In the world of software development, a roadmap based on assumptions is nothing but a pipe dream. Smoke and mirrors. And that’s the problem – so many product development roadmaps are based on untested assumptions, rather than value driven enhancements to the product they are supposed to improve.
The answer lies in data. How data should be used to better understand how your stakeholders – your users and customers – engage with your solution, to identify how you can adapt the solution to better suit their needs and release any hidden value you might not even be aware of.
Roadmap to Value
When it’s done properly, a product development roadmap is a powerful, strategic business tool. But to build it well, you need to focus on the value of the product to the business and the needs of the stakeholders it is responding to – the roadmap will help to unlock these over time.
Value to the business
To unlock the value to the business, you need to understand your stakeholders – what they are doing with the system currently, why they are doing it and how much of what else they are doing could be done better by using your system or solution. In the diagram ‘SCap’ is the system and solution capabilities. ‘WTB’ is what your stakeholders want. And ‘JTBD’ are the jobs they need to do. We can start to unlock the value by asking (a) what the customer or user wants but the system can’t do (b) the things the system is capable of that we don’t know and (c) what the user or customer does but doesn’t realise the system can do it. Once we know this, we can identify opportunities to make our product more valuable to users and so unlock the business value.
In agile development, the majority of demands often come from the ‘squeaky wheel’ – the stakeholders who shout the loudest – and the HIPPOs, the highest paid person’s opinion i.e. the most senior stakeholder. These stakeholders are valid sources of input, but their requests must be subject to rigorous validation. If you develop against unvalidated assumptions, the business value won’t be realised.
Data analytics allows us to challenge assumptions – do we know what we think we know? Do our customers and users know about all of our system’s capabilities? Are we providing our customers and users with the best and most effective solution to their problems?
Using a data driven approach to developing your product roadmap will help you identify the opportunities that improve the ways customers transact with you, enhance your relationship, reduce dissatisfaction and ultimately, increase customer retention. From a user perspective your focus on data will help to surface the untested assumptions and open a path to making the system more useful for them. Data analytics (DA) helps you uncover previously unknown problems with the customer experience (CX) and the user experience (UX).
A data driven approach must be designed and planned for – you need to work towards improving your roadmap. And there are cultural and behavioural, as well as business and technical capabilities, that need to be learned. It is a journey, not a jump. With careful, thoughtful and deliberate shifts, you can begin using a data driven approach to enhance your roadmap within a matter of weeks.