Top tips for getting stakeholders and delivery partners to buy in and become advocates.
As every product manager will know, innovation needs money and buy-in. It doesn’t matter how minimal your minimum viable product is, someone else may have to pick up the bill. And you’ll need the help of many people to make the dream a reality. Here are some top tips for getting buy-in to your vision.
1. There are many chapters in a great story
What would Star Wars have been if it hadn’t been broken down into smaller stories? Everyone knows the difference between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. They are all chapters in a broader story. It often makes sense to present a roadmap as a set of quarterly chapters. For example: Q1 – Delivering a best in class mobile experience. Q2 – The fastest, easiest website in the industry. And so on. This gives you the ability to quickly pitch what you are trying to achieve to a broad audience. The individual projects then make more sense in terms of timing and become more credible.
2. Audience, audience, audience
A roadmap is a plan. A vision for what you want to deliver over a time horizon that matters to people. But presentation is key. Remember, different audiences need to get different things out of your roadmap . Your sales director wants to know what they can promise their leads, and commit to as part of a contract negotiation. The CTO wants to know what resourcing they need to put in place and what 3rd parties they need to engage to bring your roadmap to market. Present your roadmap differently to different audiences, depending on their needs. A one-pager for sales. A dependency timeline for your CTO and so on. Get your audience right and you’ll win real advocates.
3. Shorter time horizons are more relevant and credible
Nobody believes or will take the time to understand a digital roadmap that plans out further than 18 months. Why? Because you typically can’t predict what your competition will be doing in 2 months let alone a year. If you have a 5 year roadmap, consign anything beyond 18 months to the ‘future ideas’ backlog. To be credible, you need to have a plan that people can fit into the context of the broader business including budgeting timeframes. Plan brilliantly, with an eye to the medium term.
4. Show stakeholders a real customer and you’ll win hearts and minds.
Business cases will help you to prioritise and have their place. However in my early years within product management I sweated for hours on building evidence based business cases. In reality executives have seen too many failed business cases to trust them. Show them the desires of real consumers and you’ll win hearts and minds. I have presented roadmaps that didn’t include a single number, but told a story with videos of real consumers spelling out their needs and gripes. Getting the buy-in to your roadmap requires the skills of a story-teller rather than a mathematician.
5. A roadmap is a journey not a commitment.
If success is your destination, your roadmap is the journey. But success may look different tomorrow from what it did yesterday. I have never performed a roadmap retrospective and said to myself ‘great job, I delivered exactly what I committed to’. If you deliver precisely what was on your original roadmap, you’ve probably stopped listening to customers or watching the competition. Moreover, technology, sales and operations teams have to deal with high degrees of change and won’t always want to be shackled by commitments in time horizons that are unpredictable at best. Help partners to understand that your roadmap is a journey and that you want to take with them, not a rod that you will use to beat them. They are more likely to commit to the journey than the destination.