How To Create A Good Old Business Case For Your Roadmap!
The focus on profitability really fortifies the importance of collaborative decision-making between product managers and the leadership team. Companies need to create sustainable growth by innovating through product features. As the legendary statistician and management consultant, W. Edwards Deming, argued in his book Out of the Crisis, 94% of most problems and possibilities for improvement belong to the leadership team, not the Product Manager alone; the most value-creating product improvements belong there as well. Personal solutions can be useful, but the most effective antidote to inefficiency must be implemented through collective and collaborative decision making, not at the individual level. That’s where a pillar comes into play.
What are pillars?
Pillars are briefly defined as short and concise business cases. These documents combine the essential ingredients that make up a business case, such as problems to be solved and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), along with the feature mixes. A feature mix breaks down the scope into must-haves, nice-to-haves, and wish list items; it is a way to communicate what must be in the product release and launch criteria. A pillar document allows product managers to analyze a feature mix and repurpose its content into concise content targeted at various audiences. Pillars intend to provide context and a framework for product roadmap planning and decision-making, which also helps product managers thoroughly consider and evaluate the initiative, pushing them to be more research and data-driven.
Taking the time as product managers to properly develop content pillars is very important in order to accurately capture they WHY; your product initiative’s most important purpose for existence. Pillars help convey the essence of strategic choices and distinguish them from fruitless and ineffective features. Therefore, every product pillar should be given a fair chance! They enable concise communication, which is important in enabling a large team to work together efficiently. Detailed pillar documents also provide the ready-to-use information that allows product managers to develop concise content for various target audiences. As product managers, trying to focus the executives on the outcomes by using pillars will help them make the difficult choices.
Where do we suck, and why does it matter?
Pillars are important to enable a company to focus on the parts of a product that are both important and disappointing to the customers and the business; Doing this will improve the product! Stakeholders need to buy into the vision, whether they are product leaders, engineers, the sales team, or the support team. If a company lacks the mentality of constantly analyzing "where do we suck and how can we improve", this will lead to no buy-in and then no delivery.
This is where pillars come into play! Each pillar has a rigorous definition of the problems (as articulated during the behind-the-scenes research), one objective and three key results (OKRs).
Most product managers aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve. Pillars, however, can help with this by enabling them to think about the problems using the evidence that they collect during their behind-the-scenes discovery! This allows product managers to fully understand the dimensions of the problem and define it accurately.
In a pillar document, each problem should be accompanied by a metric to illustrate how the current outcomes are problematic. This is an opportunity to quantify underlying issues, such as acquisition, engagement, and efficiency.
Some example metrics could include:
- 60% of users bounce on this page
- 80% of customers that wish to complete this task fail and end up creating a support ticket.
- On submit, there is a 60 second wait time before the next engagement takes place.
- We’ve seen a 300% decrease in user engagement on this feature
Remember to always ask yourself: which metric has the highest ROI opportunity? Instead of blindly taking on work for a feature, it’s always best to run reports against the data to find out whether a given feature will be used and how often. Putting metrics against the problems allows product managers to calculate the maximum possible improvement.
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
Product managers must also ensure that everyone on the teams are on the same page. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are essential for making this happen! Setting common objectives (or goals) throughout each product improvement is important for achieving the key results. Objectives and Key Results are meant to help each team push toward the bigger and better accomplishments, which will move the business forward.
"The objective is designed to get people jumping out of bed in the morning with excitement. Qualitative and Inspirational. Key results take all that inspirational language and quantifies it. They are both used simultaneously to focus a group or individual around a bold goal." - Paul Ortchanian, Founder and President/CEO of Bain Public
On pillar documents, objectives are defined as time-bound qualitative goals. They are meant to be inspirational, such as "Launch an awesome MVP". On the other hand, key results are quantitative and lets everyone know whether the objectives have been met at the end of the set time frame. Key results exist to quantify that inspirational goal. These can be metrics based on growth, engagement, performance and revenue. Some examples can include having a 15% conversion rate or having 40% of users return 3 times in one week.
The rule of thumb is to keep your objective to one sentence. We also recommend always having three key results!
Roadmap initiatives will have momentum only when the executives can be confident that the actions of the product manager are guided by the strategic statement, principles, and nuances that they themselves defined. By molding your pillars properly, not only will you capture a roadmap initiative’s most important purpose for existence, but you’ll also ensure alignment with stakeholders! It’s a win-win for everyone involved!
Article written by Jessica Scandaliato. Thanks to Paul Ortchanian for reading drafts and overseeing aspects of its publication. Also, if you have any feedback or criticism about this article, feel free to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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