Unlocking the next critical task for engineers: shaping the roadmap.

In the bustling world of product development, Jane, Joe, and Alice find themselves in a critical conversation with their product manager, Bob. Bob is enthusiastic about a new feature that promises to significantly boost the company’s revenue and elevate the team’s OKRs. However, Alice spots a potential issue.

Alice: “Hey Bob, this seems like a huge undertaking. Won’t it take around 3 months to build?”

Bob: “Exactly! And then our metrics will soar.”

Alice: “Okay, but what if they don’t?”

Bob: “What do you mean? Of course, they will. This feature is exactly what our users have been asking for. We’ve tested prototypes with a focus group, the design team is thrilled, and the executives are all on board. This is the way forward.”

Alice: “Right. But we need to show improved metrics this quarter, don’t we?”

Bob: “Yes.”

Alice: “So, if a quarter is 3 months and this feature takes 3 months to develop, how will we demonstrate an improvement in our OKRs? The changes won’t take effect until next quarter. Plus, we won’t know if we’re making progress until we’ve finished. Not to mention all the testing required if we release everything at once. There are many moving parts…”

Jane: “Oh, and let’s not forget the messy code we’re dealing with. We have no idea what we’ll encounter.”

High Risk, High Impact
Bob’s idea is solid, but engineering can’t achieve it in one giant leap. A more refined roadmap is crucial.

Where Roadmaps Falter

Product Managers Have a Tough Job.
Product managers face a daunting task. They envision a grand future for the product but are confronted with its current flawed state.

Transforming the product from its imperfect form to a polished, refined state is your responsibility. You’re tasked with making it happen. The product team is accountable for its impact on metrics. Together, you own the outcome.

A flawed vision won’t reflect in your metrics. Users may not engage with the feature, there might be unforeseen issues, or it simply doesn’t resonate with your user base. You never truly know until you test it. If I had a dime for every person who praised a product idea but didn’t follow through, I’d be wealthy.

A poor implementation can also fail to deliver the desired metrics. It might take too long, causing users to lose interest. Or it could be buggy and difficult to use. Or, after three months, you discover your core assumption was incorrect, and users actually wanted something different. Worse yet, you might miss a critical dependency, disrupting workflows and upsetting users.

Enabling Product/Engineering Partnership

A successful product/engineering partnership involves enabling both your product manager and yourself to run experiments and validate assumptions early. The lesson from “Writing software is like kicking a can” is that as you ship, you’ll learn more, and your vision will evolve.

The smaller your steps, the more accurate your results will be.

Conclusion

Engineering teams need to focus on incremental progress rather than monumental leaps. By refining the roadmap and validating assumptions early, you can ensure that your product development aligns with user needs and delivers measurable improvements in metrics. In the end, small, calculated steps will lead to more accurate and successful outcomes.

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