Now that you have a list of prioritised ideas for each area of strategic focus, the next stage is to piece things together into a detailed plan of action (often referred to as a product roadmap).
Note: I’m going to break out the detailed planning stage into two posts. In this post we’ll cover piecing together the overall high-level plan and the next stage will cover the scheduling and project management side of things.
Piecing Together the Overall High-Level Plan
The detailed planning stage is probably easier to explain if I talk through a recent product roadmap I was involved in building. It was for a product with 300 people applied on it. These 300 people were spread over a product development team and many service teams and therefore it might be more complex a scenario than what you are looking at. That’s ok though – you’ll find though that the principles and stages to follow still hold true and seeing it from a reasonably complex view is probably best and you can then simplify if needed.
To recap, from the previous stages we had our objectives, goals, four strategic areas of focus and a solid list of prioritised ideas for each area.
Decide on how far the plan needs to go out
The first thing we spent some time on was to agree how far out our planning needed to go. This can vary depending on many factors and often even vary between each area of strategic focus (as it did with this particular roadmap).
When we looked at each area of strategic focus we realised that one of them needed to be planned out for the next 12 months. Now, I appreciate that this is quite a long time however for this was necessary for a couple of reasons. Firstly it was very important for this particular area to have a healthy balance of initiative types in order to resonate with our overall customer base – it therefore made sense to envisage things over a long timeframe. Secondly, some of the initiatives in this area could take 9 or so months to develop so looking out 12-months seemed a reasonable thing to do in order to ensure these big projects kicked off early enough and had enough preparation.
We found that the other 3 areas of strategic focus didn’t need planning as far ahead. These areas tended to be more fluid and often we iterated based on the previous set of released initiatives. So, we decided these areas only needed to be 4-month rolling plans with prioritised backlogs behind them.
Start piecing together the first draft of the overall plan
So far we’ve thought about things by strategic areas of focus and now is the time to bring everything together into a centralised plan.
The key here is to not stress too much about what is actually possible to do with the resources you have because this will be determined when we start to scope projects and map them against resources a little later on. However you should at least bear in mind the size and complexity of projects and be realistic when you are piecing things together. For example you might expect things to change 20-30% when you get into the nitty gritty of scheduling. if your scheduling shatters your plan by more than 50% you weren’t being realistic enough.
We found that one of our areas of strategic focus was the backbone of our overall plan (the 12 month one) so we started there and worked to piece that together until we had something in front of us that felt right for the next 12 months. We were feeling good about the ideas in there, the order of them and whilst a little punchy we felt it was going to be possible to implement with the resources we had (we knew we were going to apply bout half of the team on this area).
We then took the other 3 areas of strategic areas of focus one by one and started to build 4-month plans for those. Once done, we integrated them into the 12-month plan we had.
We now had one central plan which had all of our 4 areas of strategic focus covered. The last step was to kick that around a little as it was obvious right away that by pulling our 4 areas together into one central plan there were some projects that jumped out as being in the wrong order and some simply too close together to be sensible to launch so closely together (from both a logistics and marketing perspective).
Take a step back
This is incredibly important.
Once we had moved some things around, we took a step back and looked at the overall plan.
It’s important to understand that you’re essentially looking at the plan everyone has come up with and signed up to in order to win. You should be looking at this and thinking ‘holy shit, this is formidable’.
You should be REALLY excited about this and everyone should believe this is the plan that will realise the goals you have set yourself at the beginning – and if some of those initiatives achieve breakout success, you’ll completely smash the goals you set.
If everyone is very excited and signed up, you should then move into scoping projects and detailed scheduling (which we’ll talk about in the next blog post).
However if something doesn’t feel right or if there is some hesitation in the group that what you have in front of you is a killer plan to achieve your goals, you should stop and re-think things a little.
- Did you overlook something when prioritising your ideas?
- Are you missing a big idea?
- Is one of your areas of strategic focus wrong?
Go back a few stages and strengthen the ideas and prioritisation of them and rebuild the overall plan until you have something that feels really, really right.
In the next post, I’ll talk about the process for underpinning the overall high-level plan with detailed scheduling.
As usual any comments or feedback is welcome!