In a nutshell

As head of the product team, I was facing endless feature requests, customer ideas, and conflicting internal pet projects. Having inherited no structure as it related to product management cycles, we were defenseless against projects we knew weren’t going to drive our business forward. As I observed the slow creep of technical debt, the cycles of doing and undoing work, and the struggle to deliver features based on whimsy, I knew we needed a change. I implemented a new framework, collaborated with my team and my peers to adapt the system to our needs, and upended our process for roadmap and feature requesting. Read on to learn how we stopped the conveyor belt of meaningless feature-building.
Oct 2, 2020

Getting from there to here.

In the early days of IdeaCloud, like many startup SaaS and platform companies, we created features as fast as they could be thought up. We reacted to every customer request, and tried to create things that would solve customer problems before we yet knew what those problems were. Because of this, we ended up with major technical debt, rudderless direction, and an unclear vision fairly quickly.

We knew we had to find a better way to stay aligned, to make educated decisions, and be proactive instead of reactive. To kick off this effort, I started by gathering all the appropriate stakeholders into a strategy session to review our current product strategies and hypotheses.

In this virtual post-it note session (thanks, Covid) we were able to throw out old or irrelevant ideas, generate new thinking and get on the same page.

In this session - we used the keep, kill, combine method to determine which beliefs held true since the start, which things had been disproven, and what ideas we believe needed to stay central to our strategies.

Once we had agreed upon hypotheses, strategies and beliefs, then we had to figure out how to take that information and turn it into something we could use to measure our ideas against. I was anxious to begin our journey using data, creating goals and objectives, and prioritizing our work based on what the combination of those two things could tell us. In my research, I came across a few examples of Outcome-based Roadmaps, and fell in love. The concept articulated the strategy we had been starting to move towards naturally, and helped us to define the processes that we wanted to use to determine priorities, to filter ideas through, and to ensure our focus stayed on target with the overall agreed upon objectives and vision.

Framework template developed and tweaked to fit our needs. Based on charts found here.

I gathered my team, proposed this new strategy framework, and spent 2 days re-aligning our entire roadmap to this system. We found that we could best represent our system with a flowchart visualization and thus created these charts for each of our product lines.

We started with identifying all our known and estimated opportunities, then their desired outcomes, and aligned them to a core objective. Doing this allowed us to throw out opportunities or ideas that didn't align to our goals, or could not product a desired outcome.

From here, we prioritize goals and opportunities based on best estimated impact to customer satisfaction, lowest effort for biggest returns, and other metrics that our team agreed would make the most impact.

Product strategy beginning to layer into the framework.

From here, I presented these to my peers on the leadership team. With buy-in from our executive team, and collaborative work with our content team, we canonized the system and began running all prioritization and ideation through the frameworks.

Now, when requests arise, we have something to measure against, and something to hold ourselves accountable to. The work we do has more meaning and more direction. And no one misses that feature factory we left in our dust.

Let's get in touch

IdeaCloud: An Origin Story

Have a project in mind? Let's build something great together!

Contact Me