A little while ago I signed up to take part in Roman Pichler’s Agile Product Strategy and Roadmap Training. I’d booked this back in October, so I was quite excited by the time January 23rd came around.
Once I’d successfully sat down with tea and pastry, the workshop soon began.
It started, of course, with introductions. One by one people told us about their work and their ‘One Big Question’ for the day. This helped form the structure of the training, which was nice.
I was on a white table clothed table with a PO, a Dev manager, an Agile teacher and a CTO. All of whom were wonderfully pleasant.
The day rumbled on as Roman drew on flip charts and then invited us, as groups, to do the same, this happened several times throughout the day.
Essentially, at the end of the day we’d come up with a vision, a product strategy, and a goal oriented (GO) roadmap. But these were all done very hurriedly, but we got a flavour for it.
The day was very interesting. A lot of the topics covered were things I’d already touched on, but it was great to formalise, reflect, and build upon it.
Here’s some of the things I did learn, or found interesting:
1. The breakdown of Vision —> Product Strategy —> A tactical backlog
To me, it was important that we relalised that the vision wasn’t just the implementation of the product strategy, but the product strategy was just one way to execute the vision and the tactical backlog is the steps to get you there.
The example we made was:
‘To help people experience the joy of surfing’
Visions are supposed to be emotive and inspiring. We nailed it.
For product strategy, we had to think about our:
Market Segment: Who’s going to use this app?
Users Needs: What needs do they have, how can we help them?
Value Proposition: What is it, why would someone use it?
Business Goals: Why would a business invest?
(We didn’t quite finish…)
2. Blue Ocean Strategy
Roman mentioned this book, which speaks about finding a gap in the market that has yet to be explored. This, to me, was very similar to the innovators dilemma. As an incumbent player in a market, do I optimise my current product, or head for the Blue Ocean? He used this graph to visualise this. How does our product (idea) measure up against the competition?
(This is comparing other smartphones (black) with iPhone (blue) at the time of its first release)
3. What sort of Roadmap should I use?
My first question was about how far reaching my roadmap should be and how detailed it should be. Roman demonstrated the chart below, which describes roadmap choices based on maturity of the product and stability of the market. Of course, those could be quite subjective measures, but it’s not a complete finger in the air joby.
This was something I thought was really useful. In my (limited) experience, things can change so much, I questioned the point of building a roadmap. Roman introduced us to the Goal Oriented (GO) roadmap. This allows us to avoid discussing features and focus on what we actually want to achieve. It’s only if you’re in a mature company within a stable market that a feature based roadmap could work.
Speaking of GO roadmaps, we came up with one:
(I don’t agree with everything on this roadmap, but our goal of ‘Reaching a Wider Audience’ is nice)
One point I really like about the GO roadmap is the focus on what we really want to achieve. We may think about some initial features, but it’s not the focus. And our goal shouldn’t be implementing those features.
One really powerful thing about the GO roadmap that I appreciated was that if a stakeholder is requesting a new feature, you need only ask “Is this going to help us reach a wider audience?” If it’s not, then it doesn’t belong in this release. No matter who you are.
Overall, while I really enjoyed the day, I don’t think I got a lot of value from it. I think if Agile roadmaps or product strategy are very new to you then I imagine this course would be very useful. If you’ve worked with them a bit before or done some reading, then you might be better of putting your money on Arsenal to win the FA Cup.