3 Tools to Go From Strategy to Strategic Roadmap
How “grooming” your strategy can connect and align team execution towards your strategic goals
But how do we get from Strategy to Roadmap? While there is a lot of information available on building a roadmap, there is usually little advice on connecting it with a defined strategy.
Since the roadmap is the first artifact to align execution, this lack of link with strategy is why we fail to hit our strategic goals.
What is the connection between Strategy and Roadmap?
When talking about outcome-oriented strategic roadmaps, the elements that are in each roadmap cell should be more granular versions of your strategic drivers.
Making those drivers more granular resembles the well-known activity of grooming a product backlog. You have to break the strategic problems and opportunities down to lower levels of definition. For those elements you have already undertaken research and discovery, you can define the opportunities in some detail. Other elements that may be little more than assumptions requiring research and feasibility testing will remain high-level and abstract.
(Keep in mind the agile principle of Last Responsible Moment (LRM): Defer making analysis or decisions for items until required. Distant options do not merit large amounts of research and definition efforts yet.)
Luckily, we have 3 tools to break down big strategic opportunities.
Tool 1. Breaking Down Drivers With Opportunity Trees
An opportunity-solution tree can help you broaden your perspective and identify many possible ways to pursue your desired outcomes. When defining your strategy, you can choose a high-level opportunity to pursue your strategic driver.
Imagine, for example, a ridesharing company tackling the problem of increasing safety for their service.
They selected a higher-level strategic driver, “Passenger emergency options,” that will match a “theme” in your roadmap. You can identify lower-level options, such as “Emergency alerting,” that will become your roadmap elements.
The purpose of using the tree is to evaluate several alternatives and choose the most promising ones, either through input analysis or experimentation. For other opportunities that you haven’t broken down yet, if you have enough information, use the tree to add more branches that can later become new roadmap items.
Tool 2. Customer Journey Map
A customer journey map describes a set of activities a user undertakes when using a product or service to achieve a goal, such as “search, compare, select, and view” when watching a movie through Netflix for entertainment. It has many uses and applications throughout the product development process.
After choosing the goals, you want to focus on, describing the journey can help you identify, at a lower level, which aspects of the experience can be improved to hit your desired outcomes. Let me clarify with the previous example, with the strategic driver “Increase safety” for rideshare passengers. We can describe the experience steps as; “Request ride,” “Get in the car,” “During the ride,” “Finalize ride.” You can look at different pains and opportunities related to security during each step in the next figure.
The journey map helped us think of different instances where we have the leverage to reach our strategic goals. We can now evaluate the potential of these problems and opportunities and then turn the appropriate ones into roadmap items.
Tool 3. Traditional “Slicing”
Slicing is something product managers have been using for a long time in their agile practices to make user stories small enough to fit iterations while still adding value. Since we are trying to reach a finer granularity of our strategic outcomes, we can use similar techniques at the roadmap level.
Let’s review a few of the patterns used in slicing:
- User segments: The effort required to solve a particular user segment problem may be quite different from what is required for the entire user base.
- Geography: Split opportunities by city, country, region, or whatever division makes sense in your context. For example, a logistics product would require intense efforts to adapt it to additional destinations. Dividing it to prioritize regions in the roadmap is very useful.
- Operations: Many products cover multiple operations, such as “cancel, modify, return” orders in e-commerce or “create, modify, eliminate” in a files repository tool. Can you split those problems and focus on one at a time?
- Workflow: As with the customer journey map, can we divide the work into stages and split the opportunities directed to each of them? Does it make sense to let the user book a table at a restaurant before we work on the step of searching restaurants nearby?
- Variations: All the above options represent diverse needs that the product needs to cover. What are other potential variations in your scenario, and how can you slice the opportunities?
We have evaluated 3 tools to help you break down big strategic drivers into manageable problems and opportunities. While this is only one of the steps to create a solid outcome-oriented strategic roadmap, it is probably the hardest and the one that truly helps you connect strategy with action.
The next step would be to set the right timeframe and priority to complete your roadmap fully. But we will need to leave that for another article.
If you want to know more about creating strategic roadmaps, download a free section of Product Direction, my upcoming book, describing at length, with examples and templates, the process to successfully create and link Product Strategy, Roadmaps, and OKRs.
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