Establishing roadmaps and themes

To begin, every product needs a strong value proposition. In other words, it should be a product that people will love. Liking a product isn't enough. Start by focusing on what customers need, not on what they want. While it can be tricky to distinguish between want and need, use consensus as a guide. A single customer might be adamant about needing a feature but if none of your other customers ask for it, it's probably a feature that only the particular customer wants. If you have fifty customers asking for a feature, it's something your customers need.

Define your roadmap

A roadmap can codify your thoughts about how best to discover what customers need and will love. To create a roadmap:

  1. Start with your vision
  2. Align your vision with customer feedback
  3. Balance innovation with customer needs
  4. Group the results of steps 1 through 3 into themes, and associate each theme with an outcome
  5. Distill those themes into features and validate the features with your customers

For example, a theme on the Chef roadmap was ecosystem development, and its outcome was that companies other than Chef should sell Chef. Various people had ideas on how to achieve that outcome, and those ideas became the features. Next, a team validated those features with customers. If the features didn't resonate, then the team would come up with different features that could still fulfill the outcome. The team would then do another iteration with customers.

Validate and refine your roadmap

In general, after you validate the roadmap with customers, your themes should hold, your outcomes may or may not hold, and the features will shift all the time.

Be suspicious if, working backwards, your features don't change but your outcomes and your themes are no longer true. You're prioritizing features over the actual goals of your roadmap.

As you refine your roadmap, remember that identifying what customers need is just one step toward building products customers love. Think about including features that fulfill a variety of customer expectations. (Note that the following discussion of features is a simplification of the Kano model.)

Some features customers need are so basic, they're taken for granted. However, if they're not there, customers are very unhappy.

The next set of features to include are those that customers notice. They're happy if the features work and unhappy if they don't.

However, to make customers truly love your product, include delighters. Customers don't expect to see these features, and are delighted when they are a part of the product.

Finally, remember that the best way to create a great roadmap is to get feedback from a wide variety of people within your company as well as a broad range of customers.

This article discusses the relationship between DevOps and Lean principles. It is based on Adam Jacob's talk, Chef Style DevOps Kungfu, delivered at ChefConf 2015.

Next in this series: DevOps and the bottom line

Learn how companies that practice DevOps show a measurable link between IT investment and organizational performance.

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