How Product Roadmaps Kill Outcomes [Dave Martin]
How is the outcome-based roadmap different from regular roadmaps? Why do product managers need them?
Ready to dive in to learn more?
- Regular roadmaps kill outcomes by forcing teams to think in the categories of features and timelines. They lack vision and lead nowhere.
- The outcome-based roadmap focuses on delivering value to customers instead of obsessing about building specific features.
- It’s difficult to implement outcome-based roadmaps because stakeholders don’t trust product teams to deliver on business goals.
- Many companies lack differentiation strategies and drive product development by copying competitors.
- As companies scale, they often cannot satisfy customer needs equally well.
- Strategic value is about aligning features with the company’s vision and long-term goals.
- Build a product that users love by delivering value and a good product experience.
- To be actionable, a product strategy should focus on specific user behaviors that create customer value. It should also give you tools to measure progress.
- Instead of using data and evidence, many teams rely solely on solutions and untested assumptions. Evidence-based learning is essential to satisfy customers and grow.
- Teams should be supported to experiment and fail fast if they’re not getting the results they need.
- If you want to see how Userpilot can help you track user behavior, collect feedback, and run experiments, book the demo!
How roadmaps kill outcomes
A classic roadmap is a list of features with a timeline.
The thing is, users don’t need the majority of features that product teams build.
The Pareto rule states it’s only about 20% that delivers the most value but you can find data suggesting it’s even less, around 10-12% – if you’re lucky!
In other words, most of the features don’t support the outcomes you’re trying to create for your markets and your customers.
The outcome-based roadmap is an alternative to traditional roadmaps.
It’s based on a different mechanism. Instead of features, it’s organized around the promise of value. That’s what you commit to, not specific functionality.
Why is this better than the traditional approach?
There could be different ways to achieve an outcome, but once you commit to a feature, you lose that flexibility. An outcome-based roadmap removes such constraints and prioritizes delivering a positive change to users’ lives.
Unfortunately, implementing such roadmaps isn’t easy in practice. Leadership and investors often challenge them because they can’t see anything tangible that they’re paying for.
As a result, they very often morph into regular roadmaps.
Challenges of product management
Product managers who try to deliver on the outcome promise face a lot of challenges in SaaS organizations.
What are the most acute ones?
Lack of senior leader trust
A very common challenge is that senior leadership doesn’t trust their product teams enough.
As a result, product managers don’t have enough autonomy to do product discovery and look for real user problems that would be worth solving.
This means that whatever they work on isn’t always aligned with customer or market needs.
Poor market differentiation
Poor market differentiation is another reason why product discovery doesn’t happen.
The momentum gap
The product momentum gap happens when organizations start to scale.
As they get larger or introduce new product lines too quickly, we often go too broad with the market that we’re serving and start losing touch with the customer’s needs. In other words, the product-market fit becomes weaker for some of the target audience.
One of the consequences of this is that the sales cycles slow down.
Opportunities to deliver outcomes
So how do you avoid the product momentum gap? Or bridge it when it appears?
Let’s look at some opportunities that PMs might explore.
Create strategic value
PMs are under a lot of pressure to deliver features – from the sales team chasing a deal, the customer service colleagues trying to alleviate customer pain points, and executive leadership eyeing market expansion or increased market share.
To make matters worse, popular prioritization frameworks focus on short-term goals.
Strategic value is much more than adding new features to the product, though.
It’s about prioritizing features that align with the company’s vision and long-term goals. It focuses on the big picture and sustainable returns.
Build products that customers love
If your customers sigh in despair every time they need to use your product, you aren’t going to make it.
Your product must fill your users with delight whenever they use it. Instead of despair and dread, they must feel excited, empowered, and satisfied.
This is where a product-led growth strategy comes in.
Scaling is not just about growing bigger; it’s about growing smarter.
As mentioned, SaaS businesses that grow fast often lose the understanding of user needs.
You must ensure your product can serve larger markets without compromising on quality or customer satisfaction.
Common mistakes product managers make
Prioritizing valuable outcomes, building delightful products, and scaling smart is easier said than done. They all come with challenges and pitfalls that prevent successful growth.
Here are a few common ones.
Roadmap to nowhere
The ‘road’ in ‘roadmap’ implies a journey towards a goal.
However, many product teams create the ‘Roadmap to nowhere’ – loaded with features, but without a clear destination or vision.
Such roadmaps may seem impressive, but as they lack strategic direction, they don’t deliver results. Nothing changes when you build the features.
An effective product roadmap should be a prototype of the product strategy, outlining the journey to the envisioned destination. Importantly, it should be dynamic, evolving with time and changing circumstances.
Product strategy not actionable
Despite the efforts invested in crafting product strategies, they often fall short due to their lack of actionability.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You craft your strategy, share it as a document or presentation, explain it briefly, and then everybody forgets about it and life goes on as usual.
That happens when the strategy fails to elaborate on creating customer value.
For the strategy to be actionable, it should detail the user behaviors or actions aimed at creating or enhancing customer value.
An actionable strategy should outline your detailed goals, give you a point of reference to prioritize against, and enable you to measure your progress.
No actionable learning
Many organizations depend on opinions – on what works and what doesn’t, what customers want and what they don’t. Such opinions are of limited use.
What they need instead is actionable learning.
What is actionable learning?
Such data should come from various sources. Product analytics, customer feedback, and anecdotal evidence gathered by the customer-facing teams.
How to avoid these mistakes
If you don’t want to make the same mistakes as so many product teams make, there are three things you need to align: outcome strategy, outcome culture, and outcome teams.
An outcome strategy is based on very clearly defined value assumptions of how user behavior creates customer value.
What are value assumptions?
There are two key-value assumptions in product strategy. Have a look at the Venn diagram below.
The first assumption is that if we deliver value to customers and help them achieve their goals, they will help us achieve our business goals – by buying our software and paying subscription fees.
The second assumption is about customer behavior. It’s the actions the user has to be displaying and carrying out for that customer value to be created. That’s the assumption that’s often missing in product strategy.
Deciding what your value assumptions are isn’t everything.
All teams need to be aligned around those value assumptions so that they pursue the same priorities and agendas. That’s how you ensure that you identify and build the right features.
So make sure to agree on and record your value assumptions, discuss evidence to back them up, and choose the best ways to measure them so you can track that you’re moving forward.
An outcome culture is one that embraces experimentation and uses every opportunity to learn for better-informed product decisions.
The ability to constantly test your assumptions and ideas and iterate on them is essential for delivering value to customers. If you don’t do it, you’re going to build software or features that nobody uses.
The experiments could come in different forms and shapes. It could be user interviews and focus groups, it could be fake door tests, surveys, or beta tests. Some may require coding, others may not. Sometimes the release itself is the experiment.
Your learning velocity matters a lot too.
If you’re learning faster than the competitor, you can build a better product than the competitor, which is going to please your business stakeholders.
This also means you can bring to market products that are helping the customer more and that’s going to help please the customer.
If you do it well, the actual B2B software users will get a solution that creates value for them and helps them on a daily basis. And making their jobs easier and reducing the stress and pressure for them is at the heart of product management.
Product teams need to be committed to customer outcomes with transparency.
In practice, this means having the confidence to put your hand up and admit you’re not getting the outcome you want. And then either iterate on it or kill it to focus on building something completely different that will bring you closer to the outcome that’s actually desired.
To be able to do that, teams need a safe environment and support from senior leadership.
How to use Userpilot to create outcome-based roadmaps?
Userpilot is a product growth platform.
Analytics to track user behavior
Userpilot offers excellent analytics functionality that enables you to track every user interaction with your product.
Here’s the breakdown of key analytics features:
- Trend analysis
- Funnel analysis
- Retention analysis
- Path analysis (coming soon)
Such powerful analytics allow you to extract actionable insights to guide product development and deliver optimum value.
In-app surveys to collect customer feedback
There’s nothing difficult about running Userpilot surveys. Just head to the template library, pick one that you need, tweak the question and its design in the WYSIWYG editor, choose users to target, and select the publication date.
Apart from surveys, Userpilot also supports a feedback widget that you can use to collect passive feedback.
Feedback widget to collect feature requests
Another application of the feedback widget is to collect feature requests.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking after reading the article: focusing on features is wrong, focus on outcomes.
You’re right, but hear me out:
Feature requests are a great discovery tool. Just because a customer requests a feature doesn’t mean you should build it.
Instead, follow up with more granular research to find out why exactly they need the feature. Is it because your competitors have it, or do they really have a problem that you need to solve for them?
If it’s the latter, don’t simply build the feature but look for innovative ways to tackle the problem.
Engagement layer to run experiments
Thanks to Userpilot UI patterns, you can run experiments to validate your ideas.
For example, you can use them for fake door testing. First, trigger a tooltip to help users discover the new feature, like in the hypothetical Asana example below, and then a model to tell them what is really happening.
You can also trigger in-app messages to recruit beta testers.
By focusing on delivering roadmap features, product teams often lose sight of the outcomes that the features are meant to deliver. This results in bloated products that are clunky to use and don’t deliver any value.
Outcome-based roadmaps are an alternative approach that puts delivering value over functionality. This gives teams the freedom to pursue innovative solutions to user problems.
If you want to learn more about how Userpilot can help you better deliver user outcomes, book the demo!