About me

I started out in IT then moved into Project Management for the first 10 years of my career.  I then had the opportunity to work in Navman and I fell in love with hi-tech product development.  Since then I worked for a number of other hi-tech companies helping them bring world leading products to market.  A couple years ago I co-founded Velox Innovation providing innovation coaching to build innovation capabilities in companies across NZ.

One the areas that I have helped a number of companies is in the longer-term planning with roadmapping.  I think this is a really important thing that all companies should do, particularly with things changing so rapidly and the interconnected world we are in.  So I thought I’d share some of experience and my thoughts in the form of a blog.

What is a roadmap?

  • Vision and direction of product offering over time
  • Plan for executing the company strategy
  • Stakeholder alignment
  • Options and scenario planning
  • Lifecycle of product (including EOL)

Often a pictorial timeline that shows what products are being released:

Picturex.png

What about Technology?

Being hi-tech companies, their products often involve some sort of new technology.  While new technologies are great (and have often propelled a company to be a leader), they can be risky, particularly in the early stages while the technology is developing and all the problems with it have been ironed out.

So as well as mapping out your product roadmap, consider the technology and performance requirements of your product.

I see the common traps:

  • Committing to a product release date when depending on technology that isn’t proven
  • Delivering the product to market with technology that isn’t reliable enough
  • Your existing technology gets overtaken by new technologies that perform better and/or cheaper and by the time you realise it, it’s too late.  Remember Blackberry, Nokia, Kodak, etc

But can’t we fix it with software?

Many products include some sort of software and often problems (even hardware problems) can be fixed with a software update.  Or we can release a feature when it is ready.  

Back a few years ago you might get a new version of software once a year.  But these days we seem to get software updates all the time and it has become the “new normal” (everyday I get updates for 5-10 of my apps on my iPhone.   And I don’t have a lot of apps….)

But relying on software to compensate for hardware problems can only go so far – remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

But relying on software to compensate for hardware problems can only go so far – remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

Other Influences

The other thing you need to factor into your roadmap are the many external factors and trends that can impact the success of a product / company

  • Customer buying habits
  • New business models
  • Technology trends
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Competitors

There are a few models out there that you can use to help identify other influences – here’s a couple:

I’ve got to say that a year ago, I would have questioned what impact politics would have.  But now seeing impact of Brexit and Donald Trump is/will have, I now have it up the top of my list :)

 

How to make sense of all this?

Here’s a few tips to make your roadmapping exercise more successful

  • Make it visible so everyone can see it in the company
    • This gets a bit tricky when there is sensitive information that you don’t want to be known outside of the company
  • Include a good range of people in your company in the process
    • Not only are you getting their perspectives and ideas, but it’s a great way of getting their buy-in to the resulting roadmap / plan
  • Write it down
    • The thing that often gets lost/forgotten is the work done leading up to the finalisation of the roadmap, eg: research, information gathered, results of discussions, trade-off decisions, etc.  
    • Capture it so that it can be leveraged (and so we can remember our reasoning for a decision)
  • Update it
    • As soon as it is approved and filed, it becomes out of date
    • Things are always changing and the company needs the ability to adapt based on new information/learnings
    • And so you need to update your roadmap as things change.  And it’s a really good way of evaluating the impact that the change may have, taking into account the work done on the roadmap previously

How we can help

What companies find is it’s useful to have someone external who is able to facilitate the roadmapping session that it doesn’t have any of the internal baggage, eg: politics, etc.

We can provide a different perspective and can talk about other industries we have worked in and the strategies they used a both from a technical/product perspective, but also different business models.

More often than not, we won’t have the deep technical or domain knowledge of people in the company.  But that’s actually a good thing – we can ask the stupid questions and challenge assumptions.

What an engagement would look like is a series of workshop’s where we would progressively develop a visual representation of the roadmap as well capture all the background information.  They key point it will be in the form of something that can be easily and regularly updated as things change – could be a flipchart with post-it notes and/or something in an electronic format.

If you would like to discuss roadmapping, feel free to give us a call: