Your product roadmap is a lot more than a list of deadlines. Roadmaps are a tool for achieving organizational alignment—an essential step towards building a great product. Without alignment, engineering might be building one thing, while sales sells something else, and marketing promotes something entirely different. Not to mention all the confusion, wasted time, and hair-pulling that will inevitably crop up. It’s a product manager’s job to get each department on the same path. To make this happen, they need a roadmap.
Alignment is the goal. And to achieve it, product managers must get buy-in for their roadmap from each stakeholder group. How do they do this? Beyond showing the actual features and objectives included in their roadmap, there are a few general rules of thumb:
- Demonstrate the business case: Product managers must explain, to each department, how their approach will impact the business and how they will change the product’s position within the overall landscape. How does your roadmap take advantage of opportunities in the market?
- Address budgeting and resources: Your business case shows the end result. But you also need to explain how you’ll get there. Whether you’re speaking to engineering, marketing or executives, make sure they understand how your budget and resources will be allocated to achieve the goals laid out in your roadmap.
- Be transparent: How the heck did you make this roadmap, anyway? Be transparent about how you established your priorities, so each stakeholder can understand the rationale.
Also, remember that the buy-in process isn’t just about getting to “yes” on your initial game plan. Listen to your stakeholders, synthesize what they tell you, and be flexible about the end result.
Those are some high-level tips for getting roadmap buy-in. But what are the specific concerns each stakeholder will have? At the core of successful buy-in is strong communication. You must speak to each department’s core problems and address their needs in their own language. Which means understanding 1) what each stakeholder cares about, 2) how to communicate to that audience, and 3) what to actually show them to convince them to get on board.
Let’s tackle buy-in on a team-by-team basis.
- What they care about: Scalability, code, integrity of work, efficiency of work (not taking one step forward and two steps back), building features that add actual value (not just perceived value).
- How to communicate your roadmap: Engineering wants to understand the value for their effort. For developers, integrity is a top priority, and they’ll push back on features that seem difficult to scale or solutions that seem inelegant. You need to be able to explain the intrinsic value of each feature and milestone: to the business, to customers, to the quality of the product. Set realistic time frames (i.e. pad your estimates!), while striking a balance between your sense of urgency and their limited resources.
- What to show them: Focus on developer-oriented themes, like scalability, usability, quality, performance, infrastructure and features.
- What they care about: Long-term vision and growth, KPIs, big accounts, features, internal efficiencies.
- How to communicate your roadmap: Focus on the business case, but especially focus on what success looks like for each feature or upgrade included in your product roadmap. This means actually articulating how your revenue and/or conversions might increase. Also: demonstrate how the roadmap corresponds to the agreed-upon quarterly themes and how it reflects the product’s long-term vision. Show how resources are allocated—and keep the plan on a realistic trajectory.
- What to show them: Both the big picture and the nitty-gritty. Show key themes themes like scalability and infrastructure alongside high-level themes like big features, marketing and sales.
- What they care about: WHAT they can promise customers and WHEN it will be ready, building trust and loyalty, performance improvements for the product, ways to reduce churn.
How to communicate your roadmap: Focus on the timeline. When will different outputs be ready? What can they promise customers and leads right now? Show how the roadmap will introduce ways to reduce churn and improve conversion. And go big: highlight how the needs of large clients will be met, and how your product roadmap creates opportunities for significant deals.
- What to show them: The what and the when. Give them a transparent timeline they can communicate to their customers.
- What they care about: Conversions, competitors, knowing what to prep for.
- How to communicate your roadmap: When presenting your roadmap to marketing, be detail-oriented about the end result—e.g. what the feature will do and how it will look—but not the technical process. Marketers need the juiciest, spiciest, most compelling info. Tell them a story they can sell.
- What you show them: Again, the “what” and the “when.” Focus on big features and major improvements relevant to a wide audience.
Customers + Customer Support
- What they care about: Having a functional, elegant, easy-to-use product. Building (and feeling) trust. Having a product that improves their day and/or makes their work more efficient. Access to relevant product upgrades whenever they are needed.
- How to communicate your roadmap: Your goal is to convince your customers to “hire” your product. Communicate trust, helpfulness and an understanding of their problems. This isn’t the time to talk and talk. Do a lot of listening.
- What you show them: What they asked for. How and when their lives will get more productive.
Another way to ease the buy-in process? Show your stakeholders a polished, easy-to-read product roadmap. Start building roadmaps with our customizable template library!