Timeline roadmaps suck – Janna Bastow’s Twitter TED Talk
Earlier this week, Janna Bastow, Co-founder and CEO at ProdPad, took to Twitter and published her very own self-proclaimed TED Talk on why timeline roadmaps suck.
The one where Janna Bastow went in hard on Twitter
And the product management world loved it.
What did Janna’s 19-tweet thread include?
The tweet thread began with an expert explanation on why timeline roadmaps set product managers up to fail. She then continued with a step-by-step guide on why ‘product people of the world’ should ditch these types of roadmaps. And to conclude, Janna revealed why everyone should be using lean product roadmaps instead.
Oozing with product-passion, a wealth of experience, and a few carefully chosen emojis – Janna’s tweets went viral. Above all, this resulted in some great conversations and discussions on product management.
Janna hadn’t planned the Twitter thread. However, she was prompted to do so after trying out a new eco-friendly search engine:
“I was testing Ecosia, a search engine that plants trees with its ad revenue, as opposed to lining Google’s pockets. I checked the search results for ‘product roadmap,’ as I wanted to see if Ecosia showed the same thing Google does. Oh yes, same problem – timelines everywhere. However, it spurred me on to revive a talk I gave on why lean product roadmaps are the way forward.” Janna Bastow, ProdPad.
Let’s learn about lean roadmapping
Here’s why product managers need to be embracing a lean, outcome focused roadmap in order to become better product people. Please get in touch, or book a ProdPad demo if you’re looking to discuss your own product strategy.
Janna will be putting together a Q&A – which will answer the most popular questions from this Twitter thread. Watch this space.
The old school way of roadmapping is a timeline format. You can tell it’s still popular by just doing an image search result for ‘product roadmap’ and seeing the resulting mess.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
But here’s what’s wrong with the format… pic.twitter.com/kXWb36DDUa
If you deconstruct a timeline roadmap, it’s basically just a chart, with:— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
– ⏰ Time on the x-axis, creating a timeline
– ✅ Things to do on the y-axis
Which is simple at first, but the further out that timeline stretches, the more you’re making things up. pic.twitter.com/oLC9ye9oDC
A timeline roadmap, by its very format, means that you are giving a due date and duration to every thing you’re putting on that roadmap.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
That’s a whole lot of assumptions you’re making there 🤨 pic.twitter.com/Xg99vIa7Mb
One assumption you’re making when you make a timeline roadmap is that you know how long each feature is going to take.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
This might be easy in the short term when you’ve got clarity from your developers on delivery plans, but it gets harder and harder the further out you plan.
Having a timeline roadmap also forces you to assume that nothing else is going to come in and disrupt your plans.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
No new competitors, no changes in the market, no need to change your plans…
You’re also assuming that each feature you build is going to work as soon as you finish it, and that your timeline roadmap can continue along at some magical cadence without looking back.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
(For what it’s worth, I’ve never met a product team who gets everything right the first time. Every product and every feature needs to be open for iteration and therefore changes in their timeline!)— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
And the last assumption any product team working with a timeline roadmap is making is that each feature on the roadmap actually deserves to exist! That each one is the right thing to build and therefore should be assigned a delivery date and codified into the strategy.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
📢 A timeline roadmap is just a big pile of assumptions that nothing is going to change.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
And that’s a dangerous assumption given how fact things *do* change.
So this is why I implore all the product people of the world:— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
DITCH YOUR TIMELINE ROADMAPS!
There are alternatives that won’t set you up for failure:
Step 1: Start with a product vision— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
Here’s a format that works well. It’s the elevator pitch template from @geoffreyamoore‘s fantastic book, Crossing the Chasm, and it asks the right sort of questions to get you started on your vision statement. pic.twitter.com/LhjVqKdLlt
Step 2: Think outcomes, not output— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
Your roadmap should be tracked to company-level objectives, not a pile of features for features’ sake.
We here at @ProdPad like to use OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), and show the objectives off on our roadmap in bright colours. pic.twitter.com/swyienRK3f
Step 3: Switch out your timeline for time horizons— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
It makes sense: You’ve got greater visibility on the things right in front of you, and less on the things further away. Each column represents a change in visibility and flexibility in your roadmap. pic.twitter.com/JPfYQ2Fnyg
Combine the vision, your objectives, and your time horizons to articulate your product strategy in a new way. Ditch the timeline roadmap and embrace the lean product roadmap.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
Here’s a couple ways yours might take shape: pic.twitter.com/6YwlkqAZ3T
Remember, your roadmap is not meant to be a perfect plan of everything you’re doing.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
✨Your roadmap is a prototype for your product strategy.
It’s meant to change as you learn more, and a lean roadmap format gives you that flexibility.
At the end of the day, the value isn’t in the ‘roadmap’ itself. It’s in the process of roadmapping, which is inherently a discovery process.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
(Just as the value of a prototype isn’t the prototype, but in the prototyping and all of the learning that comes from it).
And so that’s why timeline roadmaps are causing product teams to fail, and why the switch to lean, discovery-centric roadmapping processes is so important.— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
Thanks for coming to my TED talk 😅
Woah, this hit a nerve!— Janna Bastow (@simplybastow) September 2, 2019
This is probably a good time to mention that me and my team at @ProdPad do roadmap troubleshooting clinics to help #prodmgmt folks like you 🤲
Sessions are free and you can sign up here: https://t.co/2KWT32jhrB
Sign up to our monthly newsletter, The Outcome.
You’ll get all our exclusive tips, tricks and handy resources sent straight to your inbox.