You’re a product manager, and you need to run a collaborative roadmapping exercise with various teams across your company. Not sure where to start? We’ll walk you through the process, step by step.
What is a Collaborative Roadmapping Exercise?
A collaborative roadmapping exercise is an ideation meeting. People from different departments brainstorm, share insights, and work together to determine what direction to take the company’s product next.
As the leader of this exercise, you bring together all appropriate stakeholders for an open discussion about your product’s strategic priorities.
The result of this meeting might be a set of ideas that support your existing roadmap strategy. Some ideas might come out of this exercise that persuades the group to make fundamental changes to the roadmap and take the product in a new direction.
Organizing a Collaborative Roadmapping Meeting: A 10-Step Process
Because we’re living in the COVID era, let’s assume you’ll need to virtually run this meeting. The good news is, with a team collaboration platform such as Microsoft Teams, you can easily create an entirely digital environment built around your collaborative roadmap exercise. This environment can help you with every stage of the exercise: before, during, and after. Here’s how.
Before the Meeting
Step 1: Invite the right people.
In the next section, we’ll discuss which departments and teams you’ll want to be represented in your meeting. For now, the key is to set up a dedicated collaboration platform for this group. We’ll assume you’re using Microsoft Teams. You can create a “Collaborative Roadmapping Team” or “Roadmap Ideation Team.” When you’ve completed your attendee list, send them an invite to a Microsoft Teams video meeting.
Step 2: Ask invitees to prepare strategic insights and ideas.
Include in your invitation a request that all participants come to the meeting with any strategic insights, particularly what they’ve gleaned about your market, product, or personas. Also, ask them to bring any ideas they have for the product.
During the Meeting
Step 3: Review the existing product roadmap.
During this ideation meeting, you will use your current roadmap as the centerpiece to kick off the discussion. As the product manager, it will be your job to open the meeting by walking the team through your existing roadmap and strategic goals.
Step 4: Summarize the relevant market conditions.
After you’ve reviewed the roadmap, you’ll want to talk your attendees through the state of your market. Has a crucial competitor been acquired? Is your target industry undergoing an economic surge or falling on difficult times? What has changed in your market, and how could those changes affect your product?
Step 5: Open the meeting up to brainstorming and ideation.
You’ve reviewed the current situation: your roadmap, your goals and plan for the product, and your market’s conditions. It’s time to open up the meeting for discussion. Here you are looking for attendees to share their unique perspectives based on their market interactions. Ideally, those insights will spark conversation, debate, and new ideas.
Step 6: Weigh competing ideas and vote on priorities.
You’ve reviewed the current situation: your roadmap, your goals and plan for the product, and your market’s conditions. It’s time to open up the meeting for discussion. Look for attendees to share their insights based on their market interactions. Ideally, those insights will spark conversation, debate, and new ideas.
Pro tip: You can measure the strategic value and costs of competing ideas using several prioritization frameworks. Weighted scoring and opportunity scoring are just two of the many proven approaches. We have an entire book filled with them:
Step 7: Assign action items for pursuing any new ideas.
Let’s say you’ve settled on a few potential new strategic priorities for your product. Maybe your team has voted to try opening a new market or going after a new user persona. Your next steps will involve research, resource planning, and other logistical work. Now it’s time to assign those tasks to the right people. Here’s what this might look like:
Let’s say your company is a software maker for the healthcare industry. Your current flagship product is a billing and time-management app that addresses the unique needs of medical practices. Today, your crucial client base is the small doctor’s private practice.
During your ideation meeting, the team brainstorms a new idea: Make a few strategic changes to the app, and you can market it to small dental practices. After voting on several other suggestions, the group decides this is the most viable idea. At the end of this meeting, you and your team assign action items to the relevant people:
Action item: Determine the Total Addressable Market (TAM) of small dental practices.
Action item: Conduct a competitive analysis. (Which companies are already solving this problem? Can we do it better?)
Action item: Develop user and buyer personas for your product at these dental practices.
Action item: Do an assessment of resources, capacity, timeline, budget, etc.
After the Meeting
Step 8: Send out a recording of the video meeting.
You discussed a lot of big-picture insights and ideas in your collaborative roadmapping exercise. It will be valuable for all attendees to have a digital recording of the meeting. Fortunately, if you were using Microsoft Teams, you were able to record the entire video conference. Now you can send it out to everyone through the “Roadmap Ideation Team” channel you created on the Teams platform.
Step 9: Conduct and share all relevant research with the team.
Set up a dedicated digital environment for this ideation group. Because you can now all share whatever research and additional insights the team generates based on the action items they took from the meeting. Here’s where you’ll want to upload your research on the Total Addressable Market for the new adjacent market, for example. You’ll also want to share the user or buyer persona you’ve drafted based on the post-meeting research you’ve done.
Step 10: Update your roadmap accordingly and share it with the team.
Finally, we’ll assume your team’s research led to a new strategic direction for your product. You will want to update your existing product roadmap to reflect this change and then send the entire team’s updated roadmap. If you’re using Microsoft Teams and the ProductPlan roadmap app, you can easily share these roadmap updates through your Teams platform—using the ProductPlan-Teams integration.
Note: In this hypothetical, we’re assuming you’ve earned the okay from your executive staff to move forward with whatever changes in the direction your team agrees on after your ideation session. But that executive-approval step requires a lot of strategy and planning as well. If you’d like help, read this blog written by ProductPlan co-founder Jim Semick:
Who Should Attend Your Collaborative Roadmapping Exercise Meeting?
This meeting should include representatives of departments across your company who have one thing in common. They should all have direct interaction with your market, your customers, and your prospective customers. That will include teams such as:
You’ll want both sales leaders and reps in your ideation session. These are the people hearing the requests, concerns, and needs from your user and buyer personas every day. They also hear objections, which means they know where your existing product falls short and might need retooling.
Pre-sales (or sales engineers)
These are the experts who help your sales team with the technical aspects of the sale. They regularly sit with prospects and customers, discussing the technical needs, goals, and frustrations of these companies. Their input will be valuable in your collaborative roadmapping exercise.
This is another team of front-line professionals in your company who have direct contact with your customers regularly. They have a sense of the common challenges or shortcomings with your products. They might also have other insights they don’t even realize are valuable. For example, maybe your CS team fields many questions from a user persona your sales team didn’t know was actually using your product.
This is the group of implementation experts, training specialists, and other post-sales professionals who work with new customers to roll out your product for them. They’ll have a unique set of insights and maybe some useful ideas about strategically improving your product.
What Are You Trying to Get Out of Your Meeting?
Above all, collaborative roadmapping exercises should be outcome-driven. You don’t hold these meetings just for fun. Before you schedule one of these sessions, you need a clear idea of what you want the meeting to accomplish.
If we had to boil down the goal of a collaborative roadmapping exercise into a single objective, it’s this. You’re trying to answer the question: What’s the next thing we should be doing strategically with this product?
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