During my tenure at Coca-Cola, I’ve worked with diverse business groups from R&D (i.e. beverage impresarios) to marketing and ecommerce. One common theme across these groups: they need to modernize their digital platforms to suit the demands of contemporary workforces and customers — folks whose expectations around digital experiences are molded more by consumer applications like Facebook and Gmail than business platforms like SAP and Sharepoint.
Marrying business needs with workforce and customer expectations about user experience requires purposeful digital product development. I created a simple way for my counterparts in the beverage and marketing businesses to identify what they need from a digital product.
Skateboards, rockets, and milestones
My first step is to introduce a visual mnemonic that maps product features to milestones.
This simple transportation metaphor is intended to make the concept of product iteration clear and memorable.
Each milestone is intended to represent a digital product that is both…
- A self-contained product that provides value to end users
- A foundation for the next milestone
“What’s our skateboard?”
Figuring out where to start is the hardest part of bootstrapping a new product design initiative. During conversations with my business counterparts, I’ll ask them “what’s our skateboard” as shorthand for “what is the most basic functionality we can provide that delivers value?”
The Roadmapper template
- Each milestone release is an iteration of the platform — one milestone builds towards the next
- Each milestone release is a self-contained product that provides value to its targets
- Targets are the stakeholders who will benefit from the milestone release
- Features define the behavior of the milestone release: what will the product do?
- Goals/Key Performance Indicators are desired outcomes that can be measured and tracked
- Change Management outlines impacts to existing stakeholders
Adoption is critical to product success and it can be ruined by not anticipating how existing personnel, systems, and behaviors will be impacted by the introduction of new products and processes. I include change management in the template to encourage product designers to consider their product rollout strategy early.
How to use the roadmapper
The simplicity of the roadmapper template allows anyone to rapidly sketch ideas pretty much anywhere:
- on a whiteboard
- on the back of a napkin
- on printouts used during facilitated sessions with executives, owners, or prospective users.
I’ve put together a few variations of the template. The one I use the most are the two pages that separate the first three milestones (skateboard, scooter, bicycle) from the last three (car, airplane, rocket ship). Having six milestones printed out across two pages provides more room for hand-written thoughts.
You can find the Roadmapper template at my GitHub account: https://github.com/patrickbrandt/roadmapper
From roadmap to backlog
Once a high-level roadmap is sketched out, your product team and your software delivery team can begin building a product backlog. This article identifies several techniques you should consider as you iterate through your milestones to keep your product on track.