product manager’s job is to incorporate these insights into a product roadmap.
Let’s take a look at some common stakeholder concerns with a roadmap.
#1. Is It Ambitious Enough?
Many stakeholders want to quickly launch products and features—code quality, performance and other tech-focused concerns aren’t typically high up on their list. Not surprisingly, a common stakeholder objection is that a roadmap isn’t ambitious enough. They may feel that more features need to be added in order to remain competitive in the market.
#2. Is It Realistic to Achieve?
Stakeholders are also concerned with the corollary of overly ambitious roadmaps. Since they are accountable to their own board members or customers, they want to ensure that the roadmap is realistic and achievable within time and budget constraints. Marketing teams and others may also depend on a realistic timeline to meet their objectives.
#3. Can We Reprioritize Things?
Every software project changes over time as business requirements evolve. In particular, stakeholders in startups or other immature software products may need to quickly reshuffle features to ensure that they’re providing an optimal amount of value to customers. The problem occurs when changes happen too fast and derail progress.
#4. What’s the Big Picture?
Product roadmaps can quickly become convoluted with everyone’s opinions. In some cases, convoluted roadmaps can lead stakeholders to question the bigger picture. They may want to revisit some of the high-level goals for the project and ensure that they’re still delivering the product that they sought out to build in the first place.
How to Defend Product Roadmap
Product managers are primarily responsible for managing the product roadmap and its execution over time. While stakeholders provide valuable input, product managers shouldn’t be afraid to assert their power over the process and defend product roadmap. Their ultimate loyalty should be to customers that use and pay for the software.
There are several ways you can defend product roadmap:
- Regularly engage with stakeholders. Most people know that it’s the product manager’s job to set the roadmap, and sometimes, stakeholders just want to feel that their opinions are heard—even if they don’t end up in the roadmap.
- Share a thoughtful roadmap. The best defense against stakeholder objections is a well-maintained and thoughtful roadmap that’s shared with everyone. If everyone knows what the product team is working on and why, there will be fewer objections.
- Drill into the root cause of requests. Stakeholders may come to product managers with specific requests, but oftentimes, there’s a deeper underlying problem that needs to be solved that requires a bit more research to uncover.
- Make data-driven decisions. Qualitative data, such as customer feedback and interviews, along with quantitative data, such as product metrics and market research, should be the primary drivers of a product roadmap.
- Don’t be afraid to push off decisions. When a stakeholder wants a change, don’t be afraid to admit that you need time to get more data before making a decision. Commit to researching the idea before you commit to developing it.
By keeping these tips in mind, product managers can efficiently take in feedback from stakeholders and incorporate it with other factors influencing the roadmap. The result is a defensible roadmap that’s driven by data rather than guesses and opinions.
The Bottom Line
Product roadmaps are a critical part of any software project. While many stakeholders have opinions, the product manager is ultimately responsible for incorporating them into a thoughtful roadmap that’s updated regularly. The good news is that the best practices discussed above can help predict and address common concerns.
If you want to maintain a public roadmap, Amoeboids’ Roadmap Portal integrates with your Atlassian stack to let customers submit and vote on features via the Jira Service Desk (JSD). Try the Roadmap Portal on the Atlassian Marketplace or learn more today!