A few good tricks to help you maintain influence over your product roadmap. Read more...
As products grow balancing the feature requests from customers and internal stakeholders can become increasingly difficult. The more people involved, the longer the list gets and the harder it becomes to identify what the most important things to focus on are.
It can be even more of a challenge convincing those that hold the purse strings to sign off and give you the resources you need to execute. If you are a Product Manager like me, you may not have the authority to make these decisions on your own but it is your job to know and advocate for what is best for the product. So to ensure your next planning session produces a roadmap that everybody is happy and committed to, take a look at some of the persuasion techniques outlined in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This book is primarily targeted at sales professionals but is full of great ideas for the software pro as well.
Commitment and Consistency
Engage the decision makers. One of the most effective ways to earn trust and reach an agreement is to involve the stakeholders in the process. This doesn't have to be complicated, for example when it comes time for planning here at Big Bang we like to write each feature/release down on sticky notes and then work together to prioritize them. This is a common practice in the agile development community and is not only a quick way to get organized but by getting stakeholders to physically write things down and agree on the priority they are far more likely to honour that commitment... even if the estimates or cost do change a bit in the future. The more people that witness the commitment the better so don’t be afraid to post their work on the wall where everyone will see it.
People tend to be easily persuaded by others that they like or respect. If a key stakeholder is a little unsure find a second opinion from someone the stakeholder often looks to for advice or guidance. If they can see that others that they respect are on-board it will make it much easier for them to make the commitment.
Create the opportunity to make the required decisions. Whether it is a “new” opening in the release calendar or some newly available resources, creating that “limited time offer” will help generate the necessity to act quickly in order to take advantage of the opportunity.
If you are in catch up mode or are finding it hard to compete use this to your advantage. Your VP or CEO may not be aware of your platforms vulnerabilities. If there is something others have that your product needs, don’t be afraid to show your stakeholders how and where you are exposed. If a feature has already been validated in the market there is less risk associated with the commitment making it an easier decision one to make. If others are doing it, it is much easier to follow than to trail blaze.
Sometimes you need to give in order to receive. During your next planning session don’t be afraid to ask for more features and releases then you are prepared to settle for. By asking for more, getting shot down and then retreating to your initial stance you are likely to be more successful and get buy in for what you really wanted all along. Being able to make a concession or 2 to the other party their natural instinct is going to be to find a way to return the favour. By following up with a smaller option your stakeholder will be more likely to agree and repay you after they have taken other items off the table.
So the next time you are walking into that big meeting, keep a few of these ideas in your back pocket and you will no doubt emerge successful.