When Executives Tell You What to Build, They Approve the Development of Unnecessary Features


When building a product strategy, it can get tricky to predict and prevent which features will be of use and which ones will be unnecessary. At Bain Public, we’ve discovered the main issue with building the wrong features, is that they will incur a huge opportunity cost for a business. Therefore, the role of roadmapping as a whole, as well as the development of the prioritization process itself and all the key steps and conversations in between, are crucial to the learning process.
The following article shows a break-down explaining this process and how product managers can strategically take the right decisions.

The Role of the Product Manager

The role of a product manager is becoming more and more strategic. Our research indicates that having an established formal product management process or methodology is a critical first step to executing a solid product strategy. It must be consistent, based on best practices and focused on adopting a structured system of prioritizing market input.
Most product managers say they don’t spend enough time roadmapping and goal setting. In fact, only 40% say they’re able to make decisions on a strategic level, while the other 60% do so on an operational level. Furthermore, 40% of product managers also say they’re able to make decisions but are often overruled.
One of the biggest challenges for product managers is being able to conduct proper market research to validate whether the market truly needs what they’re building. What’s truly weighing on their minds is having to set roadmap priorities without any real market feedback or data. Furthermore, there is also the issue of stakeholders adding too many high-level ideas marked as ‘must-have’ to the roadmap even though they aren’t backed by validation.
"The number one company-killer is a lack of market. You can do whatever you want but the market is going to win. You need to meet market expectations" — Paul Ortchanian
This is why product managers must master the skill of assessing their product’s competitive situation to build the right product and market it effectively. Which competitors threaten your business? What benefits does your product offer that are superior or inferior to that of your competitors? These are some of the questions product managers must consider when doing a competitive analysis.
Be a strategic leader, set business objectives for products and find the right solutions for the market. The product manager’s job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get heard and considered, and, if necessary, to break ties and make the decision.

The Process of Roadmapping

There are specific problems, benefits, or situations the roadmap has to address. Don’t own or be its communicator. If certain team members aren’t motivated to succeed because their ideas didn’t get picked or they don’t like the decision outcomes, the roadmap is subject to a higher failure rate.
It’s normal for every team member to have their own opinions. The beauty of this is sometimes productive disagreements arise from the many conversations and meetings you have with your stakeholders. Engage in these disagreements and embrace the healthy discourse among colleagues. This is a critical part of what makes up your roadmapping process.
These types of discussions help bring issues to the surface, allowing you, as a product manager, to build a better product. Effectively building trust, finding common ground and having emotional empathy ultimately leads to developing good relationships with people at work and within your network. These conversations are what fill in the gaps between people, guiding them toward making the best decisions.
Facilitate, coordinate and solicit well-represented opinions and feedback to reach a common, best solution. Influence perspectives, but still have the people you influence think they made up their own minds and played a part in the decision-making process.
Everyone must work in unison behind a single focus and strategy.

Communication

Communication abilities are part of a successful roadmap. Along with obtaining domain knowledge and customer understanding, communication is a major skill which contributes to becoming a great product manager.
Not only is it important externally when dealing with customers, but communication is also a critical component internally within the organization when dealing with engineering, marketing, sales and other stakeholders. Instead of navigating and dealing with the complexities of internal politics, clear and effective communication between all parties plays an important role in achieving product success. Collaborate with each individual, negotiate and influence — this will ease your way toward achieving the desired outcomes.
One of the best ways to keep any team determined is to be a good listener. Encourage stakeholders and colleagues to talk about their product ideas and establish a workplace where those around you feel comfortable bringing new opinions to the table. Trust should be developed through open and honest communication, and once established, improve relations with others, bolstering the feeling of group confidence — a key component in leadership.

Leadership

Leadership is also imperative when it comes to leading product initiatives as it keeps the team aligned on their product vision and goal. It secures adequate attention and resources to accomplish objectives. This helps to predict the results of actions, seek new opportunities for growth and achieve other business goals and priorities.
Product managers also act as a liaison between the different teams and stakeholders within their organisation, which reiterates the importance of communication we covered earlier.
As you well know, most products fail to meet business objectives. The information above should help product managers focus on specific aspects of the process of roadmapping. Remember: it’s the process as a whole more than the roadmap itself that will facilitate and help them be more successful when planning and roadmapping for their business or product.
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Bain Public is a Product consultancy that ships products from start to finish, concept to launch. We help ambitious companies create new value with design and technology-based products and strategies. Our group of experienced Product Managers works closely with CSuite leadership teams removing friction from all touch-points of the digital consumer experience to deliver product-market fit allowing companies to operate at scale.
Thanks to Paul Ortchanian and for reading and editing drafts of this article and overseeing aspects of its publication. The photo by Kaleidico can be found on the free stock photo site Unsplash. Also, if you have any feedback or criticism about this article then shoot us an email info@bainpublic.com.

Resources

The statistics and analysis found in the above article were pulled from the following reports: