The Profound Impact of Product Line Roadmapping

It is time to claim Product Line Roadmapping’s role as a critical link in your organization’s business strategy.DownloadArticlePDF-button

Almost every product manager, technology manager, marketing manager, supply chain manager, operations manager and strategic planner knows about roadmapping. Few, however, have had the organizational support to conduct it superbly and specific to a product line. This is concerning.

It is my observation that, at a minimum, conducting and carrying out  intelligent product line strategizing and roadmapping offers organizations the opportunity to double the bottom line performance of a product line when compared to the base case of not doing roadmapping. Because of maturing practices, most organizations are now very much in the position to realize the substantial benefits of creating smart product line strategies with meaningful execution roadmaps.

In the next five to ten years, we will see company after company take steps to outpace their competitors by ramping up their strategizing and roadmapping
capabilities. This will have a profound impact on product management and product development. Let me explain.

The State of the Art has Evolved 
Roadmapping comes in many flavors, yet falls within one of four categories:
1. Customer-centric roadmapping: Informs customers when new releases are coming out to encourage them not to buy the competitor’s product
2. Supply-chain-centric roadmapping: Informs suppliers when they need to deliver specific products or features or, conversely, documents when a supplier will be
delivering specific products or features
3. Technology-centric roadmapping: Predicts and plans for technological advances
4. Product line-centric roadmapping: Establishes the plan for the progression of a full line of products specifically to increase or sustain market penetration, and to beat competition

What sets the product line strategy and its roadmap apart from the other orientations is a uniqueness to creating value directly. It is through product line strategies that organizations deliver customer satisfaction, beat  competitors, and gain positive cash flows. A smart product line strategy will link technologies to the wants, needs, and desires within specific market segments. Fulfilling this task is the basis for overall business strategies.

Benefits across the Business
To begin to understand how product line roadmapping can have the profound impact, consider the benefits of having smart product line roadmaps:

  •  Smart product line roadmaps enable the success of good product line strategies. Indeed, when teams create product line roadmaps, they are in effect laying out the specific steps they believe necessary for the success of a product line’s strategy. The more genius the strategy, the more impactful the roadmap. In product line strategy, there is a significant difference between thinking up a strategy and actually executing it. When both come together, organizations will realize enormous value.
  • Good product line roadmaps also improve speed-to-market. This is because good product line roadmaps will create a shared and a common vision. This common vision provides an understanding that is critical to aligning work and decisions activities across functions. The bottom line effect of smart product line roadmapping is that it enables more efficient and timely  execution of collaborative work across an organization and with stakeholders outside the organization (be they customers or suppliers). In strategy, speed relative to competition is a cornerstone to creating and securing an advantage.
  •  A product line roadmap – the execution plan of the product line strategy – maintains a timeline that is noticeably longer than just the stage gate development of products. In smart product line strategies and roadmaps, the notion of time-to-market changes from just the time within the stage gate development process to be the time from the recognition of an innovation target to the realization of positive cash from the innovation. This, through the roadmap execution, helps enable the minimization of opportunity latency (i.e., lost time) before projects enter the stage-gate  process. Plus, on the back-end of development, the coordination of activities and decisions across functions helps maximizes the market diffusion rate for products after they launch.
  •  The activities of product line roadmapping and the existence of agreed-upon roadmaps enable organizations to recognize quickly and respond to specific new opportunities, risks, changes, and threats. These influences and dynamics are the genesis of much uncertainty and opportunity. How well an organization deals with these dynamics is critical to success, both the short term and the long term. Specific and thoughtful scenario planning, a critical element of product line roadmapping, generates the content of what-if explorations of both uncertainties and opportunities. Doing this better than competitors can is the foundation of an organization’s well-being.
  • Product line roadmapping extends the impact of stages and gates and portfolio management far beyond the levels these that processes cannot accomplish alone.
    a. Stages and Gates: In the stages-and-gates process most organizations will use or indirectly imply a decision criterion at each gate that addresses the question: “Does this project fit strategy?” With product line roadmapping in place, the criterion transforms to be: “Is this project critical to the roadmap?” This provides an understanding as to whether the organization is working on the right set of projects or not. Indeed, with product line roadmaps in place, the political push and pull of whether to work on a project or not are addressed within the rationalization of the roadmaps, not in one-off gate review meetings.
    b. Portfolio Management: Similarly in portfolio management, a portfolio analyst will try to analyze the mix of projects within the portfolio by asking: “Is this portfolio ‘balanced’?” With roadmapping in place, the question becomes: “Do these projects satisfy the needs of the roadmap?” When new opportunities arise, whether through the CEO having a hunch or through proactive, open innovation practice, the relevance of the project within the roadmap may be assessed and judged very quickly.

The Value Proposition
Product line roadmapping will have a profound impact on product innovation practices because each of the benefits described above greatly improves, at least, one of the three key measures of product development and product management performance:

Speed-to-Market: Faster realization of positive cash flow and gaining a leader advantage. With product line roadmapping, time to market is the time from when the product line team sets a target for innovation to the time a resultant new product reaches breakeven in the market.

Strategic Impact: Greater market share, more profit. Through smarter strategies and better execution of these strategies organizations will realize greater customer satisfaction, stronger cash flows and better competitive positioning.

Resource use efficiency: More output per cumulative spend. This is because of the resource amplification realized when organizations pursue and aligns its work and decisions on smart strategies. Consider that ten people can develop a $10 million new product with the same effort that they might develop a $100 million new product. Smart product line strategies target innovation opportunities in such a way as to amplify the output of a finite set of resources.

When compared to a base case of not conducting smart product line strategizing and roadmapping, organizations will realize very notable gains. Minimally, organizations should expect between 10% and 25% output improvement for each of the five benefits stated above. This implies that a modest nominal gain of 15% from each performance benefit. In total, this will double the output of product development using the same level of input over the course of just a few years.

It is Time to Act
Doubling the output of product development and product management is profound.  The real question now is how fast and with what quality organizations will implement the processes, practices, and tools needed to realize the gain.

It is time to step up to the challenge. My call to action is to all organizations, and particularly to leaders of product lines and development activities.

Bring into your organization a deep dialog on product line roadmapping. Assess your organization’s capability with respect to product line roadmapping.  Explore the positives and the short- coming. Most importantly, explore how to improve these capabilities. There is little doubt that your organization stands to gain
significantly from product line strategizing and roadmapping.

Next Steps
To learn more about product line roadmapping, download these resources:
* Article: Maturing NPD Practices Beget New Processes
* Whitepaper: Strategizing, Roadmapping and Executing the Product Line
* Please join our next workshop: Strategizing and Roadmapping the Product Line
* Software as a Service: RoadMapping RampUp™

Do not hesitate to reach out to me or my colleagues at Adept to learn more about product line roadmapping.

Contact us at    info @    or     +01-904-373-5428.

Paul O’Connor, The Adept Group

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