Image for post
Image for post

Themes: A Small Change to Product Roadmaps with Large Effects

Jared M. Spool
Sep 17, 2015 · 6 min read

Themes are a Promise to Solve Problems, Not Build Features

A typical roadmap feature might be a data export capability to Salesforce. Customers may have even asked for this feature, saying they’d buy a ton more licenses if the product made it easy to move the data.

Strategy with Customers at the Center

The sheer brilliance of Bruce’s idea is how, with a single gesture, learning everything about the customers becomes the most important focus of creating the product strategy. When companies talk about features, they are saying, “Look at us. Look at what we can do.” When companies talk about the problems of the customers, they are saying, “Look at what you’re dealing with. Look at how we want to help.”

User Research Shifts from Nice-to-Have to Must-Do

You can’t fill a roadmap with customer problems if you don’t know anything about your customers. By moving away from the invention of features (which can be done independent of whether customers need what you’re building), the roadmap technique requires deep and thorough customer insights.

Abandoning the Game of Competitor “Catch-up”

Another major benefit of the shift to solving customer problems is the shift away from playing competitive catch-up. As the product team studies what their customers need, they won’t start by looking at what the competition has. Any competition still working with a feature focus will miss opportunities.

Marketing the Story of the Solutions

Marketing groups face a chore when it’s time to tell the world about the next major release of their product. They have to gather up all the features and synthesize a narrative that makes people want all those things. What is the big story about how these independently designed and developed features make the customer’s life better?

Developing a More Cohesive Design

Part of solving a customer’s problem is making sure you don’t make it worse. By having the problem as the starting point for the project, the development team has an instant baseline to measure against.

Shifting to Themes Is a Challenge

Organizations who have grown up in a feature mindset will struggle with the shift to customer problems. The primal desire to ask, “But what feature are we shipping?” will not go down without a fight. Vigilance among the product strategy team (and air cover from senior management) will be a basic requirement to make Themes work.

UIE Brain Sparks

Thoughts about user experience design and strategy.

Jared M. Spool

Written by

Maker of Awesomeness at @CenterCentre/@UIE. Helping designers everywhere help their organizations deliver well-designed products and services.

UIE Brain Sparks

Thoughts about user experience design and strategy.

Jared M. Spool

Written by

Maker of Awesomeness at @CenterCentre/@UIE. Helping designers everywhere help their organizations deliver well-designed products and services.

UIE Brain Sparks

Thoughts about user experience design and strategy.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store