Dominate the Product Roadmap

Escape Velocity by Geoffrey MooreOne year ago, I was fully booked in the yearly planning cycle at my former job at eBay. It was tough, being on the business side getting my SEO projects heard and prioritized as the Product Management group drove the whole product planning process.  I learned a lot about product planning, product scoping, internal politics, and departments’ agenda’s. But I learned more about myself and setting good priorities, planning my work, managing my team and building story lines in presentations.

For a live event Slashdot is organizing tomorrow, with well known IT author Geoffrey Moore, I’ve started in his new book; Escape Velocity. From the introduction and the first couple of chapters I got flashbacks of last years product planning cycle at eBay.

The Slashdot event is free for anybody to attend! Just surf to: SlashdotTV.

Normal Planning Process

Moore describes how normally planning cycles in large IT corporations are dominated by departments pushing last years plans as a baseline for next year. Revenue is estimated by multiplication of the last quarter times 4, where Finance departments sets goals and all departments will need to come back with a bottom up view what is feasible. Usually the finance goals are higher than the sum of the bottom up view of all the departments. A compromise is met in the middle.

The danger of this planning process is that large changes in the market are usually overlooked as plans are based on last year’s roadmaps. As a result, the company is not prepared of changes that happen in the markets and resources are tight up in initiatives, which execute on gravity forces of last years plan.

New Proposed Way of Product Planning

Moore proposes a new way of product planning, which he has build up on years of experience in large IT companies. The new way of product planning does not take last years roadmap as input for next years plan, but rather advocates to first take an outside-in view of the environment before thinking of resource allocation. Ask yourself:

What does the world really want from us?

To be able to be successful, managers and executives can rely on a model build on the Hierarchies of Power:

  1. Articulate a compelling vision of the future that others will want to support
  2. Set a strategy consistent with your vision that positions you as the leader in the markets you want to serve
  3. Resource your execution so that it can both accomplish your highest aspiration and generate superior economic returns

Here is a short video of Geoffrey Moore explaining why there is massive internal resistance of moving resources away from established activities into new activities.

Lessons Learned in Product Planning

The book is aimed at learning managers, directors or executives in large IT companies to become more successful in their job, and their careers through following this new planning paradigm.  If you know how to get your projects funded, by implementation of the Hierarchy of Powers model, your visibility and success will grow within the company. This might result in an improved position for you as manager, and your department.

As I was reflecting on my own experience in a large technology organization, where it was hard to get project funded, I can sum up a couple of learning’s for myself;

  1. The vision for SEO for eBay I proposed, was clear for myself, my team and the consultants I was working with, I was not able to articulate the vision in a compelling plan, which would be adopted by C-level executives in the short time I had. Part of the problem was that the SEO material is not easily understood on the levels of senior staff, part was that the time invested by Vice President was so limited, that even a great articulated plan would not have gotten the support.
  2. One large reason of not getting the executive attention was my own misunderstanding of the full product planning process, where the time investment in the plan was insufficient for a great plan. We were too busy to make the quarter and roll out optimization to generate direct revenue in quarter, than to invest sufficient time to build a clear and concise plan.
  3. Misunderstanding of the other departments applying for the scarce resources, and the internal politics between the departments. As the process was driven by the Product Management function, not having strong allies in the PM org you can find your projects at the bottom of the list of all the priorities. Luckily this was not the case for SEO, as it’s a high priority for eBay, but still it was a hard battle

In the end, I’m happy I went through the tough process, and learning these hard lessons.

Now that we find ourselves in October, and a large number of technology companies are in the middle of the product planning cycle for 2012, reading Escape Velocity can help any manager or executive make better decisions on the resource allocation of product plans and change the direction of the company for maximum economic win.

The Slashdot event is free for anybody to attend! Just surf to: SlashdotTV.

I will be moderating the Twitter stream tomorrow during the live broadcast, where the office is full with big camera's to document the interview. Below picture was shot this afternoon during the dry run...

Camera in the Geeknet Office