While the important things get done, some things naturally fall down the backlog. In many ways this is good prioritisation. Eventually those same items may be forgotten or completely disappear from the roadmap the following year. Sometimes, that’s a good thing and they’re not missed. Sometimes this process can come back and bite you later.
In some situations you’ll find that organisations give a lower priority to ‘non functional requirements’ or ‘technical debt’, or can’t find the time amongst their goals to take them on. The rewards on offer from those exciting new features in the roadmap are too good to ignore!…
So the challenge for many Product Managers is how to keep everyone happy and as much as possible align evidence with their decisions. The old saying ‘you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people, some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time’ is pretty true I’ve found.
The ‘Balanced Diet’ roadmap is my pitch at trying to address this!
It’s by no means perfect, but more a basic way of ensuring that those involved in shaping and influencing the roadmap, at every level, understand the value of key areas that can make or break a product.
We all know roughly what a balanced diet in food terms is (the NHS advice is hereif you don’t) but in a product sense it’s much harder to qualify. For me there are 3 key product areas for a balanced-diet:
- New features
- Enhancements to existing features/bug fixes
- Technical / platform improvements
New Features are always the ones that stakeholders, product people, owners, marketing folks and even developers get excited about – after all, they’re new! How could you not get excited about that amazing new widget, that new UI or that whatever-thing that we want to do, it’ll change the world! Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all that and forget about some of the less glossy things that NEED doing (to keep your existing users using).
Enhancements and bug fixes for me are all about keeping the product on top. Making sure that those niggly bugs are triaged and there’s capacity for the development teams to resolve some of those issues that have been causing negative reviews in the App Store, hurting your analytics or even generating issues for customers. Getting those areas enhanced or at a basic level, developing some fixes – will raise the game of the whole product. Why have them in the roadmap? It gives weight and focus, ensuring that your sponsors or those involved in the strategic aspect understand the value of a strong product with a great UX.
‘Technical’ and platform development can sometimes come along with those new features we’ve already talked about. In Agile, a true slice of the pie generally means that building functionality rather than building capability separately. However in almost every product I’ve been a part of there’s been some aspect of ‘technical debt’ or technical improvement that’s required some kind of investment either in financial sense, development, devops or a combination of all. For me highlighting these on the roadmap is critical especially where there are dependencies and investment considerations.
At a strategic level, communicating upward the value in these 3 areas and breaking down what’s in them is really important. It can be very easy to chase the benefits of new features and solve the latest customer problem whilst forgetting those fixes you’ve been putting off.
Our news feeds are occasionally spattered with organisations that have had security or functional issues affecting millions of their users. Issues that more than likely had their roots in a product strategy somewhere long since forgotten.
At the simplest level, ensuring that you have a little bit of the ‘balanced diet’ in your roadmap, combined with good research, testing, prioritisation and development will help incrementally build a secure, reliable, stable product with the features that users are looking for.
A little bit of everything can be good for you.
… and eat your greens!