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Product Management Webinar: Roadmap Derailment

How to Stop Roadmap Derailment: Tactics for Avoiding the Agency Trap 

Watch our webinar with host, Janna Bastow, Co-Founder of Mind the Product, ProdPad, and inventor of the Now-Next-Later roadmap to hear practical, actionable tactics and techniques to successfully push back on the pressures that threaten to derail your roadmap and defend it against short-term temptations.

This includes the pressures from Leadership, the Sales team, investors, and even big logo customers can make it hard to stick to your guns and defend your roadmap. So watch this webinar and discover how to stop being pulled off track.


Key Takeaways

  • Spot the warning signs that you’re slipping into agency mode
  • Change your approach to roadmapping to combat the problem
  • Have tough conversations with your stakeholders 
  • Separate agency work and charge accordingly 
  • Gradually decrease your dependence on money from custom development
  • And much more!

About Janna Bastow

Like a lot of people in the product world, Janna became a Product Manager almost by accident after spending time in customer-facing roles that required liaising with tech teams. It was this intersection between product and customer that proved essential to quickly learning on the job.

As an early adopter of Product Management, Janna has seen the field grow from almost nothing into what it is today. Along the way, she has become one of the key talents in the industry and can be frequently found sharing her knowledge and insight at Product conferences around the world.

As you may already know, Janna is the CEO and Co-Founder of ProdPad, Product Speaker, and inventor of the Now-Next-Later roadmap.

[00:00:00] Megan Saker: Excellent. Okay. So let’s get cracking. Welcome. So what we’re going to be talking about today is how to avoid roadmap derailment. So tactics for avoiding the agency trap. So First of all, I’ll introduce myself very quickly.

[00:00:17] By no means the important person here, but just so you know who I am. I’m Megan, I’m the CMO here at ProdPad. Like I say, we will make sure there’s a Q& A at the end. So add your questions into the question and answer box. And yeah, Janna, do you want to fire up the slides? 

[00:00:36] Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. Let me get this shared.

[00:00:39] Sorry, I thought I was sharing this. There we go. 

[00:00:42] Megan Saker: How’s 

[00:00:42] Janna Bastow: this? 

[00:00:44] Megan Saker: There we go. How to avoid roadmap derailment. Before I introduce Janna. What I want to do is just briefly explain to you a bit about ProdPad. Some of you may be ProdPad customers. Some of you have maybe were aware of ProdPad. For those of you that don’t, ProdPad is the, a complete product management platform.

[00:01:06] Janna and her co founder, Simon Cast created ProdPad about 12 years ago now because they were product managers struggling with a lot of the issues that product managers struggle with and created. Both the now next later roadmap and ProdPad as a solution to a lot of those problems. So ProdPad allows you to get control to add Transparency get organized.

[00:01:34] It gives you a single source of truth for your product decisions that helps you communicate those product decisions and what you’re working on internally and externally. It also, nowadays, different to 12 years ago, is packed with some of the best AI tools of any product management tool on the market.

[00:01:56] So it helps product managers to do more. And to work far faster. But yeah, one of the problems one of the issues that Jaron and Simon, we’re facing as product managers is this how to balance. The pressures that come at you as a product manager from other areas of the business from externally, they may be from sales from who want to close a big deal.

[00:02:25] It might be from, execs, leadership execs who have opinions. It might be, the sort of particularly in startup days, there’s need. to make some cash, right? And how do you balance that? How do you navigate that? When you have a desire to be a true sort of product led company, building a scalable tool to help help deal with widespread problems.

[00:02:52] And so understanding how to navigate. balance and those pressures is a very important, um, skill for a product manager. And so that is exactly what Janna is going to be talking about today. So, with that, I will pass over to Janna. 

[00:03:13] Janna Bastow: Excellent. Thank you so much for that warm intro and let’s kick off.

[00:03:19] So when we were little, we talked about what we wanted to be when we were older. Some of us maybe wanted to be firefighters, or teachers, or maybe even astronauts. What about asking ourselves what we want our companies to be when they grow up? Do you want something that pays the bills for you and your team?

[00:03:40] Or do you want something that gives you purpose? Or are you aiming to solve hard world problems, or maybe IPO and make your millions? There’s a lot of different ways to run a respectable and profitable business, but there are limited ways to scale. And unless you’re setting your expectations and goals really early on, it’s easy to go off track and build a company that doesn’t grow up into what you imagined.

[00:04:08] Now, the biggest indicator of your ability to scale is to look at what it is that you actually sell as a business. That determines whether you’re more of a product company or an agency. Now, agencies sell their time in exchange for money, and this usually takes the form of custom client contracts and projects.

[00:04:30] Whereas product companies, on the other hand, they sell value that they create. Now, time is the one thing we can’t create more of. It’s the ultimate Limited resource. And so agency style businesses can only scale with more human resources, more people providing more of their time to the business product companies are able to create value by investing time upfront into a mix of products or services that can be resold again and again, without needing lots more humans to scale.

[00:05:08] And so this is why product companies can scale into. Such enormous tech giants and fundamentally why agencies can’t. Now, there’s absolutely no shame in building and running an agency. It’s a brilliant way to make money and create purpose and solve problems and get paid. But agencies don’t change the world.

[00:05:31] Product companies do. And let me hear it in the comments here. Who here is here to make a dent in the world?

[00:05:44] All right. So I’m a product person at heart. Now you might know me as one of the founders of mind, the products and of course, one of the founders of ProdPad, but before all this, 12 years ago or something like that, I was a product person for a company in London and I was meant to join the team as a product manager, but after about a week or so there, it became clear that I was really lined up to do a lot more product Project management than I’d really expected.

[00:06:16] Who’s been there. Now the company hadn’t knowingly missold me on the job. I just seen that they’d gotten stuck in a trap that I now know is really common. I see it all the time amongst other product teams that I spend time with, and I’m here to warn you about it and hopefully keep you from the same trap.

[00:06:36] So today’s talk is going to be a journey. I’m going to talk about the power of product in terms of discovery versus delivery work. I’m going to talk about the reasons that companies get pulled off track from their product led goals. I’m going to give you some clear signs to watch for when you know that you’re veering into agency territory and no longer acting like a scalable product company.

[00:07:02] And I’m going to give you some actionable tips on how to get out, including how to think about your team and your pricing and how to format your roadmap. So you don’t get stuck in this trap in the first place. So are we ready product tiers? All right, let’s go. So why is discovery so powerful? Discovery is at the heart of what product teams do, and the very nature of discovery is to cast a wide research net to identify problems and hold back from committing to a solution.

[00:07:39] And the product team then has a process of, essentially, Guessing and checking to optimize, to find the best solution that’s cost effective, desirable to the market, feasible to build, and valuable for the business. And it’s a process that can take years and is messy and doesn’t guarantee success by any stretch.

[00:07:58] But when it is successful, it pays off in spades. Contrast this with how agencies work. In an agency, the client identifies the problem for you, and then enlists your team to tackle that problem, and you and your team get paid for that piece of work. Now, as a product person, you should cherish every moment that you get to spend in discovery mode.

[00:08:25] This is where those big, juicy problems of the world are found and are cracked. This is where the real value is discovered. Now, delivery is when you’re honing in on that one problem, and it’s really more of a means to an end. We all have to have delivery. It pays the bills, but it’s not the earth moving disruptive activity that discovery has the potential to be.

[00:08:48] You’ve got to have balance. You need to have enough time to both discover the problems and then spend some time on actually delivering those solutions. But what if this gets thrown off balance? What if you’re like me at that last company and you end up starting off with great intentions to discover problems and.

[00:09:04] Interesting ways to solve them. But before you know it, you’ve got your hands tied with too many delivery commitments. So many companies aspire to be product companies. We see lots of product companies product manager, hirings on the up again. There’s so much support and knowledge out there about how to build a product company.

[00:09:25] We’ve all set our course for takeoff here. And yet so many companies go in with this idea of Building and scaling a product company, but they end up in the same trap that I did in this previous job, acting like an agency, taking on client jobs and commitments and carving into their time that would otherwise be spent on discovery.

[00:09:47] And rather than take off, it causes companies to sputter and fail. So what’s going on here? So let’s talk about some of the reasons these companies are getting pulled off track.

[00:10:03] All right. So building a product. Takes time, you’ve often got months or even years before your product is generating enough revenue to cover the cost of the team. And so many companies resort to hiring out their time in exchange for cash in the short term. Cash is king. It keeps the lights on or you’re addicted to features, right?

[00:10:27] You’ve got sales and marketing. They’re convincing you that one more feature is going to be the one thing to win that client. Or you’re drawn to the deep pockets and the allure of the recognizable logos of those big enterprise customers. It’s really easy to get distracted, or you’ve taken in funding and you’ve made big promise to those investors about where you’re meant to be by now.

[00:10:52] And you’re making up for gaps in the bottom line. Now nearly every startup company starts off with great intentions of following a scientific methodology of measuring, learning, and iterating until they’ve solved the most valuable problems in the world. But these go out the window in times of stress.

[00:11:13] Sometimes. Whatever we need to do to get to the next round becomes selling time for money. But it’s easy to get stuck because let’s admit it. Making money and cashing checks is addictive, but every minute of time that a client buys to have you work on their problems is a minute that you can’t spend discovering and solving the bigger problems in the world.

[00:11:42] Now there’s a chance that the client happens to identify a problem that’s big enough to apply to a wider market and you can easily resell that particular solution, but. Those chances are slim. I don’t see that very often. More often than not, you’re actually just slipping into delivery mode and you haven’t magically leapfrogged months or years of discovery.

[00:12:06] So as someone who’s been there and has seen countless companies end up down this path, I can share one clear sign that your company is veering into agency mode. It means I’m going to have to look at your roadmap because the roadmap is an incredible diagnostic tool for the state of any business, right?

[00:12:23] Show me your roadmap and I’ll tell you how your company might be dysfunctional. You, were you ready for this one? So let’s say you’re missing a roadmap or you don’t have a clear vision or anything tied back to company level objectives. This tells me your team’s probably lacking alignment, or let’s say your roadmap is filled with features and solutions instead of problems to be solved, this tell me your team probably lacks autonomy to figure out the path ahead for themselves.

[00:12:55] And let’s say your roadmap is dictated from above. It’s just a plan to execute given to you by your execs. And there’s no room for questions or experimentation. This suggests that there’s probably a lack of psychological safety in the team. But the biggest offender of them all, the one that tells me you’re probably in the agency trap already, It’s the sales led roadmap.

[00:13:24] In a discovery led roadmap, the roadmap should be a series of problems to solve and should facilitate the discussion of, what could be solved and in what order to reach the product vision. In a sales led roadmap, the roadmap looks more like this. All right, before I go, you guys want to see one of the worst roadmaps I’ve ever seen.

[00:13:46] This is actually my roadmap from years ago. All right. So the gray areas represent discovery led work where we were building for the wider market and trying to find the biggest, juiciest problems and the best ways to solve them. And unfortunately, our time was dominated by the work in that green strip towards the bottom, which we called.

[00:14:08] Enterprise and partner launches. We all know what that meant. Now, these were the things that we were doing to close specific deals by specific dates. And sure, it got us paid that month, but look at what the cost was. For the preceding quarter, we basically did nothing to further the vision of our core product.

[00:14:25] All of our work was tied up in partner work. And it looked like the partner work cleared up in the future. It never did. Our salespeople were always coming back into the office with this big grin on their face to tell us about this next thing that they’d sold, only for us to find out, yeah, it required work on the roadmap to make it fit.

[00:14:46] Ultimately, we didn’t do a fraction of the discovery work that this roadmap suggests we were going to do in the future. Ultimately, this business failed.

[00:15:03] Now, some of you might be interviewing right now. Do you want to know how to find out if they are in the agency trap? Ask to see the roadmap. Ask about how certain things got on the roadmap. Who manages the roadmap? Ask how flexible it is based on feedback and new learnings and which things are fixed in place.

[00:15:22] That’s really telling. All right, so we’re going to dive in and we’re going to talk about how to escape the agency trap, right? So some of you might be in this agency trap. Anybody want to put their hand up and say that they’re feeling this? And from here, yeah, all right, I’m seeing hands already.

[00:15:40] How do we get out? Let’s talk about it.

[00:15:46] I appreciate everyone’s candor and honesty here and I know that it’s tough. So if you recognize that you’ve been sacrificing discovery time for delivery work, you’ve got to bring it up with your team. You’ve got to make sure that it’s acknowledged at the exec level. It’s often a tough conversation.

[00:16:08] Because it means that you’ve got to admit that sacrifices have been made, right? The wrong moves have been done, but it’s important that everyone knows and everyone in key roles in the business knows what’s happening and how it impacts the outlook of the company. And as part of that conversation, you’ve got to ask and answer the question, what kind of company do you want to be?

[00:16:34] Perhaps taking on lots of client work is all part of the plan. The company actually does want to operate more as an agency in the future. And maybe that’s okay, if that’s what they’re trying to do. It’s better that you all know now, so you can adjust your roles and your expectation and your pricing and everything accordingly.

[00:16:55] And perhaps the aspiration is to be a huge tech company. And these are short term delivery commitments that are just a means to an end and that might be okay too. We’ve all been there. It’s totally okay to take on some work like that. If it’s a means to, for example, not have to go for a risky round of funding or if it enables you to grow the team to get to the next stage.

[00:17:18] It’s just really important to have these tough conversations and align everyone in the team about what the ultimate goal is so that the best strategic decisions are made, so you don’t find yourself in a trap running after that short term cash just because the short term cash felt good at the time.

[00:17:38] The next step here, if you do admit that you need to start getting yourself out of this trap. Is to separate your agency work into a different business unit into a different area of the business along with its own space for custom work. And this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to hire all new people for this or anything like that, but charge separately for it and really importantly charge well.

[00:18:06] Remember, time is the most limited resource that you have. If someone is asking for custom development for you, and you’re a product company at heart, do not be afraid to ask for eye watering fees for that honor. Remember, they are buying time that you otherwise could be using to build your rocket ship, right?

[00:18:29] Where else are they going to go? Their alternative might be That they could go to any other development team out there, go next door. But think about it. Is it really? Because they’re coming to you for custom development because you built something really special and proprietary in the first place, right?

[00:18:47] Because you might be the only team in the world actually be able to give them specifically what they want. That alternative, if they don’t buy the product. As it is, or they don’t buy your handsome fat, your handsome feed for the custom work for the custom work is to spend years rebuilding your product that you spent years building and then doing that little custom bit on top themselves.

[00:19:11] Or finding some other team to do this for them, which isn’t going to be cheap if they’re going to some agency next door. So none of their alternatives are very cheap. The problem comes with companies is that with product companies is that they are used to charging low fees for their monthly. Billing because they spread the cost of their their work out and then they have this mindset of not charging a lot.

[00:19:36] So when it comes to custom work, they go, yeah, thousand bucks. Sounds like a good deal. But what they don’t realize is that cost that custom work costs a lot more than that. So really important is that you’ve got to think about charging more for this custom development. It’s not just the cost of. Your monthly fee.

[00:19:56] It’s certainly more than that. And don’t be afraid of doing so. So they might go with a competitor. But remember, there’s a reason they’re asking you. And sure, you might lose some deals this way. But remember, you’re a product company. You’re selling a product that you’ve created. You’re not trying to be an agency.

[00:20:14] You’re not trying to Be grow into an agency. That’s not what you are at your heart. You’re not trying to sell your time. Otherwise it’s not worth your time. It could end up sucking you into a trap that leaves you in the wrong position down the line. So charge more for the clients that you want to keep and get rid of the time wasters and focus on building the product.

[00:20:34] That’s going to help you get to the right place.

[00:20:39] And finally, you want to start decreasing your dependence on the cash that comes from committed client or contract work. You’ve got to be deliberate. With how much time you spend in delivery and discovery. So think about that continuum of delivery versus discovery. So are you currently spending, a hundred percent of your time doing custom delivery work for clients and none of your time doing discovery?

[00:21:08] Is it 80, 20? That takes up your team’s time. If it’s 80 20, what can you do to get that to a 70 30 split by next month? What can you do to get that to a 50 50 split? You’ve got to think about the strategic steps it’s going to take you to move towards that sort of thing. That sort of level. And then eventually you can start saying what would it take to get us to, 80 percent discovery and only 20 percent delivery and, eventually 90, 10, you’ve got to find the level that’s most suitable for you.

[00:21:37] And don’t expect that you’re ever going to necessarily get to a hundred percent discovery and no custom work. That’s not necessarily the right model for you either, but just think about where it is that you want to be in terms of that continuum. And start moving yourself away from full delivery mode and basically carving out more time to spend in discovery.

[00:22:01] So you’ve got to plan out steps in your strategy. You’ve got to look out look at how you might build up your core product. So it, We’ll sell more and more. So you’re less dependent on that external funding from clients and custom work. And free, give you more give you time. So you’re more free to solve problems in the core product itself.

[00:22:19] So think about why your core product isn’t supporting the business. What needs to happen to get you to the point that you could actually spend 80 percent of your time on that? Why is it that you’re spending actually 80 percent of your time on client custom work? What would happen if you just stopped that?

[00:22:36] Obviously, you can’t just give up that cash. You need to think about what would happen. So what steps need to be taken in order to build up that core product? And everyone here is going to have a different story. Everyone here is going to have a different strategy, and that’s where your roadmapping exercises are going to come in handy.

[00:22:56] We’re going to talk about roadmapping in in a little while, but remember that this isn’t going to happen overnight and it’s not going to happen by itself. It’ll take you and your team to gather around, admit that there’s a dependency on agency mode. The fact that you guys are all here, ready to listen to this is a really good first step.

[00:23:15] You’ve now got some vocabulary around it, which is a really solid first step and make a concerted effort to make a plan on how to get away from it. If that’s the direction that you see that you need to go.

[00:23:28] And finally ditch that sales led roadmap. You don’t have to wait until you’re fully product led, but by changing the format of your roadmap will change the habits of your team and set you on a healthier course. As I said, this is a sales led roadmap. It’s largely driven by features and client deliverables, and ultimately it looks like a project Gantt chart.

[00:23:53] It looks more like a project Gantt chart than what a roadmap should look like. And this format encourages the team to think about which features need to be delivered and when and outline and focus their work more on in this particular case, the partner launches rather than the core product ditch this format and think more about.

[00:24:16] Something like this, a discovery led roadmap, which is centered around the business objectives to meet like revenue or user targets and customer problems to solve. So the product manager uses the roadmap to make sure that things are prioritized to make the most use of resources and are spending time discovering the most interesting and valuable problem areas.

[00:24:39] First, it’s not overrun by client commitments. Now, one fundamental thing to remember is that product is a big unknown you’re building into uncharted territory. There’s no blueprint to follow. There’s no right way to do this. It’s like landing on a new unknown shore and knowing that you want to get to that big gold top mountain in the distance.

[00:25:01] And you have to pick out the best path along the way. Now, you’ve got certain resources with you now, and you’ll pick up more resources and knowledge along the way. But it’s up to you and your team to survey your surroundings and decide what you have now and what problems you need to solve as you go.

[00:25:17] And as I said, every journey that you’re on is going to be unique. Every product is a unique journey. And so this is where that concept of horizons come in, right? You’re standing here at the present time, what we’d call now. And you can see what’s keeping your team. busy right now. What problems are right in front of you?

[00:25:35] Like you landed on this new shore and there’s a bear right in front of you. That’s your first problem to solve. It’s crystal clear. And unless someone sees a different, bigger problem, you better start thinking of ways to solve that problem. But you can also see way off into the distance, that mountaintop that you aspire to conquer.

[00:25:53] And there are probably problems to solve there too. Maybe something to do with keeping warm or getting ice climbing gear, but that’s too specific. And you can figure that out when you’re a bit closer. You’re a long way off yet, and there’s a lot of things you can do before you get there to gather resources and knowledge.

[00:26:09] But if there are known chunky problems, Get up that mountain, then it’s worth noting them down. So you and your team can keep an eye out for ways to break them down and solve them over the course of the months and the years in the journey ahead. And you can see into the middle distance in, various directions to various levels of degrees, and how well depends on how well equipped and what your starting position is right now.

[00:26:31] You might spot opportunities to take advantage of that will help you along the way or problems that you need to overcome or avoid. Maybe there’s a glistening city full of money or resources that you could reach just over there, or there’s a bog that you need to get over. And as you can imagine, as a product person, there’s multiple paths that you could take to get through this journey.

[00:26:55] And from where you’re standing, you don’t really know which is the best one. After all, the further things are in the distance, the less certain you are about them. It might be faster to build the bridge, but it means you miss the uplift in resources you get from visiting the city. But from here, maybe it’s a mirage in the desert anyways.

[00:27:13] And unfortunately, you can’t just whip out your phone and pull up Google Maps. This is uncharted territory. There is no right answer, but some answers will be better than others. And the best answers will come from teams who lay out what they see on the road ahead and regularly regroup to make sure that they’re on the best path.

[00:27:34] So these horizons translate to a discovery led product roadmap. So instead of a timeline, which is a single date driven line, Marching forward. Think in terms of these three buckets. So in this first bucket, you’re granular about your focus and your scope. Like this is the stuff being prototyped, tested and built right now.

[00:27:53] And the later column is less about specific initiatives, but more around outlining the problems you think you need to address. solved in order to fulfill your vision.

[00:28:11] All right. Now it’s easy to get sucked into the agency trap if you don’t have aligned goals as well. So this is where frameworks like OKR has come to help. So it stands for objectives, which are your high level qualitative goals and key results, your specific goals. Time bound measures. And the concept of OKRs is that the company sets the top level objectives, often called the North Star, and the team then works together to decide how they can help contribute to that goal.

[00:28:43] And it’s vastly different than the old way of doing management, where you think of management, setting goals for each team and then micromanaging the progress. It means that it’s using the knowledge of the whole team to set the goals, which means gaps are more naturally spotted and filled. The team can work more autonomously and isn’t held up by limitations in knowledge or time by middle or top management.

[00:29:10] Now, One of the, I know that OKRs aren’t perfect. One of the big complaints about, I hear about OKRs is that is this concept that around OKR drift, it’s when you set up your objectives and key results in one place and then go off to do your day to day product work in another place. And what tends to happen is that the OKRs get forgotten about.

[00:29:31] When the team goes back to update them at the end of the month, the OKRs just aren’t as relevant anymore. And as the the team has been essentially learning and iterating over in the product space and wasn’t looking in their OKR tracking space, it’s one of the reasons why OKRs often fail in teams.

[00:29:49] I regularly hear people saying things like OKRs don’t represent the stuff that I work on every day, or we move so fast that OKRs can’t keep up. There is a solution to this. To fight OKR drift and ultimately to fight the agency trap, a term that you’ll need to know in the OKR world is initiatives.

[00:30:08] And for some reason, it’s like the forgotten middle child, I guess because Oikers doesn’t have a good ring to it. An initiative describes the specific activities or projects that a team is working on to influence the success of an OKR. Even if you identify what you need to achieve based on the company strategy and determine what good looks like, you’re not going to get very far if you’re not able to outline the actions you plan to take in order to get there.

[00:30:37] So let’s use this as an example. Let’s say you want to increase user engagement on your SaaS platform. This might be a great way to start breaking yourself out of that dependency on client client commitments client discovery work. So that’s your objective. You might have a couple of key results that go with it.

[00:30:56] Maybe you are measuring progress by something like achieve a 20 percent increase in monthly active users and a 15 percent increase in average session duration. By the end of the quarter. So to hit these key results, you’re not gonna do it just by willing it to happen. You’re going to have to take action.

[00:31:16] So your initiative might be something like address the top three pain points identified in user feedback around this. Or to simplify the experience in your app around the core jobs to be done. Now, chances are you’re going to need to make progress on both of these initiatives to hit your goal. And within each initiative, there’s probably a number of things that you can try, all of which will take some time to see some results from.

[00:31:39] And those things that you’ll try are what we’d call experiments or or what I like to call ideas on your ProdPad roadmap. And so a solution that ties all of this together to give clear product direction is a lean roadmap. Or discovery led roadmap, each of these blocks are initiatives that problems to be solved.

[00:31:59] And each is linked to a specific objective to ensure alignment. And to they’re also linked to those experiments to those ideas to ensure the team is trying. different approaches to solve those problems. So this is one popular configuration. And here’s another one that’s very similar, but it groups the initiatives by objective.

[00:32:25] So the value of this roadmap format, when paired with objectives, is that it takes the focus off building features and hitting delivery dates and helps your team strive towards solving problems.

[00:32:42] Now I know that this whole ditching the timeline roadmap, your sales head roadmap, is pretty controversial. Some of you have done it already. If you have, get your hands up. Others have tried and have had lots of pushback along the way. And if you have I hear you. We’ve actually written a five lesson course on how to make that transition, including a really detailed outline of how to handle objections from any specific stakeholder, whether that’s your boss or your salespeople.

[00:33:10] That’s a tough one. Your marketing team, customers, investors, whoever it is whoever it is, who’s holding tightly to the notion that you need to keep making delivery commitments to clients. So this guide has guidance on how to get you past whoever it is. Who’s holding onto that, that timeline sales led roadmap.

[00:33:30] If anybody still needs convincing, we’ve also created a presentation as resource to help you convince them. You download this presentation deck and it’s basically a deck that you use. To, that has all the arguments for moving away from timeline and more towards a lean now next later format. So you can download that, make a copy, adapt it to make it fit your own style, whatever you like.

[00:33:50] It has all the speaker notes and then you can present it to your stakeholders to win them over. And I also know that having examples. On hand can be a really valuable tool. So we have a sandbox version of ProdPad. I know many of you have had a chance to play on this before, but for anybody who hasn’t, it has example roadmaps, OKRs and roadmaps with initiatives and experiments and feedback and all sorts.

[00:34:13] So you, it’s all in this freely editable place. So you can show it off to your team to give them an idea as to what it is that you’d like to do with your own roadmap. Compare and contrast with your sales led roadmap. Now, I have a secret for you, now that we’ve been talking about moving away from product and into this agency style.

[00:34:32] You don’t have to go product. There’s a big world out there and a lot of ways of providing value. If you’re going to go the agency route, then acknowledge it. Own it, hire for it and do it properly, including setting pricing and expectations accordingly. Just don’t fall prey to the most common killer of product companies.

[00:34:58] Product companies get sucked in by the allure of agency work because it solves an immediate problem in the near term, but it forces them to take their eye off the ball and if done well, it can bridge them elegantly to the next stages and onto success. But if done badly, it can doom the company. So identify it, start acting now to identify and work towards building the type of company that you want in the future.

[00:35:28] And just remember to ask yourself, what kind of company do you want to grow up to be? So I hope I’ve left you with some food for thought and some useful takeaways. This these slides are available to grab. And as this whole presentation has been recorded and I do see that there’s a whole bunch of questions that have been dropped as well.

[00:35:48] So I’m going to pass it back over to Megan and we’ll continue this conversation. 

[00:35:53] Megan Saker: Excellent. Thank you very much, Janna. Really insightful. 

[00:35:56] Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

[00:35:57] Megan Saker: Really useful stuff there. But yes, you’re right. We’ve got a whole bunch of questions. I’m actually going to kick off with one that was sent in to us before the webinar.

[00:36:07] They couldn’t join the webinar and were really keen to have this answered. It’s in essence, everything that we’ve been talked about. we’ve been talking about, but maybe it’s an opportunity to summarize. The question is, how do I gradually decrease my dependence on money from custom development?

[00:36:25] Janna Bastow: Yeah, so what that really comes down to, if you want to start decreasing your dependence on custom development is first weighing up what that custom development is doing for your business. So is it that you are you are fully an agency company that wants to become a product company or is it that, your level of dependency is like it’s.

[00:36:48] 10 percent of your business, weigh that up and figure out where on that continuum are you. Maybe it’s a 50, 50, maybe it’s an 80, 20. So figure out where you are and then figure out what it’s going to take to sidestep that to move that, that needle so that you can carve out more of that time. And that’s about balancing out the actual revenue that you’re getting.

[00:37:08] Let’s say you are making half your money from discovery and half your money from delivery type projects, or half your money from discovery project from delivery projects, client stuff, and half your money from your your core revenue. Product what can you do to bolster your core product?

[00:37:27] So it can be earning more. So you don’t have to earn so much from these court, from these custom delivery pieces. And you might have things on your roadmap that you can bring forward or that you can re prioritize so that you can focus on. Those particular things or is your business willing to take a short term hit if you realize that actually the reason why we haven’t been working on revenue generating things, we’re stuck in a rut on growing our core product because we’re spending every month on our discovery on our delivery work.

[00:38:05] But if we were to, take a break, spend one week extra a month on the product, we would be able to bridge that and get to the point that we are making more figure out what that’s going to take, make a business case and apply monetary fact factor uh, monetary levels to it.

[00:38:23] So you’re able to say This is worth this much to us. And this is worth this much to us. And the reason why we want to invest in our product is, if we were to get this to the masses, if we were to get this to the, this much of our market share, it would be worth this much. And hopefully you’re building a product that is.

[00:38:39] meant to be compelling enough to a wide enough market that if it does catch on, you will be able to focus purely on that or largely on that. If you’re not able to make that case, then there might be a case to say that there isn’t a market for your product there. So this is why you need to really take a step back and say, how much Are we actually making from the product?

[00:39:04] How much are we making from custom development? And can we justify that step over to the to spending more on the product itself? Once you’ve actually made that case, it’s a matter of carving that out that time, right? It’s a financial decision saying we’re going to not take, we’re not going to sell the month of May to this client.

[00:39:21] We’re going to spend it on this, which should kick back this much into the product. Now it’ll take three months to see that product, that, that investment term. But once you’re actually start seeing that if you’re building like a SAS, for example, it will be recurring revenue and that continues to come back to you and that’s worth much more than one off fees that you’re getting from your clients.

[00:39:41] So make the case in a financial sense. Or your business for your execs and then take the jump and whether it means taking small steps or bigger leaps that depends on the case that you’re able to make. 

[00:39:55] Megan Saker: That’s got me thinking about particularly in, or maybe this is unique to the B2B space, but do you think there’s a tendency?

[00:40:05] I would say, with companies who find themselves in the agency trap where they have gone after an enterprise market too soon. So before the product has the maturity, and if you do that too soon, you then get, you find yourself having to just build one more feature and one more feature to close every deal.

[00:40:29] And should get to a stage where you think we’re having to build new features. To close every deal have are we aiming at the wrong market? 

[00:40:39] Janna Bastow: Yeah, exactly that. And that’s actually one of the big traps, right? That’s why I flagged it as a as one of its own sort of Gotchas is enterprise clients will pull you off track.

[00:40:50] There’s this allure of these big logos and deep pockets, right? Because they’re the ones who are willing and able to pay for this stuff. And it’s easy to think, Oh so and so will pay for this. Unilever can pay for this. So obviously Procter and Gamble can pay for this. And you think that if you can close the deal with one, you’ll be able to close the deal with the other.

[00:41:09] And it’s not necessarily true. What tends to happen is you’re spending this time building this custom bit of work for these clients. And yes, you’re getting paid for it and they’re paying what feels like quite a lot because you’re a small business and you’re taking in this money. But.

[00:41:26] What you’re missing out on is first of all, that discovery time, right? That ability to say, actually, we’re going to spend this time listening and learning from companies like them and figuring out what kind of things we could solve that would solve their wider problems and sell it to them all at the same time.

[00:41:43] But you’re also losing the ability to really understand your ICP and that’s part of that discovery process. If you’re really understanding your ideal customer profile, you’re able to sync that with where your salespeople are selling. So your salespeople are no longer just you. Going out and finding people with money or companies with money and bringing them to your door.

[00:42:04] And then there’s companies with that money are at your door saying, cool, here’s the problem we have. Can your thing do this? And you say, sure, we can make it do that. Instead they’re saying we’ve got a product that does this. Let’s go out and find people who need that particular product.

[00:42:19] And that’s a completely different mindset. That’s a completely different shift. And that does require you to. Sometimes hold back on taking things to market. It requires upfront investment at times. And this is why it can be more difficult to build a product company. It does often require upfront investment or simply more time to get to that point.

[00:42:39] Megan Saker: I suppose it’s very hard for anyone to say no to. a salesperson saying, I can bring in 2 million with this customer. But I suppose then the, when you talked about, taking a financial argument to the sort of, to your execs to convince them, I suppose there, it would be, if we don’t aim for enterprise, we can go, we can sell with shorter sales cycles, lower cost of sale higher volume.

[00:43:10] And present those numbers potentially a bigger sort of total addressable market. 

[00:43:15] Janna Bastow: Exactly that. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes the right answer is to do the custom development, right? If somebody’s coming in and saying, we’ll spend, we’ll, pay you 2 million to do two months of work.

[00:43:25] And you’re a small team and you’re going, huh we could either do that or we could spend six months raising the same amount. Maybe that’s the right move. Maybe it’s not, maybe you could build something that’s more convincing and reach a bigger market doing something else. You will never know.

[00:43:39] There is no right answer there, but you’ve got to weigh up those things. And every time you make a decision like that, you’ve got to think about what you could have been doing with that time. And what direction that takes you down, because now once you’ve taken on A bit of custom work, you sometimes have to support it for life.

[00:43:55] So now you have this custom piece of work, this custom contract, this custom client, and, the, if you just get paid once for it, you might be holding on to it, even though you’ve now got them, but. Hopefully down the line, 20 million worth of money ARR from other clients, 200 million from other clients.

[00:44:14] And, you’ve got you got to consider what that’s going to do down the line. So it’s never a super easy answer, but this is why I said, if you are going to do it, you need to price properly. And 2 million would certainly be like, Oh, okay. Think about that. I see too many companies going.

[00:44:29] Oh, what’s a good price? I don’t know. They said 2000. They’re like, that’s a lot of money. That’s, 10 times what our monthly price is. And I’m like don’t sell out so easily. Your time is worth more than that. And remember that you’re dealing with enterprise companies. 

[00:44:43] Megan Saker: Stephen’s got an interesting question here.

[00:44:44] How does one escape the agency trap in separating and charging accordingly when the partnerships are all internal? So my company has a lot of interdependent teams. So any large work is necessarily cross functional. 

[00:44:58] Janna Bastow: Oh, good question, Stephen. I’m

[00:45:04] not sure I got a great answer to that one. Cause I’m not really sure I understand the mechanics of having an agency trap when you’re talking about internal. Teams or partner partnerships internally. I guess this would really come down to making sure that you’re having the right conversations at the right level.

[00:45:26] So if you’re saying, Hey, I think that one team is absolutely cramping our style and we could be as a company doing much better, but instead this side of the company is having us build. This type of work. And that means that we’re not able to deliver as a company and therefore reach our ultimate goals.

[00:45:42] Get that conversation going at the right level. And even if it means it’s a tough pill to swallow, they’ve got to swallow that pill, otherwise they’re going to continue chopping themselves off at the the knees, building the wrong stuff for the wrong reasons. 

[00:45:58] Megan Saker: Great. 

[00:45:58] Janna Bastow: Thanks. And Steven says I zeroed right in.

[00:46:00] So I think I nailed it. 

[00:46:02] Megan Saker: Awesome. Thanks 

[00:46:03] Janna Bastow: for the feedback. That’s appreciated. 

[00:46:06] Megan Saker: Another question here. What do you do when leadership refuses to align on or set a North Star and has very weak misaligned OKRs

[00:46:15] Janna Bastow: Oh, that’s a really tough one. Having a solid North star is one of the most powerful things that a company can do, right?

[00:46:23] You need to make sure that everyone is pointing in the right direction. Otherwise if you don’t have a North star, you don’t know which way you’re going. Every direction is possibly the right direction. And therefore, what could he possibly do wrong? What could he possibly do? No one knows.

[00:46:35] This is again, where you’ve got to have the conversation upwards and have that that those tough chats. I find product people are great at having conversations with stakeholders when it comes to customers or their developers or their marketeers. But they struggle when it comes to having conversations upwards their executive stakeholders.

[00:46:56] And I think it’s because they feel like there’s this. They’ve got this power over them and maybe there is some, power distance there but at the same time, we need to be able to ask those questions to say what is it that we’re trying to do here? What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

[00:47:10] Run discovery on your execs, just like you run discovery on your customers. Your customers sometimes aren’t clear about the problems you, what they want you to solve. And you need to figure out ways of asking those questions. Same thing with your execs. They’re sometimes not clear about the problems.

[00:47:26] They need you to solve, but you need to figure out the right questions to ask. You need to figure out which form of communication works for them, and you need to get that information out of them and communicate it back to them and say, okay, this is what we’ve understood. Is this right? And then you start getting alignment.

[00:47:43] So treat your execs like customers, 

[00:47:44] Megan Saker: I also think, everything you’ve outlined In this webinar today about how a product strategy and a roadmap works back from the North Star as product managers, you should take it and say, in order to build an effective product strategy that will deliver the value we need to deliver as a business.

[00:48:07] I need and even I always think it’s useful to give people to do the work for people and they can either, deny or confirm or adjust. So you could even go and suggest, look, I think this should be our North Star or is it this or is it this? Choose one. Or, and at least that will, like Jenna says, what problem do you want solving?

[00:48:29] Like you suggest some to them and it’s often a good way of getting the conversation started. Yeah. 

[00:48:35] Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 

[00:48:38] Megan Saker: Oh, this one is interesting. We’ve actually, 

[00:48:40] Janna Bastow: we’ve got some really great questions here. Keep them coming folks. I don’t have a particularly hard stop, so I would love to to answer these.

[00:48:47] Jump in. What’s the next one? 

[00:48:48] Megan Saker: Yeah, this one I love and we’ve actually got, we’ve done a webinar recently on this subject and we’ve got various resources that would help. But in the company I work in, now next later is where does meaning three months, six months, nine months, how do I help break that very literal translation?

[00:49:07] Janna Bastow: Great question. Yeah, it’s not an uncommon one, right? A lot of people actually sometimes rename their roadmap in ProdPad because that’s capabilities. They rename it to something time based to wean people off their timeline roadmap and into something more like a now next later timeline, time horizon format.

[00:49:26] Now. The really key thing is that what you want to start doing is taking the times off the top and turning it into now, next, later, and where there are dates. You can add those to individual cards. But what you really want to do is get people thinking about the order in which you’re going to tackle things.

[00:49:44] And if somebody says, oh this is in the later column. So we think we’re going to have it in nine months time. Time, turn that around and say, okay, so in nine months time, we’re talking, end of this year, early next year, how big is our team going to be, are we going to land that funding?

[00:49:57] Are we going to get that person on board? Is that other project that we’re dependent on going to be done? You don’t know the answer to any of that. You don’t even, let alone where the economy is going to be or, other sort of factors like that. So unless factors like that, you’re not going to be able to give certainty on something that far out.

[00:50:12] What you can do is give your clarity on where you think The directionally, we need to go and the order in which we’re going to tackle things and get feedback on that. Once you get closer to that’s when you can start giving some clarity on. Okay. Yeah. This is actually in the order of this now.

[00:50:28] And it’s within the now. So reasonably, we can say it’s probably within the next 1 or 2 months. 

[00:50:33] Megan Saker: The course that we’ve designed, which is about moving from timeline to agile, non exclusive roadmapping within one of the lessons there. And you can find the link at proper. com forward slash downloads.

[00:50:47] One of the lessons there has a bunch of examples of different ways that people have Defined their time horizons and different labels. People have given to each of the columns. And I think by having a really clear definition, even if you have to leave the three the, the the, yeah, the headers putting in a description a definition that says.

[00:51:13] These things are what we’re doing right now and are active. These are the things that we’re, that we have in discovery. And then so people start to understand what those stages are and then yeah, you slowly wean them off. 

[00:51:24] Janna Bastow: That was actually one of the little improvements that we did in the last year, I think we added the description area so you can say now, next, later, but also what now means, what next means.

[00:51:32] You can toggle it on and off for different stakeholders as well. Another 

[00:51:39] Megan Saker: question here from David, management sales still wants to know, when can I have the thing? And if our roadmap isn’t designed to answer that question, who should, and how can we partner with those sort of delivery and project folks?

[00:51:53] Janna Bastow: Yeah. So this is a uh, there’s a few parts to that question. So the roadmap can give some of this information, right? So if there is something that has to have a date on it, cause it’s strategically important and externally driven, then you can put that information on your roadmap. We just recommend not putting.

[00:52:13] Dates at the top, like a timeline, because that dictates dates for everything on your roadmap. Instead, you can put the date for the particular initiative on the roadmap card itself to say this is aimed for this particular area. And then everything else is around it is flexible. Now, there might be things that you actually don’t have dates for because it’s sitting here and there’s two things in front of it and you don’t actually know when it’s going to be done.

[00:52:36] You know what order it’s going to be done, but you don’t know when it’s going to be done. And so for sales and marketing sale for marketing, what you want to do is you want to separate out your hard launch from your soft launch. So your soft launch is when you get that product. Feature or whatever it is ready in a format that you can make it available behind a feature flag of sorts.

[00:52:57] So it’s done, it’s finished. But at that point in time, you can then tell marketing rates. It’s now ready to be marketed. They can spend as much or as little time. Getting it ready for its launch. And that way you’re not tying a product launch series of events to a development launch series events.

[00:53:17] When you try to tie those two together, you run into problems. If you separate those two, you no longer have the problem that one might slip and then causes problems for the other. What you then have, if you do this on a regular basis, is you have a series of soft launches that are continuously going out, like you have continuous launches today and marketing as this.

[00:53:38] Backlog of stuff that’s always going out and a backlog of stuff to always market. And once it’s in soft launch mode, they can spend time making sure that they’ve got the right stuff out there and they can communicate it to their partners. They can communicate it to their beta customers. They can make videos of it working and everything like that.

[00:53:56] And they can make as much of a big bang about it as they like. And with sales, you want to work with them as your delivery as your discovery partners, right? So they should be out there selling what exists today. If it’s not launched, don’t sell it. What they can do if it’s not launched, they can get feedback on it.

[00:54:16] They can get insights for you and bring that back to the table to inspire and inform what you should be building next or what you could be building next, but not. Dictating what you build next, because that’s where problems lie. 

[00:54:30] Megan Saker: And just to add to that, ultimately if you’ve got a initiative focus, like problems to problem to solve focused roadmap, where everything on your roadmap articulate is a problem to solve.

[00:54:43] And then the sort of specific feature ideas are underneath that. If you’ve also got to train your sales team to say if someone says to you, they need this feature, dig deeper, work backwards to identify what problem they think that feature will solve. And then, often you will find, oh, we are solving that problem.

[00:55:01] That is on the roadmap already. Might solve it in a different way, in a better way because we’ve done the discovery because we have measured and learned and therefore we will absolutely help you with that problem, but it won’t be that feature you’ve asked for. 

[00:55:17] Janna Bastow: Yeah, 

[00:55:18] Megan Saker: absolutely.

[00:55:18] All right, good stuff. We are running over time now we could probably sneak in another 

[00:55:25] Janna Bastow: I, I can, we, there’s two more here, I can absolutely jump on those if we do a quick fire. Give them to me, we’ll go at them. 

[00:55:32] Megan Saker: Here we go. How would you incorporate beta programs within the context of an hour next later?

[00:55:37] Janna Bastow: All right. I love a beta program. This ties into what David had just asked. But what you want to make sure that you do is when something is launched, don’t consider it just done. Separate that hard launch from your soft launch and track that on your roadmap. So you might track that in your now column, or you can even put that in ProdPad has what we call a completed section where you can track things that have been done, but you’re still going through and tracking the the complete, the the the outcomes of them.

[00:56:07] So use that section to actually track where things have ended up in that beta and then use the customer feedback section to actually track feedback that you’re getting from your beta program. And time for that one last one as well. 

[00:56:23] Megan Saker: Okay. In a B2B business where purchases and users have different motivations, how do you navigate discovery?

[00:56:30] Janna Bastow: Oh, good one. You want to make sure that you understand both audiences. You need to understand the needs, pain points, and motivations of both. You want to engage with them early and often. Map out both their Personas and journey maps and you want to make sure that you’re balancing feature development for them.

[00:56:50] So you want to make sure that you are considering, um, how you’re just demonstrating value for both parties and then creating advocates on both sides and iterating on their feedback and improving same way that you deal with any two sets of users. 

[00:57:08] Megan Saker: Great. Excellent. Wonderful.

[00:57:11] Janna Bastow: All right. Wonderful. Thanks so much.

[00:57:13] Good to have everybody here. Thanks for all your questions. Megan, thank you for hosting us today and see you all next time. Excellent. All right. Bye. Bye for now.

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