ProductPlan Roadmap/Planning Board
Geocaching transforms a hike in the woods or a walk around town into a game. Millions of people worldwide participate in “the world’s largest treasure hunt” as they seek out hidden containers, called geocaches, at specific coordinates. There are over 3 million geocaches hidden worldwide.
This activity uses GPS technology to encourage exercise and exploration that’s fun for the whole family while creating a new community of its own. Since the product is primarily used while users are out and about, its iOS and Android mobile applications are crucial to its overall experience and success. Geocaching.com supports advanced geocachers with an expanded feature set.
"It was a fit for Geocaching for where we are at and where I anticipate us going,” Kelsey said. “ProductPlan lets us be fast and not overanalyze everything. Moreover, as we mature our processes, it will be able to evolve along with us."
Allison Kelsey, Director of Product
At Geocaching, the product management team is part of product delivery, where designers and product managers collaborate to define and specify the product’s features and enhancements. Product managers coordinate with scrum masters, or share those duties with engineers, and together they manage Agile ceremonies.
When Allison Kelsey joined Geocaching as Director of Product in late 2018, she saw an opportunity to improve product strategy communication with executives and stakeholders, and the process for assessing and prioritizing opportunities. Kelsey saw the need for a toolset to support her efforts to evolve the product team and take their product offering to the next level.
Prior, the existing team had tried using other Enterprise roadmapping solutions, but they weren’t satisfied with the results, finding adoption to be inconsistent and the learning curve too steep. The tools didn’t support the type of agility that was the goal of Kelsey’s product team.
Kelsey envisioned collaboration between the Product team and other internal teams leading to increased effectiveness in executing on a strategic product roadmap.
The key improvement opportunity was in defining an effective intake process and idea management system, as well as providing structured visibility to senior leadership around prioritization, product delivery, and how product was aligning initiatives around the company’s OKRs.
ProductPlan has created a mindset shift. It’s a much more evolved conversation now. We have a single source of truth for communicating with stakeholders. We have an ability to have fidelity in our ideation process.
Benefits: A better way to plan and align
After assessing the situation, Kelsey determined that an effective roadmap platform would help her drive improvements to the current system. Kelsey decided to evaluate ProductPlan’s suitability for the Geocaching product delivery organization after having had a positive experience using it previously. Based on her previous experience with the product, Kelsey anticipated that ProductPlan would help support the creation and reinforcement of the planning and product roadmapping processes that Kelsey was eager to institute with her team.
ProductPlan’s rollout within Geocaching was intentionally staged. Kelsey and her dedicated ProductPlan Customer Success Manager began working with the senior management team, and focused on driving alignment around the product strategy.
Next came Kelsey’s product team, who would use ProductPlan to document, organize, and communicate product planning needs.
Nine months after its initial introduction, ProductPlan was rolled out across the team. The extended timeline was deliberately created by Kelsey to effectively manage the transition from the collection of tools previously in use, and to roll out the tool in sync with process improvements and development of communication channels with stakeholders and executives. At this stage, ProductPlan became the primary tool used in the strategic roadmap process.
Over time, Kelsey has found that ProductPlan delivers on its core value proposition of being a simple-yet-effective product roadmapping tool with room to grow.
“It was a fit for Geocaching for where we are at and where I anticipate us going,” Kelsey said. “ProductPlan lets us be fast and not overanalyze everything. Moreover, as we mature our processes, it will be able to evolve along with us.”
If you have tried and failed in the past to bring tools in and struggled to get alignment, buy-in, and evangelizing the change, then this is the platform that could take you there. Even if you just want to do a proof of concept as just one person in your particular role, you can do that effectively.
Geocaching’s product team has greatly benefited from having ProductPlan to coordinate intake, objective prioritization, and roadmap planning processes across its portfolio. The flexibility of the tool, as well as it’s clear design focus on supporting product managers in decision-making and organization, has supported Kelsey’s efforts to evolve the approach to strategic planning.
This is complemented by ensuring their roadmap is always connected to their OKRs. Each item that appears on the roadmap can be tied back to OKRs based on Cost-Benefit analysis, clearly communicating why these items are slotted for upcoming work.
ProductPlan’s List View supported Geocaching’s product team’s efforts to communicate proposed roadmap projects and easily make adjustments to timing and prioritization. This is an ideal view to use in previewing roadmap initiatives with stakeholders.
The team is beginning to use the Connections feature to sequence the initiatives in the roadmap. Being able to set dependencies and automatically adjust the timelines as level of effort is refined, reduces the planning overhead.
The Portfolio view has also offered a valuable rolled up view of a collection of teams’ activities, helping plan around resource-constrained disciplines.
Kelsey’s favorite feature is the planning board. “Sometimes, when I need to build a narrative of where we’re going for the next nine months, I don’t have a lot of time, and the drag-and-drop capabilities let you create a visual view in an hour.”
Finally, ProductPlan facilitates communication with stakeholders. Relying on its secure and cloud-based views, stakeholders always see an accurate, up-to-date version of the roadmap.
"ProductPlan has created a mindset shift. It’s a much more evolved conversation now. We have a single source of truth for communicating with stakeholders. We have an ability to have fidelity in our ideation process.”
Getting team buy-in
Leveraging ProductPlan’s free trial, Kelsey was able to fully explore the product and demonstrate its potential to the rest of the Product team.
Kelsey’s stakeholders wanted to see that help create transparent relationships between development initiatives and OKRs. Meanwhile, the product team wanted to know they wouldn’t have to spend so much time on the tool that it would take them away from the rest of their work.
ProductPlan didn’t limit anyone in the product organization to follow the same, paint-by-numbers approach to strategic planning. While she expects the top-level view to match up and be consistent, beneath the surface, product managers have leeway to use the tool as they see fit.
Kelsey was able to show her product team and senior management the upside of standardizing product planning activities with this solution.
“If you have tried and failed in the past to bring tools in and struggled to get alignment, buy-in, and evangelizing the change, then this is the platform that could take you there. It’s effective so that if you want to do a proof of concept as just one person in your particular role, you can do that effectively."
It was evident that ProductPlan supported Kelsey’s product team’s conversations with the information and visual narrative required to clearly and concisely convey what was important. ProductPlan also proved to be valuable in other ways.
For example, in the summer of 2019, Geocaching held a company-wide idea fair that engaged the entire company in coming up with ideas to improve the product and user experience.
Typically, managing this huge influx of potential development items would be a massive undertaking, particularly around communicating the status of everyone’s ideas and plugging them into the larger strategic initiatives. ProductPlan made this a much simpler proposition.
Close to 100 items were put in the parking lot for the core product, ranked, and assessed on a cost-benefit basis. Of the Top 30, three-fourths have already been planned or released.
With ProductPlan, Kelsey’s team has a single source of truth throughout the roadmap lifecycle, that supports them to drive their conversations strategically. ProductPlan has been an important part of the team’s toolset, and supported work toward a comprehensive planning and execution process.