Posted By Tench Forbes
May 16, 2013
Abstract: This post contains Q&A with John Mansour, managing director of BPMA sponsor, Proficientz, which summarizes the discussions during his May 9, 2013 BPMA Practitioner's Workshop on Creating Strategic Roadmaps that Energize Executives.
Category: Planning, Analysis & Strategy
The May 2013 workshop continued the BPMA’s series on defining winning product strategies. John Mansour, Founder and Managing Partner of BPMA sponsor, Proficientz, provided solutions for creating strategic roadmaps that energize executives, excite sales, inspire marketing and focus product development teams. During this interactive session, John provided techniques for creating strategic roadmaps.
Below, we review some of the questions that came from the audience and others about this topic:
1). How do you sell a long term strategic roadmap internally to your management when companies are focused on meeting their quarterly/yearly goals? Please provide some examples if possible.
The fundamental difference between strategic roadmaps and product roadmaps are the fact that strategic roadmaps are problem and solution specific, meaning their market value has a longer shelf life, while product roadmaps are feature and due-date specific and usually have a very short shelf life in terms of market value. But a strategic roadmap isn’t always a long term roadmap. There are two components that make a strategic roadmap easier to sell whether it’s short or long term.
A strategic roadmap is more focused on solving industry-wide problems that have more strategic business value to your target customers and therefore more strategic and financial value to your organization.
A strategic roadmap isn’t product specific. It’s business/industry problem & solution specific and therefore easier to communicate and socialize the market value versus typical product roadmaps that are limited to tactical features for users and due dates.
Solving bigger problems that drive new growth is what gets executives excited and committed.
2) Related to #1, how do you prioritize the strategic roadmap items against the tactical product enhancements?
Prioritization is never easy but the benefit of establishing strategic roadmaps is that they define high-level business value themes (relative to your target customers) across all products, for example, operational efficiency or customer loyalty. When those same business themes are used as the main driver to individual product enhancements, you get economies of scale by focusing R&D on products and features most relevant to those themes instead of spreading resources too thin across all products all the time.
3). How do you create a roadmap that delivers differentiating value that’s strategic enough to drive significant growth? Can you give some examples?
Many of our customers are very good at this. Here are a few examples of some high-value solutions that are strategic to an industry. Neither of the examples below are single product solutions.
US Healthcare regulations are changing the landscape for health plan administrators and how they sell their services. Instead of selling primarily through employers, they’ll have to also sell directly to consumers to drive growth going forward. The vast majority of health plan administrators have no infrastructure to support a consumer-direct model. An out-of-the-box solution that delivers an infrastructure for selling and managing consumer-direct health plans has strategic value to both the solution provider and the health plan.
As more people carry smartphones, the carwash industry is suffering because more people have instant access to weather and won’t spend money on a car wash if bad weather is imminent. A point-of-sale solution that allows carwashes to sell monthly subscription plans has been a gold mine for the solution providers. Their customers, the carwashes, have received three benefits. Weather is no longer a factor for a growing majority of customers, and more than 50% of the carwash revenue is recurring and predictable. Top line revenue is up in more than 95% of carwashes that offer a subscription plan.
4). Where does the roadmap development fit into the best practices for B2B marketing?
In the new B2B product management model that Proficientz teaches, marketing and product marketing are much more involved in the creation of the roadmap because strategic roadmaps are far more market-segment and solution specific than they are product specific. This approach requires an overall market strategy that has to include coordinated marketing and sales initiatives in current target markets as well as future target markets. The end result is much stronger alignment across product initiatives, marketing programs and sales focus.
5). You mention that roadmaps must be strategic to the entire organization. What is the best way to accomplish this?
The secret to creating roadmaps that have strategic value to the organization is to divorce your thought process from all products and focus on industry problems and needs that are critical to your target customers at the senior executive levels. Once you understand business drivers at that level, the most critical needs at a departmental and user level will become clear very quickly and drive the strategic roadmap.
6). How does the roadmap advance the strategies of the company’s target buyers?
If you evaluate the needs of a market by industry and/or discipline it’s easy to understand the needs with the most strategic impact. For example, solutions in healthcare or financial services that support key regulatory requirements or solutions that help retailers combat poor customer loyalty and online competition have extremely high value. Any solutions that are strategic to your target customers will likely have strategic value to your organization. In most cases, solutions of this caliber require multiple products and/or services.
7). You stated that creating and presenting strategic roadmaps comes down to a positioning and storytelling; can you give some examples of roadmaps that "push the audiences’ buttons” to achieve acceptance?
See the response to #3 above. Sell the value to the target customers in each market.
8). How can you determine that your roadmap suffers from "Shiny New Object Syndrome”, and how can you turn it around?
The biggest reason roadmaps suffer from shiny new object syndrome is the proposed improvements are usually limited to a single product and therefore don’t solve a need that has strategic value to your target customers or your organization. Shiny new objects are someone’s opinion of a strategic solution but few are because they’re confined to a product, and the scope and magnitude of problems that can be solved with one product are small – not strategic, hence, the constantly changing priorities. Strategic roadmaps that are product specific will suffer from shiny new object syndrome because they’re not really strategic. Roadmaps that are industry and business problem specific are much more insulated from shiny new object syndrome because they’re solving bigger problems that have greater value to one or more markets, and therefore more value to your organization.
9). Innovator's Dilemma: How do you create something new when all your resources are tied up with satisfying existing customer's short-term needs.
The vast majority of a company’s resources will always go to taking care of existing customers because they’re the primary source of recurring revenue. But customer bases erode for many reasons other than dissatisfaction, so a certain percentage of resources have to be invested in growth initiatives for any company to survive over the long term. But every growth initiative doesn’t mean something new has to be created. Consider ways to consistently uncover and solve bigger problems by leveraging your entire portfolio. In many cases, you don’t have to build something new. You just have to do a better job of combining and integrating existing products to solve bigger problems by doing a series of coordinated improvements across a few products to create a new solution that will drive growth.
10). How does Product Portfolio Management- "The Proficientz Way” - differ (and differentiated) from standard product management?
Think of Product Portfolio Management as the new B2B product management and marketing. It’s more than managing and marketing every product like a business. It’s more than being the CEO of your products. And it’s way more than creating and improving products to satisfy the needs of users.
It’s a "whole is greater than the sum of the parts” discipline that elevates the stature of product management and marketing because it influences, leads and advises the organization on the most lucrative markets and growth opportunities across "all products” instead of every product competing for mindshare and resources. Product Portfolio Management creates differentiating value to stay ahead of the competition and drive new growth by solving bigger problems beyond the boundaries of each product while also improving the value of existing products to retain customers and grow recurring revenue streams.
Product Portfolio Management operates under a common strategy across all products because too many competing product strategies aren’t strategic and fragment your organization before you even realize it. Our goal from day one has always been to create a discipline that’s the respected conscience of the organization. Product Portfolio Management is our answer.
In summary, the Workshop provided actionable advice with real world examples from the extensive experience Proficientz has with B2B product Management. The attendees found the workshop to be very informative, with a lively question and answer session. The BPMA very much appreciates John’s contribution, and thanks all the attendees for their active participation.
For more information on Creating Strategic Roadmaps, please contact John at Proficientz (http://www.proficientz.com/).