Stratelight #3: Outcome Based Roadmaps

The Importance of Outcomes

Those of you following me for a while know I'm a big fan of John Cutler's idea of the feature factory to visualize the product development problem prevalent in many companies and his subsequent content on how to escape it.

Jason Doherty struck a nerve by making it clear once again:

"Shipping a feature does not equal success. Changing customers’ behavior in measurable and positive ways is what leads to success."

If you don't understand and track outcomes, you are in a feature factory.

To make this more concrete, an outcome is a measurable change in customer behavior.

Where Most Companies Stop

Most companies are good in the grey area above. Deploying Resources to do Activities and creating Outputs.

Only some companies continue from there, understand the Outcomes of their investment in Resources, Activities and Outputs and thus reach their Goals and have an Impact on the market.

Ok so You Want to Get Started with Outcomes

Outcomes need to be

  • Measurable

  • Aligned to a company goal; and

  • Focused on the customer.

To know if a feature (output) was successful, you need to know

  • what success looks like for each feature

  • how to measure success

  • then you need to measure it.

This is all good, BUT to be able to focus on outcomes for features there is some more prep work to do which is missing in most companies which are stuck in a feature factory.

To focus on outcomes, you first need a product vision (+ goals which will get you there) and a product strategy (a decision making framework).

4 Levels of Product Vision

Product Vision

A product vision should:

  • not be attainable

  • be at least 5 years out

  • be timeless

Example Product Vision: Be the #1 mobile workforce management application for hotel maintenance across the Americas and Europe

Goals

You should define 2-3 SMART goals for the next 1-2 years which get you closer to the vision.

Example Goal: Be used daily by 4% of hotel maintenance crews in European target markets by July 30 2021

Outcomes

It's important to focus on the customer (behavior) here. Outcomes are all about your customers and their world.

If you are familiar with OKRs, a framework popularized by Google, you can compare goals with objectives and outcomes with key results.

Examples

  • Customers create a work order in their native language within 5 min of app download by 31 Dec 2019

  • At least 80% of all users manage at least 5 work orders weekly, whereas today they manage 2 work orders weekly.

Notice the format: customer behavior <A> changes from <x> to <y> over timeframe <t>. It’s best to include your starting and target metrics when defining your outcomes — which of course assumes that you can measure where you are today, which is a key component of managing by outcomes.

Opportunities

Opportunities are the things you think will change customer behavior and therefore positively influence outcomes.

Opportunities are

  • Customer Problems,

  • Customer Gains,

  • Customer Pains, or;

  • Jobs To Be Done

Organizational Setup

Over 60% of product teams use the HiPPO method for feature development. This leads to only 1 in 7 product features achieving any kind of measurable impact.

But for teams in a feature factory this is usually not visible, because such teams are measured by engineering velocity and shipped features.

The effects of this are only visible long-term, when you ship feature after feature and start wondering why customers still flock to the competition. It is only then when some companies realize that while they had a lot of output, the outcomes were mediocre at best.

The ideal setup to achieve outcomes and goals, once defined, is to have cross-functional product teams which build the features and are in close contact with customers.

With the 4 levels of product vision defined you can let cross-functional teams

  • Generate ideas based on the opportunities you negotiated with them

  • Validate which ideas actually solve the customer’s problem, using data and customer feedback (the UX team is your friend here)

  • Create Features based on validated Solutions to customer’s problems.

  • Iterate on features until success is achieved.

Opportunity Solution Tree

To clearly connect outcomes to solutions, use an Opportunity Solution Tree, a concept introduced by Teresa Torres.

Above you see a comprehensive example and how it connects to different detail levels of product development and related artefacts (Roadmap, Release Plan).

Use this concept to be explicit about

  • which ideas you think will solve the opportunity

  • what experiments, hypotheses or possible solutions you tried

  • what the result was and whether to proceed with the feature, abandon the idea, or whether to run a new experiment to improve the idea.

You can use Opportunity Solution Trees as a communication tool for making experiments and learnings concrete for stakeholders.

The concept of Opportunity Solution Trees warrants a post on its own and I can highly recommend all content Teresa Torres has on it.

Outcome Based Roadmap

Yes, we made it! Now it's time to talk about what you came here for. While this may look like a lot of pre-work, using an outcome based roadmap in a feature factory is like putting lipstick on a pig. In the best case it covers up a bit of the problem, in the worst it creates even more disconnect.

Above you see an example of an outcome based roadmap.

Before you get excited and start your own, make sure you have the following in place:

  • A clear product vision and product strategy to manage products by outcomes.

  • A DevOps culture to safely test ideas in production with real customers and get feedback and data.

If you are not there yet, don't shy away. Make small changes over time to get from sales led or engineering led to managing products by outcomes.


🕵️For the full picture, read OUTCOME BASED ROADMAPS : Unleash the Power of a Shared Vision and Purpose published by Jason Doherty.


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- Markus