How Zoom’s Product Strategy Evolved to Keep Pace with an Unprecedented Surge
An analysis of how Zoom's product strategy scaled to meet connectivity demands with an unexpected, unprecedented influx of users during a worldwide pandemic.
Product roadmaps are a hot topic for everyone in the product development process. There are many ways to create roadmaps. There are also many ways roadmaps get used once they’re built. We’re answering the top ten questions on our favorite product management process, the product roadmap.
The top product roadmap questions come from understanding what a product roadmap actually is. A product roadmap encapsulates the product strategy. It showcases how the organization will implement plans. Because of this, a product roadmap is informative and instructive, motivational, and aspirational.
Yet, it isn’t always date based. For example, it can theme based. The purpose is to find the best way to present a roadmap to a stakeholder, to get buy-in on a team, executive, or even customer strategy.
Product roadmaps are the ultimate tool for stakeholder alignment. Goals and objectives prioritized by the organization turn into an executable plan. There are many options for a roadmap. The purpose is to create continual alignment and to help manage stakeholders’ expectations.
Throughout the organization, teams can continually refer to the roadmap for guidance. It’s a tool to showcase how their individual efforts fit into the plan. It’s where strategy meets reality.
The best product roadmaps take a “less is more” approach. These roadmaps concentrate on themes and outcomes instead of listing out every specific feature and delivery date. Leveraging color-coding, legends, and swimlanes to guide the audience in the visual.
Good product roadmaps balance near-term priorities with long-term goals. That is to say; they combine items that showcase immediate progress on pressing issues with steady, ongoing work toward bigger-picture objectives.
Most importantly, a product roadmap must be up to date and accurate. This is to avoid outdated thinking.
A product roadmap’s anatomy contains a few key elements and optional extras to enhance the experience. Swimlanes divvy up specific items into high-level categories, illustrating ownership of different areas. At the same time, themes contain groupings of specific items and projects, all devoted to advancing a strategic goal.
Most product roadmaps include timelines, dates, and milestones. These elements don’t usually need to be that specific or granular. The goal here is communicating relative timing rather than the exact ship date.
Showing the percentage complete of each theme or sub-project can be useful information to share when accurate.
Determining which items should make the cut for a product roadmap is the most difficult part of the process. This is due to stakeholder’s opinions. It isn’t easy to please all stakeholders. Some stakeholders are overjoyed with each decision, while others may be angry or disappointed.
The best and fairest way to do this is using one of the many freely available prioritization frameworks. All frameworks rank each potential roadmap item. Whether it’s DACI or weighted scoring, or the fan-favorite product tree, this priority is based on specific criteria. Criteria that are aligned with the product strategy and desired outcomes. Thus, this process eliminates guesswork and emotions. As a result, you reduce any bias and move forward easily.
The product manager is the ringleader when it comes to product roadmaps. Sometimes this includes the entire product management team. They are the focal point for translating the strategy into actionable work items. This includes synthesizing stakeholders’ input, competitive analysis, and product analytics.
Yet, the roadmap planning process should be both collaborative and transparent. Product management is the engine, but not the sole decider.
It’s best to give as broad a swath of stakeholders possible opportunity to contribute to the process.
This contribution is most effective during the prioritization phase. Thus ideas and suggestions from stakeholders of all stripes should be welcome. It’s critical to build consensus around the prioritization criteria because this ensures alignment with strategic goals.
It’s ideal for including a diverse group in the actual scoring process to include as many perspectives as possible.
There is a common question about how product roadmaps fit in the Agile methodology. Initially, the two seem incompatible. But this is actually far from the truth. The secret is building a product roadmap around business objectives versus a laundry list of specific features.
Agile teams need product roadmaps to provide direction and measurable goals. At the same time, there’s plenty of room for leeway when it comes to implementation. The rationale for what’s being built comes from the product roadmap, not the Agile process. Emphasizing OKRs, KPIs, and themes is key, rather than delivery dates and requirements.
The best product roadmaps speak for themselves and are audience-specific. Executives want to see when major initiatives are slotted. However, engineers want to know the nitty-gritty details.
Ideally, a product roadmap communicates the themes each team is working on, key milestones, and expected outcomes. Starting with a template is the easiest way to begin the process. This applies to a business process, technology initiative, or marketing strategy.
Product roadmapping software is a purpose-built tool. A roadmap is designed to help product teams throughout the entire roadmapping process. This includes a parking lot for the product backlog, a planning board for prioritization, and the roadmap creation itself. Because they’re made for roadmapping, they can boast useful features, including integrations. Other parts of the product stack to communicate updates and ingest the latest implementation status.