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One of the biggest responsibilities of being a Product Manager is managing priorities and user feedback to always be improving your product. The most important way to communicate priorities and why they matter to both your business and users is by managing a product roadmap.
In today's world, product roadmaps are very common in the digital product space. They allow the team managing the product to organize all of the needs that should be addressed in the short term, as well as shaping work for the future.
A Roadmap is a guide for everyone outside of Product to see what work will be prioritized by timeline. Usually, it is organized by buckets of work in progress, up next, and coming soon. There are many different ways that product teams organize their roadmaps, everything from very solid timelines around specific periods of time, to “fuzzy roadmaps” that outline the priorities without committing to a hard deadline of when they will be delivered.
Usually, everyone inside of your organization has access to the roadmap, as well as some capacity of outside users. It is crucial to give your internal team insight into these priorities so they can use them as leverage tools to make better decisions, as well as to keep alignment across the business on what's coming next for the product in the short and long term.
For example, your sales team can use the roadmap to woo a prospective customer with the new features that are coming soon and make the interest in your product even greater than what features you currently offer. Marketing can also use the roadmap to plan blog posts and campaigns around new features to drive new and existing customers to your product.
Your Roadmap shouldn’t just be a list of goals that your team wants to tackle. Instead, it should be a list of priorities that impact your users and your internal team. To achieve this, you need to be constantly collecting feedback from users to feed the priorities of features and shape your roadmap. Customer input is very important to measure on features when going through prioritization exercises. After all, your customers are the one actually using the product for benefit, their voice should be heard when it comes to what is important to them.
Customer feedback can manifest itself in many different ways, and is sometimes disguised as an issue or complaint. The basic methodologies to collect feedback like getting on the phone directly with the customer and sending out feedback surveys are very important to understanding needs and pains.
Other places to look for feedback and insight are complaints to your Customer Service team, bug reports, and custom implementation requests from new customers. While these places can be a little harder to plug into for Product teams, they can be the most valuable sources of feedback for your prioritization. Once you have all of your feedback, you need to organize all of it so that it is usable and not forgotten.
At PactSafe, we use a tool called ProductBoard to collect and store our feedback, as well as tie it directly to considered or planned features. Your team can log the feedback as an insight either directly in the app or using one of their many integration tools to push feedback into the Insights Inbox. This inbox is where all of the feedback is stored, allowing you to sort and organize each submission like an email inbox. Our favorite way to use this feature is to tie the insights directly to features you have planned for your product. This makes understanding the customer impact of a build super easy and clear to anyone on your team.
Now that you have a list of features and customer insights - how do you sort and prioritize everything?
There are many different ways to go about the prioritization process for product features, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For the PactSafe product team, we have identified 4 categories of measurement that all together create a holistic prioritization score for all of our considered work.
Most product teams should have a list of objectives you are always focusing on with each feature build.
For us, these come from our Product Vision and direct where we are going as a product and a company. For each feature we consider, the first question we ask ourselves is does this feature align to a product objective? More specifically, is this work aligned with where we want to go as a product. If so, how impactful is it towards the objective(s)? This gives us a good look into if this work should be addressed or if it’s something that is not as important, and can be put on the back burner for later.
An important metric to measure for each feature is the impact on use cases in your product. For PactSafe, we have 4 major use cases of our app that are able to put each of our customers into one of those buckets, even though the tasks for each bucket are very different. Identifying the major use cases of your product is important for this step and for managing your product in general.
After you have identified the major use cases, take some time to calculate the number or percentage of your user base that falls into each bucket. Knowing the size of each use case inside of your user base will help you see the makeup of your customers and what they are trying to achieve, and also measure the use case impact for your roadmap prioritization.
When prioritizing a feature for your roadmap, it is important to understand how many of the major use cases of your product will be impacted by the change, so you can consider the use case impact for prioritization measurement. A feature that impacts all major use cases would be higher priority than a feature that only addresses one use case in your product. This is very similar to measuring customer impact, but takes the measurement out of the lens of the customer and into the functions of your product.
Customer Impact is similar to Use Case Impact, but instead of looking at the impact from the lens of your product, you are looking through the lens of your customer.
To calculate the Customer Impact, you have to have a general understanding of how many customers will see the change and how many customers are in each use case in your product. If the change touches a feature that all customers are using regardless of use case, this is a high customer impact. If the change only affects a feature that is included in a use case with a small customer base using it, this is a lower impact.
Being able to understand how the change will affect your customers will help you understand the importance of getting the feature prioritized.
The last thing to consider when prioritizing features for your roadmap is the size of work that goes into each feature.
Understanding how long and how much effort it will take to ship the new product can help you understand the tradeoffs for other features being built, as well as make the call on if the benefit of the feature is worth the effort and time spent to build it properly. A feature that has medium customer & use case impact but a high work size might be prioritized lower than a feature that has high customer & use case impact with a low/medium work size.
Being able to understand all of these measurements of a new feature when building your roadmap can help you see the full picture of how the change will impact everything from your business to your customers to your development team. Seeing this full picture will allow you and your team to build a properly prioritized roadmap that can be understood by anyone in your business.
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