Every product designer or developer, even those with years of experience at managing the product concept to market roll-out cycle, is acutely aware of the weight of expectations that come with the territory.
Outcome-based product roadmaps (OBRs) can help in bringing some calm to this storm of expectations and the endless changes that accompany each project. The OBRs help in shifting the focus from loosely defined expectations to well-defined outcomes.
However, even outcome-based road-mapping requires careful monitoring and implementation to prevent catastrophic failures across the concept to market cycle.
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of outcome-based roadmaps, some common pitfalls to avoid, and actionable tips for efficient implementation of the design and development cycle.
The Benefits of Outcome-Based Product Roadmaps
As I mentioned earlier, the primary difference between the more conventional waterfall/scrum-fall roadmap approach and the outcome-based one is the latter’s emphasis on measurable end goals.
With that said, here are some of the upsides to implementing outcome-based product roadmaps:
- They are an accurate reflection of your client’s needs and hence provide a concrete design direction. They are focused on clearly defined end goals and hence, eliminate assumptions and theorizing.
- OBRs are more tightly focused, hence, enabling multiple teams involved in the project to collaborate more efficiently.
- An outcome-based roadmaps are better for task prioritization. Teams know what deliverables to finish first because they’re equipped with the full context of the problems they’re trying to solve.
Hence, OBRs help in avoiding the common pitfalls associated with conventional feature-based roadmaps. That’s probably why experienced designers constantly associate the latter approach with the feelings of “going in circles” or “shooting in the dark” and the former as being more structured and directed.
The Drawback With Outcome-Based Roadmaps
No system is entirely perfect. For all of their valuable benefits, Outcome-Based Product Roadmaps also come with some drawbacks that can suck in even the most experienced strategists and product designers. While we’ve come a long way in terms of our ability to make factual, credible, and accurate predictions about the future, as humans, we’re still incredibly fallible.
Reality has the habit of frequently falling short of projections. While outcome-based roadmaps are better at mitigating these circumstances, they’re not entirely immune to them.
The overarching problem with the OBR is the inability of product teams to identify the right goals for a product. The four key pitfalls to avoid include:
- Conflicting orders from higher-up positions: While an idea might sound good from the comfort of a boardroom or meeting space, it might fall short in real-life execution as well as its ability to meet design and utility expectations
- Proliferated assumptions: Gut feelings, hunches, and extensive experience often lead design decision-makers into assumptions about how the product will fare once it makes it to market.
- Emphasis on expedience: Yes, outcome-based roadmaps can be expedient, but sacrificing methodical research in a bid to rush a product to market can prove harmful to the very ethos of the roadmap.
- Parochial focus on technology: While technology is a great tool in product design and manufacturing, it should remain just that – a means to an end. Placing an emphasis on technology at the expense of goal setting and human ingenuity can prove a fatal flaw in the product design process.
Improving Your Chances of Success
The key to exponentially increasing your chances of a smooth product design/development process using OBR lies in mitigating its aforementioned drawbacks and amplifying its numerous advantages.
In more specific terms, however, here’s how you can strengthen the efficacy of your outcome-based roadmap for product design success:
Define Your Goals
As mentioned in the earlier paragraph, a major problem with Outcome-Based Product Roadmaps is the conflicting nature of goal setting and the delegation of responsibilities. The delineation of objectives forms the backbone of any competent product development effort.
To begin, try to work back from the desired, ultimate objective. You can set out relevant SMART goals to provide you with that North Star..
What features/qualities of the product would your customers most appreciate? And why? It is, of course, difficult to visualize the end from the beginning, but doing so is crucial to creating a product that can appeal to its intended users.
Staying in constant touch with user needs is crucial to developing an informed design process. For example, a manufacturer might think that efficiency in use should be the primary focus of a product, whereas customers value ergonomics and aesthetics a bit more. Hence integrating customer feedback management tools with your OBRs is key to design success.
Another prominent drawback as discussed in earlier paragraphs revolves around how assumptions and contrasting orders can hamper the collaboration process. While a shared goal should be beneficial to the OBR process, the modern-day workplace, with its sometimes irrational bureaucracy and unflinching due process, can hamper effective collaboration.
Isolated decision-making is detrimental to defining outcomes; collaboration is key to OBR success. Teamwork allows critical factors to be given the appropriate weight and creates space for new avenues to be investigated.
Streamlining collaboration is a holistic process that takes all of the concerned parties into consideration. It must involve different stakeholders like designers, engineers, marketing, customer service, testers, sales departments, and most importantly, the customers themselves.
You should use a unified communications solution to better manage external and internal communications. Essentially, it allows you to keep better track of communication and outcomes across all of the channels that you use. This UCaaS readiness test provides a handy framework for determining your needs.
Monitoring outcomes at every development stage allows you to evaluate your product design roadmap and measure results against your set goals, even before the product makes it to market.
Ensure that every goal is measurable. For example, If the goal with the new product (a new computer) processor is to improve speed, then metrics like calculations-per-second and transistor count should be increased.
If the goal behind a new product update/ software version is improved sales prospecting, metrics around sales and customer satisfaction should be assessed for improvement.
With so many interim variables at play, monitoring outcomes helps the design team focus on the targets that are truly important, whilst working to improve the smaller ones.
Object-based roadmaps are inherently designed to be continuously subject to refinement. The teams involved should be open to constantly refreshing the roadmap to account for improvements as identified by the various designers/architects involved.
One major advantage to object-based road mapping is that its fluidity allows teams to make a quick pivot and modify the original plans and objectives when new realities emerge.
As said earlier, we can make calculated predictions about the reception a product will receive from customers and use those predictions as a focal point for road mapping. But, what happens when unforeseen factors emerge (as they often do)?
That’s when you have to pivot the product design focus. With a centralized product design focus and shared goals, OBR allows teams to switch focus and hone in on newly discovered avenues, however far they might stray from the original goal.
Object based road mapping is revolutionizing the way in which companies, governments, and software design teams develop new products. Its emphasis on a unified end goal and collaborative work allows it to mitigate the clutter of the scrum-fall approach to road mapping.
With all that said, no system is perfect, and OBR comes with its own drawbacks. The previous paragraphs have assessed those pitfalls in detail, identifying the circumstances in which they may come into play.
We’ve also examined a few habits that design teams should imbibe in order to accommodate any shortfalls in the OBR process. From defining goals in a clear and concise manner to constantly monitoring outcomes, following these steps can help create an environment wherein the object based roadmap flourishes.