by John Harris
Great couple of days at #websummit2022 where a highlight was co-hosting an exceptionally well-attended round table on Product Roadmap with our CEO and Co-Founder Andy Baynes. More than 40 people listened to Andy share his view on what a true product roadmap looks like with a focus on 4 key areas - Features, Architecture, Marketing Communications and Investors.
The reflections I offered were that for a technology team, a world-class roadmap is an absolute gift that enhances the relationship between Product and Engineering and enables everyone to be more effective, but there are still a few key things that the CTO has to do to really make it work well:
Eyes wide open decision making is imperative between CEO, CPO and CTO teams and its usually down to the CTO to make it happen.
Trade-offs happen all the time in the context of delivering a roadmap, but its imperative that the true business consequences of a decision are articulated, understood and reflected back into the roadmap process with a sign-off or ceremony to make sure that all parties understand the impact of a decision.
“Load the roadmap into RAM at every meeting!”
This is my geeky way of expressing the need to frame any discussion around technology in the context of the roadmap. By starting every discussion with a summary slide of the business roadmap and highlighting which areas are going to be impacted by the issue in hand you ensure that discussions always take place from a position of understanding. And this applies not just for discussions with the C suite but also with your engineers - the alignment this simple practice creates is incredible and it really embeds the roadmap as the beating heart of everything the team does.
Embrace and encourage red measures
Yes its never wonderful when we hit a blocker or a tough issue but if the response is to assume there has been a shortcoming, incompetence or a performance issue, your team will naturally be reticent about sharing the issues and instead they try and solve them in the background. And when they can’t solve the issues, by the time it becomes visible, you have a situation that has turned from a blocker into a crisis. Being focussed enough to know there is a problem and open and transparent enough to share it is a sign of competence and positive behaviour in an organisation. Even if bad news makes us grumpy, the job is to help the team unblock the issue and learn from the situation, not to vent our fury. For many organisations this means unpicking some heavily learned behaviour but building the right culture around Red really helps accelerate rather than hinder a roadmap.
Look forward to continuing the discussion with those present during and after the debate and of course anyone else interested!