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Strategic Roadmaps That Energize & Drive Consensus – Three Key Elements

NOTE: The following is a guest post by John Mansour. If you want to submit your own guest post, click here for more information

Products are certainly the most important element of delivering the roadmap, but they’re the least important part of the story when it comes to creating and communicating a strategic roadmap that generates excitement across disciplines and drives consensus.

The intent of a strategic product roadmap is to articulate key product initiatives that support the goals, objectives and market direction of the organization.    For product management teams though, the biggest challenge is presenting a cohesive roadmap that tells a compelling story and energizes other disciplines to the point of consensus.  Hence, the most critical elements of a strategic product roadmap aren’t detailed descriptions of product initiatives or project plans.  They’re elements that provide context in a non-product dialogue others can easily relate to and get excited about.

When creating and presenting your next strategic roadmap, lead with the following three elements and you’re all but guaranteed a more favorable response than those elicited by roadmaps that offer nothing more than a laundry list of development projects and due dates.

1. The Plot

“What will this roadmap do for our market position?” Your senior executives establish company goals and objectives based on financial targets and market conditions surrounding your organization.  The headline of any strategic roadmap should acknowledge these goals and the market influences behind them at a level that exudes credibility and spot-on market insights. Competitive landscape, adoption trends, converging technologies and shifting buyer paradigms (relative to your business/market space) provide a solid backdrop for every strategic roadmap.

2. The Pillars of Your Story

“How will this roadmap advance the strategies of our target buyers?” The supporting points of your storyline should demonstrate strong knowledge of target market dynamics and trending business practices of organizations in those markets (without regard to your products). This information provides the necessary context for any proposed product investments.  For maximum impact, articulate business scenarios from the perspective of a target buyer CEO.

For example, “to help non-profit organizations raise more money and lower the cost of raising it, we’re going to eliminate the complexities of segmenting prospective donors and deliver highly targeted marketing messages to each group through marketing mediums most common to each.” With this context as the backdrop, describe proposed product solutions as high-level use-cases instead of feature lists and they’ll make complete sense to everyone.  “The current process is…and we’re going to simplify it by…which results in…”

Present a series of high-impact solutions as such for each of your target markets and the required product investments will be a much easier sell.  Why?  Because you’re selling the market value of a single cohesive roadmap instead of a laundry list of product improvements often perceived as highly disconnected and not strategic to your organization.

3. The Close

Connect the two previous elements to summarize your pitch.  “If we help non-profits raise more money at a lower cost and help hospitals increase the volume of higher margin services to offset declining reimbursements, we’ll be well-positioned to meet our 30% growth target.” Any further opportunities to put your sales hat on and embellish the story with anecdotes about competition, customers and common sales situations will only help your cause.

In written document form, the above content should be bold headings and short, succinct bullet points that tell the story at-a-glance.  In presentation format, compelling graphics and short phrases should tell the story while details reside in the slide notes.

Creating and presenting strategic roadmaps comes down to a positioning and storytelling exercise for product management teams once they’ve completed their market homework.  Know your audience, know which buttons to push and speak their language.  Make it a habit to improve your leadership quotient and success will come with far greater ease.

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John Mansour is the founder and president of Proficientz, a company that specializes in B2B product  portfolio management.