Your role as a product manager means you’re putting a lot of thought in to the long term vision of your product. We all know that, counting up all of the minute details you’ve got your finger on that you know will need to be accomplished along the way, getting this all into one page in the form of a roadmap will simply not be easy.
Too often, a roadmap becomes a tangled mess of blocks, arrows, notations, and scribbles. When fully digested and understood, sure, it might accurately depict where you’re taking the product, but it generally looks plain scary or incomprehensible to the rest of your company.
In order to keep your roadmap under control, remember its purpose: Your roadmap is supposed to be a visual representation of your long-term strategy.
It’s equally important to remember what it’s not: It’s not a Gantt chart, or a detailed release plan. It’s not a promise of delivery, or a depiction of user numbers or revenue.
Instead, it’s a high level look at how your product strategy will align itself with the business strategy and help the rest of the business meet objectives.
Choose the right formatThe format of a roadmap is loosely defined – and that means you can shape it to suit your own needs. This might be as simple as a table within a Word document with a list of items within each column, representing the expected delivery for each quarter. It might also be complex, detailed out in a heavily formatted Excel sheet.
When I started off in product management, my first roadmap was simple, and over time, I developed it into a much more functional version that allows me to update quickly. I’m happy to share copies of a roadmap template I’ve created and iterated on using Excel.
Get the right level of detail
The roadmap shouldn’t include every feature you plan on releasing along the way. When it boils down to it, you’re putting a feature into the mix because it makes up a larger piece of the puzzle. Assuming you’ve got your priorities in line, those large pieces should make up a series of blocks that represent a business objective or a strategic goal.
Resist the urge to cram every feature into it, even for the short-term representation.
Make it visual
Break your roadmap up into streams or sections so that it’s clear which areas are setting out to achieve various business objectives or cater to various key users.
Use symbols or colours to depict associations or statuses. Make use of various shapes to outline a flow, or introduce dotted lines to insinuate uncertainty. This doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be!) complicated, but should aid the presentation of the items on the roadmap as a whole.
Finally, don’t be afraid to toss it out and start fresh when an old format doesn’t suit your current needs.
I used to be pretty intensely private about my life, at least when it came to sharing online. That started to change for me when I met Twitter, and slowly and tentatively started putting a little more of myself in the public eye with each tweet.
I’ve been exploring the new Timeline view in Facebook, and I love it.
I did, however, have a peek at what the ‘public’ sees when they visit my profile. Turns out a lot, despite my tight settings. Typical. I suppose this is the way things are going.
There’s a war on privacy here, and I’m giving up the fight. And I’m going to try to do it amicably.
Instead of fretting every time Facebook purportedly changes their layout and along with it, your sharing settings, I’m making my profile pretty much public to the world, and, as I would always be anyway, being mindful of what I post.
There’s not really much here any more that I wouldn’t have posted on Twitter anyway, and I realise that anything posted with even the most privacy settings is never guaranteed to stay that way.
This goes hand in hand with my more open ‘friending’ policy I’ve adopted over the last couple of years, as well as the increasing blending of my personal and professional lives.
I’ve made this point before: If I get turned down for a job, or turn off a potential partner because of something I’ve posted in the past, I probably am better off without that company or person.
It helps that I work and live in the tech world (as opposed to law or finance, where this kind of attitude is generally looked down upon), where my colleagues, peers and dates tend to live just as publicly as me, if not more.
In exchange for my private data over the years, I’ve had access to the fantastic services rendered by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, including not only a massive suite of tools to manage myself, my data, and my relationships, but also the creation of a digital experience that’s moulded to me.
I’ve gotten strange looks when I’ve said this in the past, but I like highly targeted ads. I’ve always liked advertising in general, but I love when an ad speaks to me, reminds me to do or buy something I probably had an interest in anyway, and allows me to interact with it.
So no, I don’t worry about my privacy, and I’m happy that we’re parting ways maturely and on such good terms.
But what do I worry about?
I worry about building a filter bubble I’ll never be able to see beyond, or scarily, realise that I’m even in. I like that my digital life is relevant to me, but I don’t want to be left ignorant of important events, news or knowledge just because some algorithms determine it’s not the type of thing I’d click on.
I hope to see a rebellion here, a series of services I can hook my existing digital self into that will help me explore the world outside my bubble without getting drowned in information.
More than anything, I worry about not owning any of this data. I realised the other day that my Facebook profile is among my most prized possessions – my contacts, my history, everything I’ve said and all of these cherished messages from friends for the last few years – and it’s something I don’t even own. In a snap, all of that history and information could be taken away, and I would be rendered heartbroken, as if someone had burned boxes full of my photo albums, diaries, and little black books.
Unlike other aspects of this greater issue of privacy, this data ownership is something that I can at least do a little something about. I’m going to be making an effort to publish more to here and push to my networks rather than the other way around. Now that my networks are essentially open to the world, I’m going to treat them like subscription channels into various aspects of my life, all fed from a central repository of all of the stuff I create online.
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Having had experience in both roles, she outlined the difference in job descriptions, pointing out that, in fact, the two roles were more alike than not. She identified this overlap as an opportunity for the two roles to help each other out, but highlighted the risk of treading on each other’s toes.
As a UXer herself, she outlined some practical questions on what she could do for her product counterpart, and in turn, what a PM can do on their side to help keep things running smoothly.
In the end, she drove the point home that the key to having UX and PM roles working together most effectively is to communicate.
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