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Paul McAvinchey
Co-founder of Product Collective
Asked a question 6 months ago

What are some good techniques for getting executive buy-in for my product strategy and roadmap?

Where am I?

In Product Collective Answers you can ask and answer questions and share your experience with others!

I answered a similar question36 very recently and will paste in my response as it seems to be quite fitting!

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There is absolutely a better alternative for communicating with leadership. 

This is a great topic that I don't feel is discussed enough so thank you for raising it! The question is broad so I'm going to bake in a few assumptions in my response. Mostly, my assumption is that the type of communication you are asking about must be a strategic meeting being you are referencing the roadmap. A QBR for example.

 

It's common for leadership teams to regularly debate trade-offs within the business to satisfy demands across many channels. For this reason, simply presenting a roadmap without leading into it with supporting content is not all that helpful.

For example, you may have limited budget but an overflow of "must have" requests from partners and customers. This scenario generally raises questions of priority and leads to discussions of trade offs. Everything under the sun may be debated. For example, committed ARR, potential ARR, repeatability, how "core" something is to your solution, where the industry is headed, is it a "me too" request or a valuable differentiator, how important the ask is to a strategic customer or partner, which engineering and/or product teams have capacity for the various asks, etc.

I generally use the framework described further down in this post as an information piece for facilitating a productive conversation with the broader leadership team. A presentation acts as a great vehicle for this type of content. Before we jump into the framework, I have a few recommendations (in no particular order).

1. As the product leader, the leadership team is expecting you to provide a convincing recommendation as to where the business should invest. Make your recommendations known throughout the content of what is shared.

2. A picture is worth 1000 words. No walls of text!

3. Build the content in a way that will resonate with the audience. For example, some people love a good story and that is what resonates with them. Others are more binary and expect data to support the content. 

4. In a recent Product Collective interview Elad Simon39 highlighted a topic that is critically important. It is in your best interest to influence key stakeholders individually before attempting to influence by consensus. Within the scope of this post, this mostly translates to having discussions with relevant stakeholders to see if they resonate with your content. 

5. Send your content ahead of the meeting with the leadership team so they have time to process it. Big decisions are being made that impact everyone in the company! We want the leadership team to be ready to debate, decide, and commit.

Now for the framework. 

Trends

Spend some time reviewing content from third party analysts such as Gartner. There are likely analysts who cover your industry closely and can provide valuable insight into the direction of the industry and who the top performers are. 

For example, I found Gartner's content regarding contact centers, digital channels, and iPaaS to be quite excellent and very supportive of Tenfold's long term roadmap. Their content helped in positioning clear data about where contact center leaders are investing, what their top priorities are, challenges they are experiencing, trends in preferred channels of engagement, etc. 

Initiatives

Now that you know where the industry is headed, the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, where your market opportunity lies, etc. it is time to tie it all back to the various initiatives you have going withing your organization. 

Prepare prototypes, include charts and other data which support the initiative (see trends above), and be ready to speak confidently and convincingly about why the initiative is important.

Different leaders will care about different things. For example, sales may be interested in security posture and innovative features while support may be interested in operational strength, self-service, automation, etc. Refer back to recommendation #4 above.

Bubble Charts

If the leadership team hasn't sidetracked your presentation with meaningful discussion yet it's about to happen! 

The purpose of the bubble charts content is to visualize several key data points too the leadership team. What the axis and bubbles represent should resonate with the key objectives of the business. You may only require one bubble chart or you might find value in having several (e.g. one for each product line).

As an example, here are a few common data points that might resonate with leadership.

X-Axis: Market opportunity

Y-Axis: Level of effort

Size of circle: Near term revenue (e.g. committed revenue, revenue in the sales forecast) for the item the circle represents (e.g. a feature or collection of features)

Color of circle: Internal posture for the item the circle represents. For example, you may be "green" for something like an onboarding wizard, yellow for a feature 10% of customers will find value in, and red for a customer specific customization.

Roadmap

I started off this reply by stating "There is absolutely a better alternative for communicating with leadership" so you might be surprised to that the product roadmap is a part of this framework. The truth is the product roadmap is VERY important and is a valuable vehicle for facilitating meaningful conversation.

Up to this point we have been setting the stage for the roadmap by uploading relevant context into the minds of the leadership team. If all went well with recommendation #4, you may have pretty good alignment by the time the leadership team sees this slide. At this stage put your informed opinion of the roadmap forward.

Debate, Decide, Commit

If the leadership hasn't already began the debate, decide, commit cycle (it often happens naturally within this framework) you may want to bake in some time for this discussion. Ultimately, you want to exit the meeting with leadership alignment on a committed roadmap or a near-term plan to align on a committed roadmap.

 

I realize I described quite a bit of work to facilitate a conversation. After you complete this the first time it becomes easier to manage as you can actively update your content in preparation for the next big meeting. 

Hopefully my assumptions were directionally correct. If not, reply below!

Ant Murphy
Product Coach and Consultant | Occasional Cat Herder 🐈

For starters, your product strategy and roadmap should align to a higher goal - typically the company's strategy and objectives.

You can win a lot of buy-in by simply being clear on how your strategy/roadmap aligns and directly contributes to achieving the execs' goals - you succeed by helping them succeed.

However, if you're still having issues generating buy-in or operate in a company where there is not a huge amount of alignment at the top you might need to tailor your approach depending on the executive/stakeholder.

For this my #1 stakeholder management trick is to approach it the same way we approach our customers - start by identifying problems to solve.

The question I would search for an answer to is "what keeps your execs up at night?"

By understanding the challenges/pain points/concerns/fears of your stakeholders you can better position your strategy, roadmap or anything for that matter with solving their biggest problems. Again, you succeed by helping them succeed.

Further tailoring your approach to different stakeholders can help create mutual buy-in and alignment with your strategy/roadmap/etc before coming together as a collective. If each exec have a tailored view of the benefits your strategy brings to them they're likely to remain in mutual agreeance when it comes the time to discuss as a collective.

This means you've got to do the leg work behind the scenes, amazing people at presenting and influencing don't magically walk into a room and convince people - much has been done behind the scenes through understanding their audience better, what their individual drivers and concerns are - much of which is done through 1:1 and debating as smaller groups beforehand.