3 challenges every product leader faces in actuating a roadmap

3 challenges every product leader faces in actuating a roadmap

Fractional GTM Head

A roadmap is the actuation of the company's vision, strategy and execution; that comes together approximately every quarter. Product leaders play the pivotal role in crafting and communicating this roadmap, both managing up to CXOs and managing down to different involved downstream teams.

However, achieving the seamless alignment across the organization is easier said than done. An unsaid rule in growing scale ups that you can't please everyone all the time, be it internal stakeholders or your customers.

In our research with product leaders, 3 key problems keep coming back up, over and again.

1. Competing Priorities

Different departments and stakeholders within an organization naturally have their unique objectives and priorities.

  • Sales teams may be focused on features that will immediately drive revenue,.

  • Engineering teams tend to prioritize technical debt or infrastructure improvements.

  • Executives may have ambitious long-term goals that don't always neatly translate into near-term roadmap items.

As a product leader, navigating these competing priorities is a delicate balancing act and what successful product leaders do is set the principles of how a good decision looks like and align that across the org, as opposed to executing the decisions.

For example, a blueprint we see, is to invest 10% of time on long term visionary projects, 60% of the time on critical enhancements, and the rest on operational tasks and technical debt, and let each team figure out the downstream decisions.

2. Limited Resources and Unrealistic Expectations

Resources—whether it's budget, development time, or personnel—are always finite. Meanwhile, stakeholders often have sky-high expectations for the product, and every product team believes their feature requests should be top of the roadmap.

The story of limited resources is a two sided coin; the other sided is the clarity of the strategy and the actuation of said aligned priorities per (1)

What enables swift decision making is a culture of celebrating tough decisions, saying "no," and transparently communicating resource limitations.

  1. Roadmap resembles a feature factory

As much as the product leaders believe and hypothesize their roadmap is impactful, even if aligned across the org, most features fall flat with customers, not impacting the topline. This is a problem, in part because we haven't extensively tied a feature to its potential revenues based on customer insight and data driven decision making.

At ProductHub, we believe that every roadmap item needs to have a corresponding Euro or USD outcome tied to it, with rigorous cross functional discussion of how to get that number. These discussions, in most part, reveal the actual strategy of the company that's evident to your immediate team, as they are able to put into words what the strategy is to them, at their level of understanding.

We've noticed that by doing the exercise of tying roadmap items to a number, we are able to increase development velocity and reduce building another feature.

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For CEOs, founders and leaders in SaaS, crafting a product roadmap that aligns with both strategic goals and operational capacity is pivotal these days. While many roadmaps are built from the bottom-up, relying heavily on customer feedback and the louder internal voices, the key to sustained growth and profitability lies in a top-down strategic approach, balanced with an understanding of the company's capacity. 

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Product Management

PUBLISHED ON

Feb 23, 2024

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