As I continue to finalize my presentation for Product Camp Atlanta, I decided I would take a look at the most common items on publicly available roadmaps. Formats, level of detail and timelines vary, but some interesting trends emerged as I start to look at 5 or 6 roadmaps. Once I started seeing some trends, I continued to build out the survey of product roadmaps to 50 roadmaps across 30 vendors.
Interesting factoid almost 54% of the vendors in the sample used the words enhanced or improved. I guess sucks less wouldn’t look good on a presentation. Innovation/Innovative surprising only was in 48% of the presentations.
Here are the results of my analysis of the roadmap presentations available online.
(ok – maybe not mega trends, but it was a fun title)
There are numerous reasons to do research, but hopefully you are pursuing a research initiative to better understand what is happening in the marketplace. To that end, the purpose of researching a market is for understanding, not to prove an idea you have. Ideas should come from your research, but too often marketers go into research mode to prove themselves right, their peers wrong or some other equally as jaundiced purpose. Research is about discovery and of course you frame your research in context of a hypothesis, but too often we develop a research framework that ONLY proves the hypothesis. If our goal is to go to prove a point we might pursue limited inputs, sources, survey samples or other put some other constraint one the effort that proves a concept we want to move forward and just satisfies some corporate mandate to do research as part of your checklist or product approval process.
I personally have done a whole bunch of market research that has proved my original idea wrong and I’m cool with that. The reason I’m cool with putting a bunch of work in is that if I hadn’t I just might have wasted millions of development resources and marketing expense pursuing ego based research, rather than striving to understand market facts. This presentation posits not only the orderly way to structure the effort, but how intangibles are increasingly more important in some markets, ok maybe all markets, which requires us to better understand context and culture in our research activities.
I was reminded the other day of the Dilbert cartoon above and it got me to thinking about what other stuff we might not hear around the office at a software company as product managers and product marketing folks.
- I”m pretty sure I lost that deal because I was out sold.
- If you are able to do this demo next week in Des Moines that would be great, since I really need to look busy for my boss and I’m only 30% of quota.
- I’m sorry Mr. CTO, I’m pretty sure we can’t build everything and I hear there are already some good application servers out there anyhow.
- I know it’s been in the backlog for a year, but we are probably never going to change the screens to chartreuse.
- To be honest, I really thought it was a good idea to build the next generation platform, right up and until the migration process.
- No, the client is nowhere near signing and I really have no idea if a discount will help, but you have to take a shot right?
- Just to be clear, I’m pretty sure if I documented what I really thought we could make on this new product you wouldn’t have invested. Am I right?
- No really, I’m not interested in writing specifications for the UI – that’s your job.
- We probably won’t even get 1% of the market with this product.
- Steve, this is Jeff, the product manager of product X, I’m just checking in to see if there are some upcoming demos you need done.
- Cool, only 40 unread emails since I left yesterday. Today is starting off great!
- No, I much prefer we launch 2 months later than planned
- Since we’re agile now we should be able to get to that in 9 months.
- I might have made a bad decision by deciding to launch with this minimalist feature set.
- Good news! It does appear that there is nothing interesting in this release for buyers, so no collateral re-fresh for us!
- Yeah! I get to do another custom presentation for a “big prospect”. Behind the scenes: Insert new prospect logo, search and replace customer name and create 1 slide based on my 2 hour overview from sales on this “unique” buyer.
- I’m pretty sure the product manager just made up those revenue targets and market sizing numbers.
- Shhhh, I just made up that stuff about seamless, enterprise class and scalable for the press release.
- So how exactly should I positively message the fact we accidentally introduced a production down defect in the new release to the whole customer base?
- No really, I look forward to sending those 4 emails to our customers this week, I’m sure they will understand how important our new release is for them by the end of the week.
- Absolutely I’ll sit in on a qualifying call with your prospect, just in case they have some questions about our vision on the products.
- Yup, I guess we did design that wrong.
- It’s theoretically possible that our customers don’t think a migration is a good idea.
- The leads y’all are bringing in are awesome!
- I know you really needed that deliverable for your launch, but I just decided to ignore it – sorry.
- I know you created some new slides, but I really just prefer using these ones from 5 years ago. Oh, the company name changed?
- There’s no way that can be done in 2 weeks, even in Ruby on Rails.
- I can get all that data and have the report for you this afternoon – does that work?
- No rush on the presentation, we can do it next week.
- I understand there are other salespeople which need stuff, let me know when you can get to it.
- We just had our budget approved with no edits and the CFO gave us an extra 10% for FY2011.
- Just tell me what to do, I like working here and I don’t even care if it’s a bad idea and tanks the business.
- At this early stage in the game how about we focus on cash and not revenue?
- You really think all the products are about the same? Hmmm, that might explain something.
- I’m not even sure I can close this deal in Q1 2012.
- Yes, I’m proposing we adopt a new code base because it’s the new cool thing. Did I mention we could do things quicker with “X”?
- A 2 hour pre-call review is a great idea and I really think we should invite those additional 8 people who aren’t going to be on Webex with the prospect for their input to the call.
What other things would you like to hear around the office?
I always thought social science and language arts were the most important courses to have mastered for life and your career until I became a product manager. In product management, I quickly learned that math and specifically the ability to use excel based on your fundamental math skills was critical. Fuzzy value props and interesting word choice when positioning your product internally will only get you so far. Ultimately you need to find a way to validate the impact you and your team is having on the business. This presentation looks more at the value of roadmapping features/release value, but you have to start somewhere to define in a concrete fashion what is being delivered and this presentation directionally works.
In the end it’s just math and process, plus it’s always a good idea to instrument your processes anyhow and prioritize deliverables or the market, the business and your existing customers. While Olsen’s position that Product is in the middle of the market and development covers the main concept, the reality is Product owns the interface across all functional groups where it relates to their given product. Even with that concern with the presentation, which starts early on, it is a very accurate way to look at how to define meaningful metrics on Product Management execution and putting an important variable into the mix, the customer. As an aside, slides 29-38 can be ignored, I’m sure the talk track makes it more meaningful, but it transitions into some UI wonkiness and online specific design uses cases.