November Wrap-up: A glimpse inside the world of VR & AR

Virtual and Augmented Reality are one of those technologies that we’ve been hearing about for a long long time. Is it finally breaking through? It’s forecast to be worth $150bn in 2020. As product folk, what do we need to know about this?

We had 3 amazing speakers who gave us a glimpse not only into this technology & business but also how much activity there is within Melbourne!

Getting cozy as we're at full capacity tonight!

Getting cozy as we’re at full capacity tonight!


First up,Itai Etzman talked about product management at a VR startup. Itai has recently left Zero Latency – a multiplayer, free roaming, VR game.
itai-from-zero-latency

While we digital product folks think about the experience and UI, this takes it to a whole new level. Consider you’ll need a roadmap which covers software, hardware, the game, A few things that stood out for me:

  • You MUST test everything – it’s only only making sure the technical side is working but also the story, the gameplay and audio still works
  • Itai recommended reading aviation human factors research to understand how the body & inner ear especially deals with rotation.
  • You need to plan and test for emotion also! Fear & empathy are the strongest but nostalgia, excitement & joy are winners too.


Next up, Trent Clews-de Castilla from Phoria (formerly SCANN3D).

Trent elaborated on some of the things Itai spoke about – especially audio. With VR, touch, sight and sound are important though Trent thinks sound is the most important – you can even navigate with sound.

He talked about the possibilities of the technology including:

trent-from-phoria

Liam McGuire from Opaque Multimedia talked about some of their projects (including a game which lets your train to be an astronaut and go to space!) and the industry overall.

If you’re just getting started in the space, Liam reminded us to have a problem that can be solved with VR/AR – not getting enamored with the technology & trying to figure out a way to force it to solve the problem.

The large centres of work are in California due to the movie industry with hardware focused in Asia so we’re about 14 hours away from either. Regardless of this geography, Melbourne has very favorable climate with lots of tech talent in this space. The location is a challenge along with the changing landscape of competition and technology

Liam from Opaque talking about their project which allows you to experience what its like to live with dementia

A photo posted by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

One fascinating project they worked on is the Virtual Dementia Experience. Partnering with Alzheimer Australia Victoria, they developed a VR training simulator that allows people to experience what life is like living with dementia. The training is used to drive empathy with carers plus make it a much more memorable experience than traditional paper training.

liam-from-opaque-media-2

One of our amazing ProdAnon members not only suggested the idea but helped pull it all together so Liz & I would like to thank Claire Sawyers for the awesome work!

We were also able to play with a Hololens – as Daniel says… it’s a bit cooler when you’re wearing it rather than watching someone wear it! 🙂

Thank you to our sponsor for the evening – Blue Chilli!bluechilli-logo

We’re taking a break until February 2017 but in the meantime you can sign up to our newsletter or join the slack channel (links above in the navigation). Have a fantastic break!

What’s our future product reality? – November event

For our last event of 2016, we’re looking into the future product management reality – that is virtual reality & augmented reality.

We’ll have 3 lightning talks from product people working in this tech space:

  • Claire Sawyers, Head of Product at Blue Chilli, with PK Rasam on VR/AR trends from startups
  • Itai Etzman from Zero Latency on product management at a VR startup
  • Trent Clews-de Castilla from SCANN3D.Trent will be sharing outside-the-box product applications for immersive media, with examples from medical, education, marketing and digital preservation.

Plus a chance to have a play with a Hololens!

Also, it’s Product Anonymous’ birthday!!! And our last session of 2016! Hope to see you there!!

Thank you to our sponsor – Blue Chilli

RSVP now!

Decluttering your product – September Wrap-up

Product Decluttering

For our session in September, Katherine Barrett shared her personal & professional journey of getting rid of stuff aka decluttering.

Katherine temporarily packed her life into a storage space and a couple months later when she returned to her boxes – she realised maybe she didn’t really need the items inside. This led her on a path of discovery, exploring areas of ‘decluttering’ research, with a particularly pivotal book from Marie Kondo.

She found having choice isn’t always the best thing. We desire choice but having too much paralyses us which got her thinking about the product she manages.

She was making decisions on the buttons & the features for her users but not considering how many decisions they had to make each time they used her product.

One of the items that resonated with her – especially for product management – was the idea of utility. Does this particular item do the job you & your users want it to do?

awesome slide from Katherine #prodanon

A photo posted by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

Katherine gave some examples of how she’s using this at work including retiring a website which was very similar to another product they had. After doing their research, they decided the users wouldn’t lose any utility by killing one site (& saving time on dev, maintenance & more).

She’s also using the idea of ‘Simplicity’ for making a single choice at a time. Think about your conversion funnel because each step in that funnel is a choice the consumer has to make. How do you provide them with ways to make a choice but not overwhelm. Filters (as in search filters) are choices your customer has to make! That’s a mind boggling idea when it comes to minimialising!

She also recommends:

  • Watch out for those sentimental products – or aspects of your product. Do they exist? Are they still doing their job?
  • Think about if this feature helps you get to your goal. If your overall goal is to increase engagement, does this feature do that?
  • Don’t be afraid to say no after something has been built

Decluttering Resources:

Marie Kondo – author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Another good resource to watch from Sheena Iyengar, how to make choosing easier:

Does your product need decluttering? – September event

Does your product need decluttering?

Do we make better decisions when we have less choice? Research shows having less choice makes life easier, smoother & more rewarding. How can we bring that into our product management practice and make things better for our teams and customers? With ideas coming from everywhere and hundreds of product features, how do you make choices easy?

Once you’ve spent time, money & invested emotionally into building something, how do you remove it? What if customers are using it but it doesn’t suit the direction your product is moving towards?

Katherine Barrett will share her learnings on decluttering and saying NO!

Katherine will be presenting at the Product Management Festival in Zurich in November! If you haven’t snagged your ticket for that amazing event, come along on the 15th to hear a preview of Katherine’s talk on decluttering.

RSVP! for Thursday September 15th

6:00 pm – pizza & chatting

6:30 pm – We’ll start the session/talk

Katherine Barrett is a product manager at carsales.com.au

Her 1st product management role involved decommissioning a product. With a love of shiny objects, Katherine recognises the importance of curation and clear purpose in product design. With the excitement and thrill that comes with saying yes, Katherine has learnt the reality of saying no (even after the feature is live).

Elabor8Thank you to our awesome host this month: Elabor8

 

Elabor8 helps companies and teams in their Agile journey, with a unique blend of experience and theory having helped online organisations startups through to some of Australia’s largest corporates.

We adapt to what best suits are clients and bring continual learning to the following areas:
– Agile Transformation – helping teams and organisations become Agile

– Agile Delivery Services – embedding experts such as Scrum Masters, Product Managers, Product Owners and Business Analysts

– Training – through our Academy such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum Master and Product Owner certification courses

– Innovation and Product Development – facilitation in design sprints and innovation express

– DevOps – going beyond tooling and automation, towards business agility

Find out more on https://elabor8.com.au/

RSVP!

Tips for Better Presentations- Product Camp special event

With Product Camp coming up quickly (RSVP now for August 20th), we wanted to run a session to help people who were thinking about doing a presentation or leading a topic at camp – and who better to supply us with tips than Adrienne Tan of Brainmates?

Adrienne was instrumental in starting product camps in both Sydney & Melbourne and has been a part of lots & lots of camp talks. She always does a great job & makes it look so easy! (Even though she told us she used to be bad at presenting…).

When Adrienne has to put together a presentation, one of things she does is check out what the experts are saying. On tips for better presentations, the experts talk about practicing, speaking slowly, not reading and more (there’s a list in the slide deck below).

During the evening, we talked about:

  • standing vs sitting (sitting not recommended)
  • even if it is a report you need to present, don’t read it & don’t present it as a report
  • get the audience excited about the topic & you should be excited too (that energy will be contagious)
  • connect with your audience
  • when you start thinking about your presentation, opening powerpoint should not be the 1st thing you do

One of the most important things is to think about what you want the audience to leave with – a piece of information, a need to take action, etc.

She also talked about the structure of the presentation & gave a typical example but recommended reviewing the structure Nancy Duarte talks about in her book, Resonate.

Adrienne also talked about the visual part of your slides. She will sometimes create her own images (slide 5 for example) or use unsplash.

What Adrienne really stressed was each of us need to find our own presentation style. Her style includes working out the angle & planning in her head before writing it out plus including a trigger on each slide to remind herself what she wanted to say (more in her slides below).

She knows some people who write out their entire talk word for word & practice.

But it’s about finding what works for you.

Since this was an event for Product Camp, we answered lots of questions about the day. Here’s just a taste:

What sort of talks are given?
In the past we had people present (both with or without slides), say they wanted to discuss ‘x topic’ or an issue they are facing and conduct a round table discussion, have interactive sessions where we played a game or did a mass JTBD interview, panel Q&A, etc. We have more info about session types on the Product Camp website.

What topics are of interest to the group?
Everything from roadmaps to stakeholder management to getting a job to working with other teams to…. everything.

Have a look at the session summaries from Product Camp Melbourne 2015

Do I really know enough to give a talk?
No one knows EVERYTHING so yes, you probably do have enough information to talk about something but it’s not only facts we’re interested… it’s your experience. Giving a talk might be leading a discussion about something you’re passionate about or something you want to know more about. You can absolutely say ‘I’m interested in X. I don’t know much but if there’s others who are willing to share, this will be a great conversation’.

What is camp really like?
Check out photos from the last 2 years to see what the day is like.

Thank you level3 for hosting us and Adrienne for the wonderful talk!!! Adrienne has kindly offered more help to those who want to present at camp. If you’re interested in presenting and want to run an idea or content past Adrienne, you can get in touch with her at actan at brainmates.com

Managing Product Managers – June wrap-up

This month’s topic was managing product managers.

Often Product Anonymous events cover topics to help make you be a better product manager – like roadmaps – but we also need to focus on the the people skills. This month we asked a couple managers of product managers what they do to ensure high performance & keep their people motivated.

Layla Foord has over 20 years experience managing teams of product people. Fiona Moreton has over 15 years as a team manager with background in customer management & sales teams and has been managing product managers for the last 3 years.

How do you structure coaching and mentoring of your people?

Fiona is a real believer in the 70:20:10 management rule (as is PageUp). This focuses very much on on-the-job training.  She is involved in providing personal feedback to her people which is very individualised feedback. It needs to take into account where each person is on their journey plus experience in product management.

Layla has managed many people and concurred with what Fiona described as on-the-job observation and personal tailoring of the approach.

She also talked about understanding where your people are on the spectrum – product management is a range of skills and needs. You need to understand each person’s super powers and ensure they are using and showcasing them. Layla described how sometimes her people didn’t want to use their super powers as they saw them as skills to avoid using – but she finds this leads to dissatisfaction in the person and discontentment at work. 

How do you guide your product people through the pull of the technical owner role?

Fiona’s take: PageUp has just decided to rearrange things. They split the roles and will have product owners and product strategy managers. This allows for the clear division of roles but of course they will need to work through how to share and communicate between the two groups.

Layla: talked about it being a range that they are still figuring out. It will keep changing. Right now she guides people towards their strengths. If their strength is working deeply with the tech team, that would be supported. Layla did make a point about the danger of micro-managing the team… if the product person isn’t providing the necessary information for the team to make decisions on their own, that product person is a control freak. You are there to provide a vision, not dictate a back-log.

Layla encourages her people to drop the ego. If you’re only interested in getting your ideas onto the product then you are doomed! Every product manager needs to be ready to accept ideas that come from anywhere and ensure general principles of the product are understood so everyone can contribute.

What does a development path look like?

Layla: Some people get very interested in the detail (technical or otherwise) and she thinks it’s important to remind them to look up (she did quite a good animation of lifting up her chin! 🙂 You need to see beyond the immediate moment (the firefighting).

When they are able or willing to look to that second horizon then are ready to move to more senior roles and the most senior are casting out to horizon three.

Fiona: Knowing when someone is ready for the next step is a combination of time in the role, aptitude and attitude. The way in which they engage with other stakeholders in the business -beyond their own team – are other signs they are ready for those next steps. And there are other ways to keep a person challenged than just the title, it can be about expanding the responsibility of work they are looking after.

How do you decide to carve up product responsibility (say if you have a portfolio of products?)

Fiona had to leave before these last 2 questions.

Layla is a big believer in ensuring the product person has an end to end view. Figuring out how to slice and dice is still a challenging question depending on the product and organisation but she would always attempt to ensure the view is breadth rather than depth.

Should product people be assessed on hard metrics? Aligned with company metrics?

Layla: Honestly? no. Your strength of skills is in areas that are subjective and can’t be measured.

One comment from the audience on this question said it’s tough to align on the company metrics as often they are too short-sighted. A product person is making efforts or work that won’t have an impact on company metrics until 2 years or more down the track.

Thank you to Layla and Fiona for their forthrightness, honesty and humour for this session.

Thanks again to PageUp people for hosting us! Great space and support for our event.

Join us for our two events in July – a prep session for speakers for ProductCamp and for a chat about financial skills in product mgmt.

Presentations & Decision Making with Maths – July Product Anonymous

We have 2 sessions in July – our normal event which will focus on using MBA tools (specifically maths) to help make product decisions and a special event about presentations – targeting folks who are interested in presenting at Product Camp.

How to use MBA tools to make product decisions

Thursday July 21st
RSVP

Jen Marshall is someone who didn’t particularly enjoy maths at school, because most of what she was being taught was so theoretical and seemed to have little application. She learned later in life, while doing an MBA, that there are plenty of great ways to use maths in decision making. She now enjoys crunching the numbers.

Jen will share her experiences using financial tools to make product decisions. The session will include examples and step-by-step instructions. Everyone who attends will receive an email with useful links and reference materials.

Jen is CEO at Brainmates, the Australian Product Management training and consulting firm that hosts Leading the Product.

Thanks to Sportsbet for hosting us at their Stadium of Learning!

Nurturing product camp speakers – tips for better presentations

Wednesday July 20th
RSVP

While we’ll be focusing on tips for putting together a presentation for next month’s Product Camp, the tips will work for any presentation that you’ve been asked to ‘throw together’ quickly.

Adrienne Tan, principal consultant at Brainmates, will teach you some of the techniques she uses to create effective presentations. Adrienne doesn’t profess to be a presentation ‘know it all’ but can step you through a process for extracting and articulating your story into a presentation.

This speaker workshop on the 20th of July will share more info about what Product Camp is all about, give you insight and tips about our audience and provide some prep tips and tools for presenting and facilitating.

Thanks To Level 3 and Stax for sponsoring and hosting us:

Level3 Level 3 is all about bringing the creativity back to technology, by generating conversation within the tech community and facilitating introductions between start-ups and enterprises. At Level 3, ideas come to life.


StaxStax shines a light on everything enterprises need to know to be confident in cloud by taking out the guesswork and providing visibility, automated risk assessments, compliance and maturity, and recommendations for achieving best practice.

Letting go of your product – May Wrap Up

While most of us have a fairly long term relationship with our products (as an employee that is!), there are product managers who experience short term product management. They consult in shorter time frames and need to think about what happens after the product goes live and they are not involved anymore.

Suni Stolic, product manager at Cogent, talked about the idea of having a ‘letting it go’ mindset with your product. She admits it isn’t easy!

The analogy Suni used in her talk was about being a mid-wife who ensures the parents are ready to have the baby, they are happy for you to walk away and you are pleased to hear they are doing well – but you have no further responsibility for the rearing of the child.

Via 3 case studies, Suni shared Cogent’s process for building, dealing with product attachment and managing handover including helping an organisation decide on what resources are needed to support the product – and how sometimes they continue to support the product although it’s not quite their baby anymore…

Letting Go mindset

Probably all of us have experienced the problem of the never-ending backlog. The backlog may be full of ideas for making it ‘good enough’ in order to get to launch or fixes for the products flaws.

Suni told us it takes quite a bit of discipline to remember this ‘letting go’ mindset and they help encourage their clients to adopt it, as well as keep themselves in check.

From day 1 of a project, Suni works with the client to be open & transparent (in both directions) including sharing all outputs, having only 1 document (not internal vs external) & equal ownership of the decisions & direction. Co-locating is an important factor for success especially during the development phase.

It’s critical to have a customer first mentality for any product but when you, the product manager, aren’t going to be around for long, you need to be sure what you are delivering will work for them.

Things are unpredictable and so you need to be ready to deploy or be done at any time. Especially in the startup world, Cogent have seen clients need to pause the work in order to reassess the viability of the idea, strategy, business model or other. If there’s going to be a pivot, it’s better to wait & not waste money & resources on something that will change. Funding bursts are another reason they may stop & start.

Case study 1:

Cogent worked with Monash University on the Eliminate Dengue Fever Challenge.

The team needed better tools for collecting data & their field work as they had outgrown Google Docs.

A mobile site, called Tracker, was built for use in the field & data arrived directly in the lab for analysis. What previously took 2 hours for data entry was able to be completed in 20 minutes and it was immediately available for the people at the lab. The application is still used and there’s been only very minimal support needed since the release.

Case study 2:

Taggd is a social to revenue tool for retail.

After building the tool, they had to help the organisation decide whether or not they had the people internally to manage the product development – or continue to resource with Cogent.

It can be tough to hand over a product when you have been involved from the very beginning. You have to retain the discipline to not get caught in the excitement/insanity of thinking about the product constantly!

Case study 3

Having launched only 3 weeks ago, Six Park is in support mode. They built the product which is an automated, really smart way to build a personalised share portfolio with simple 24/7 reporting.

They had lots of good conversations about the seriousness of a product which deals with people’s money – both building the product & providing customer support.

The first response was to go with a high support model but then you determine there are certain windows of time that the tool is actually being used and true 24/7 support is not required.

One person in our audience raised the idea of learning just “how detrimental every card is”.
The Cogent team have learnt the art of asking Why at every opportunity and ensuring each piece of work (i.e. each card) is tied to a goal for the customer. This is a good reminder for us all as I don’t doubt we all intend to do the same but sometimes things get away from us…

Thank you to Teamsquare for the fabulous space, Cogent for food and drink and Suni for a great talk, looking at product management from a different perspective.

teamsquare

What does a product manager “manager” look like? – June event

This month we are having a cozy fireside chat with product leaders to discuss managing product managers.

They hire, they fire and they look after the product portfolio as well as the product managers. We will talk about what it takes to manage product managers, guide them to greatness and inspire them in their roles.

However, product managers are people managers too – so we will talk a little bit about what skills you need to enhance and work on to do this well. Most importantly you get to ask the questions!

RSVP

Our speakers, mentors and advisers are:

Fiona Moreton – Head of Product Strategy at PageUp People.

Fiona has worked on many sides of the product before joining the product management league and then heading up the team. Considering PageUp People’s products are focused on the HR customer (recruitment, seccession, etc), she has talked with heaps of corporate recruiters over the years. She has also managed other teams – including sales – so she’ll much insight into the people side of this ‘manager’ part of the product title.

Layla Foord is a builder of businesses, saver of lost dogs and sometime singer. She has learned her craft over the last 23 years here in Australia and in the UK. She specialises in finding connections and building amazing teams who make awesome things. Managing Director of Touchtech Labs she is building a new business delivering web and mobile product solutions for entrepreneurs and enterprises.

As GM at Envato, Layla recently launched Envato Studio a $6m+ global freelance platform. She has developed strategies and digital products for Yellow Pages and launched Whereis Navigator one of the first Mobile GPS apps. In London she held the role of Product Development Director at Nielsen with responsibilities across Europe and led an EU funded project to discover new technologies which involved educational institutions in four countries pushing the boundaries of auto-detection image technology.

Layla is also on the board of 100 Story Building (http://www.100storybuilding.org.au/), an amazing social enterprise in Melbourne’s inner west helping to improve the literacy of young people in the area.

Since 1997, PageUp has helped employers worldwide attract, hire, develop, retain, and improve employee performance. Our Unified Talent Management platform, along with our talent management consulting services, help you optimize your multinational workforce strategy across the whole business, maximize business impact with a balance between global efficiency and local responsiveness, and continuously improve the return on your human capital investment.

RSVP

PageUp_LOGO_CMYK

Roadmaps: Your Friend or Enemy? Session Wrap-up

We talked all things roadmaps at the April session of Product Anonymous – we had an intro from our three panellists and then we broke into an activity where all our PM’s in the room gathered to build a roadmap for Deliveroo. We only gave them 20 minutes… it was never long enough but we got some great insights from the groups on the pluses of the good ole’ roadmap and the pitfalls to avoid when organising your roadmap.

Our panellists were Adam Fry from Sportsbet, Chris Duncan from Carsales and Matt Kirkey from Learning Seat.

Adam kicked off the session taking us through the positives of a good roadmap – as a communication tool it links the strategic thinking with tactical execution. He suggests it is better to work with the verb “roadmapping” than the “roadmap” as focussing on the artefact loses sight of the purpose. Plus the fact that the artectct is out of date as soon as it hits the printer.

To the plusses:

  • Communication: roadmap artefact is an easily digestible summary of all of the thinking and hard work that goes into planning the future of your product. Your vision on a page
  • Alignment: puts everyone on the same page about what we are trying to achieve, how we will go about it and roughly in what order. Helps give focus to teams involved in the success of the product (delivery, sales, marketing, etc)
  • Buy-in: vehicle for taking stakeholders on the product journey, giving them context and allowing input to the product direction. Connects the day to day with the bigger picture
  • Sales tool: in some cases (e.g. B2B) can give customer confidence that there is commitment and a future vision for the thing they are buying into today

Things to watch out for, Adam warns, are the expectations set by a roadmap, the potential curve balls that occur that should change the plan (CEO, competitor, etc.) and ensuring teams remain aligned is where it can all go horribly wrong.

Expectations

  • Out of date the minute that powerpoint slide hits the printer. It is particularly out of date on longer time horizons. When stakeholders confuse your intent with a commitment you are headed for disappointment. This is why the roadmapping process is so important, and should be continuous. Aim for minimal surprises!
  • A one size fits all approach is limiting. Like any form of communication you need to tailor the message to your audience. If it’s your delivery teams you might be more specific about details and dates, if it’s marketing maybe more on the story and problems you’re solving, if it’s investors or execs maybe more on the vision and outcomes, and for a customer more focused on their specific needs
  • Everyone ‘thinks’ they understand it. The artefact is inherently high level and without proper context everyone will take away their own interpretation of what a line item is and why we’re doing it. Be as descriptive as possible but always offer the accompanying context for your roadmap

Curveballs

  • Surprises will happen… competitor movements, dependencies failing, regulatory changes, technology advancements, pet projects
  • Try to leave yourself some room to accommodate these, but more importantly keep track of what competitors are doing, watch tech announcements, stay in close contact with your stakeholders and feed facts into the roadmapping process to minimise impacts

Alignment

  • Everything on roadmap should have a reason for being there that aligns to the strategy. It’s basically a view of how you are investing the company’s resources over time so you want to keep it focused, relevant and valuable
  • Need to be aligned to the realities & constraints of your organisation or your roadmap is a work of fantasy… can the delivery team actually build this, does the technology strategy take things in a completely different direction, can marketing and sales drive the idea in market and does launch timing fit with the bigger story, are budgets and people available when you need them
  • Believing you own the roadmap. You are probably 100% accountable for it, and will be the go-to person when somebody’s heart is broken because their idea never makes it on, but the roadmap should represent a collective approach by the wider business. The product can’t win in isolation of marketing, sales, delivery, support etc.

Chris took us through some tools suggestions and the collaborative approach he takes to building a roadmap. He told his story having learnt from the painful experience of NOT doing this when he first became a product manager and shared his wise words. His preferences were for the roadmap to tell a story – so ensures that his version include where you are coming from not just where we are going. He has tried a bunch of tools too, but has made the mistake of letting the tools limit the options or that it just takes too long to update so the document beings to mould as it hasn’t been updated recently enough or the format doesn’t work for your audience.

How to get ready to collaborate on your roadmap: 

  • Establish your targets before hand, as this can be a time consuming process. This should be worked on with the stakeholders of your business (but remember… you’re defining targets, not how to get there).
  • Get your team all together in one room, and explain what your targets are and why you’re striving to achieve them. The team may also have some targets they’d like to achieve, so keep this in mind.
  • Together, start brainstorming ways to achieve these targets. It’s a good idea to have some ideas pre-prepared to get the ball rolling if the group gets stuck.
  • Properly consider the ideas that are raised by the team. If you’re only there because you feel like you have to be, and you have no intention of using their ideas, you might as well not be there.
  • Once you’ve collected the ideas, it’s time for you to go away and do your research. Try to find a way to measure the value these ideas will contribute to your goals. From here, you can begin to construct your roadmap.
  • After preparing your roadmap, show your team first. They’re the ones that are going to make your plan a reality.

Lastly, we asked Matt to give us a the devil’s advocate point of view. Is this roadmap really all worth it? Matt suggested roadmaps are a terrible idea and has so many disclaimers on his he wonders if there is any point in having one at all. The other side to this is that the roadmap can become a crutch for a lack of communication in the organsiation – “it was on the roadmap” is a common way to look like you are doing your job because it ended up on an artefact, a slide etc. but is not the case if you haven’t shared it with people and ensured the plan has been heard and understood! [editor note: Matt did me a big favour and played the devil’s advocate for the panel session, during Q&A he ‘fessed up to loving the roadmap and finding it an essential tool in his organisation].

Matt echoes Chris’ points around collaboration: the exercise of getting everyone together to develop a roadmap is a fantastic activity to perform in a company. Another benefit of the exercise is that it will highlight pain points in your organisation from an operational perspective. Typically communication issues, silo-effects, hierarchical problems and lack of alignment both vertically and horizontally. Ensuring these are addressed will significantly increase the effectiveness and engagement in your organisation.

From here we asked our 60+ product managers to get out of their chairs and have a go at roadmapping together. We asked them to think of the things they hated the most about the map, and the things they loved. Then we gave them some goals and customer feedback about a “fictitious’ food delivery service to see where the discussions would get to as a group on how to approach the process. One team did find they started with timelines… but eventually the wisdom of the group convinced the advocate for dates to switch to more general terms like now, next, later….. 

Halfway through the activity we threw a curveball at the teams, where the “CEO” pivoted and changed the focus from food to dessert delivery. Many teams were frustrated they had to go back to the drawing board (never felt that before 🙂 ) while some were able to incorporate option into their existing roadmaps with a few tweaks.

Some examples of the roadmaps made during the activity and some of the items listed in the likes and dislikes buckets:

Some of the insights from the groups:

  • make sure you convert vanity metrics to something meaningful
  • avoid any timelines on your roadmap – most commonly used groupings were now, next, later.
  • The roadmap is a useful artefact to help avoid the (random CEO) change in direction. It is evidence of what was previously agreed so should we not stick to it?
  • roadmap favourites included: alignment, customer pain points are covered, facilitates conversation
  • roadmap dislikes were: lack of context, it gets stale, change is bad!, others assume it equates to delivery

A great night thanks to Zendesk and their beautiful space. We were well taken care of by our hosts. See you next month for our May event – RSVP now.

If you missed the session – we have video content hosted on Dropbox – it is 45 minutes long.