Your Product Roadmap has a problem.
That’s to say, if you’re like most healthcare technology companies out there, your Product Roadmap, though well-intentioned, is likely missing key components. Because of this, you could be doing anything from overlooking your next killer healthcare product to falling short of your strategic goals.
Your ultimate goal should be to build a Roadmap that is credible — which means building a reliable guide for internal stakeholders, clients, and partners, all of whom are impacted by the items on your Roadmap. For example, if you incorrectly estimated your delivery dates, Marketing and Sales timelines are thrown off. If you have a Roadmap that’s not well defined, allocating development resources becomes more difficult.
A focus on credibility will help keep you in that sweet spot between a high level strategic Roadmap that highlights your differentiators and one that’s overly technical and too bogged down in minutia. Here are a few points that you should strive to include on your Roadmap to ensure you’re hitting that balance and building a credible Product Roadmap.
A Focus on Impact
I’m covering this one first since it’s one of the most serious problems I run into.
Product Roadmaps are functional documents, meaning that anything put on (or removed from) them comes with a side effect. Good or bad, multiple stakeholders will be caught up in these side effects. For example, when you’re adding a new feature to your flagship product, are you...
Skip over any of these questions and you likely just have a great idea — a great idea that will now take 5 times as much work because you have to backtrack across multiple departments to get their input and get them caught up.
My team coaches organizations through the process of building execution-focused Roadmaps; Developing a plan that considers organizational impact can go a long way.
Grounding in Strategic Planning
Since we’re talking about looking at a Product Roadmap from a higher-level perspective, I also want to cover where it fits in terms of your organization’s Strategic Planning.
To put it simply, your Roadmap should mirror your strategy. Whether we’re talking a 3-year or a 9-month game plan, it should tie cleanly to your strategy and goals over that time. Plenty of organizations think their Roadmap is strategic, but when taking a closer look, what I’ve often found is actually a patchwork quilt of random products, features, and upgrades. This might not seem like that big an issue, but know that your clients, prospects, and channel partners are watching.
If you claim to be a strategic organization, a Product Roadmap that isn’t strategy-focused will be a direct signal to your market that your reality doesn’t align with your message. Just know that you can say “strategy”, but unless each item connects to your goals, “strategy” is only a word.
Purpose for Every Item
When assessing and enhancing Product Roadmaps, my team and I have a policy we like to stick to, which is that there has to be a clear articulation of why each item is taking up precious Roadmap space.
To break that down, it means there has to be justification, ownership (I’ve seen items sit on Roadmaps for up to a year with no owner), and a plan for everything. This concept is extremely important in today’s climate of value-based care, patient-centered outcomes, and MACRA where it’s incredibly tempting to toss products and features onto the Roadmap solely because they check a buzzword box but in reality, don’t amount to anything. Practices like this can be deadly to small organizations and healthcare startups in particular, especially when it comes to development.
Taking the time to explain the ROI, purpose, and plan for each item on your Roadmap saves time, staff energy, and possibly your organization.
Pro Tip: Nothing frustrates developers like working on products that go nowhere or getting snatched from product to product and feature to feature without reason or justification. A purpose-less Product Roadmap is a great way to burn out talented (and expensive) developers for absolutely nothing.
A Nod to Compliance
Healthcare Product Roadmaps have specific needs around regulatory compliance.
Your organization likely has someone specialized in this area and if so, they should be involved in building (and maintaining) your Roadmap. Their involvement though, should be tempered with an understanding of exactly how compliance can shape the Roadmap itself.
For example, it’s entirely possible to burn resources on features and functionality that ensure compliance for certain clients that aren’t even in your target market. You could easily be killing yourself to maintain compliance for a client that’s bringing in .05% of your revenue, but the inherent pressures of compliance obscure that reality. In a case like this, it’s often important to pressure even good clients to upgrade to a less compliance-heavy version (which can be very effective since many will go along with the upgrade instead of finding a new vendor.)
A Timeline with Intention
The date question is possibly the most difficult you’ll run into when creating a Product Roadmap.
Nobody wants to be pinned down, but even in the most agile environments, anyone involved with your Roadmap (sales and marketing especially) will be looking for some level of temporal commitment. To find balance, I advise my clients to take a look at their organization’s culture, expectations, and tolerance for ambiguity.
If exact dates for a product are a challenge, focus on high-level categories of functionality and frame them within loose periods of time (such as quarters or months). As you get closer to an actual release or launch, you can tighten those times up so that your sales team has something they can work with.
You also have the option of focusing specifically on features and giving precise dates for those feature launches as you go. A third option is using a prioritized laundry list. You might only deliver the top one, two, or three items on the list, but with proper expectation management, you’ll satisfy most people’s needs for structure.
Finally, you have the option of over-estimating your dates from the beginning or missing projected dates altogether, but both of those require an intimate understanding of the needs and culture of your leadership and organization as a whole.
Ultimately though, one of the most important functions of your Roadmap is gaining executive and team buy-in. This is where market research and data-driven decisions come in — even the most-favored pet project is hard to argue against in the face of a Product Roadmap that’s solidly based on revenue goals. The same goes for seemingly unimportant platform upgrades and improvements. Informed data can make a case you simply can’t.
Contact us today to find out how Primary Healthcare Market Research can change the face of your Product Roadmap.
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