Lesson 5: How to present your product roadmap to your exec team
From the e-course “How to build a roadmap everyone understands”
When you move to a theme-based roadmap, you shift from a feature-driven mindset (“What feature should we build next?”) to a problem-solving mindset (“What is the best way to solve this problem?”).
So how do you get a feature-driven company (or a feature-driven boss) onboard with your new, flexible framework? Show up to meetings with two documents: your roadmap and your release plan.
This prepares you for two separate conversations: a tactical one around your release plan and a strategic one around the product roadmap.
Your release plan is a reference point for your upcoming features and release dates. But as you start fielding questions about what’s coming down the line, and longer term product strategy, you can start referring to your product roadmap.
Use this product presentation template to help you guide the conversation towards problems-to-be-solved rather than feature-driven.
Download: Product Roadmap Presentation Template
How to get buy-in on your product roadmap
What if your boss and/or exec team may push back on your product roadmap? After all, they may be concerned that customers aren’t getting the features they’re asking for. But you have that covered. Here are a the common questions you present a theme-based product roadmap, and useful ways to manage them.
“Our customers are all asking for X feature. When is it going to be released?”
We learned in an earlier lesson that just because people are asking for a particular feature doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to build.
You can push back if your boss is asking for a feature that you haven’t put into a release plan yet (or is pressuring you to do so) with the following questions:
- “What problem are we trying to solve by building this feature?”
- “If we build this feature now, these are the priorities we’ll have to put on hold. What do you think?”
- “Is there a way we can reimagine this feature request to benefit all our customers, not just a few?”
Use your product roadmap to visualize where the problems this feature might solve sit.
“Why aren’t we working on X thing right now?”
If your boss wants to know why you’re not prioritizing a particular feature or functionality, you can push back by pointing to your business objectives.
For example, if your current objective is to increase new trial accounts by 10% over the next 6 months, then you’re busy building ways to meet that goal.
Even though X is not a priority at that particular moment, you can use your roadmap to communicate when it will be.
“Can we add this [really bad idea] to the product?”
I came up with a trick for dealing with this issue when I was a newbie product manager.
When my boss would intervene with a product suggestion, I would ask him to throw all ideas into the product backlog, even if it was way off base. I would only consider an idea if it was in the backlog.
Then I would have the whole team take a look and give their opinions.
Everyone was close to the product in different ways, whether they’re devs, designers or marketers. So from each of their angles, they could weigh in on a bad idea and give tangible reasons for not moving forward with it.
That way, I could take their comments to follow up conversations with my boss and give him tangible reasons for declining his idea. If it wasn’t technically feasible, I could back my decision with inputs from the developers. If it was a time or budget issue, I would use the product roadmap to show him our priorities when we could consider his idea again.
Either way, that bad idea never makes it close to the product roadmap just because the boss asked for it.
Next steps: Start building your theme-based product roadmap
Well, that’s it for this course. You now have the basics to start building a product roadmap that everyone can understand. You also have a roadmap that gives you a whole lot of control over how and when you plan your product. And because it’s so easy to work with, you use your product roadmap to get your coworkers and bosses to rally around – and even contribute to – your big product vision.
Are you done planning on Gantt charts? Are you ready for a product roadmap meant for product managers?