Vikrama Dhiman
My name is Vikrama Dhiman. I lead Mobility Products @ Gojek. Previously, I led product teams at Bharti SoftBank (Airtel Money, myAirtel, Wynk), Directi (BigRock), Zeta (Corporate Benefits and Gifting), WizIQ (eLearning) and MakeMyTrip (Travel/ Hotels). I was an Agile Coach with Cisco, Yodlee, Sapient, HP & I am an avid reader.

Strategize: Product Strategy and Product Roadmap Practices, by Roman Pichler | Book Review

As Peter Drucker writes in his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, “The best, and perhaps the only, way to avoid killing off the new…is to set up the innovative project from the start as a separate business” (1985, 163).

I read the book by borrowing from Kindle Unlimited selection. Over the last year, I have discovered some great books on Kindle Unlimited. Most of those books have been quick one-time read with just one or two interesting insights. This book falls somewhere in the middle. It is neither a disaster nor a keeper. However, I was glad I read it.

I have followed Roman Pichler’s blog on product roadmaps for a while now. He was among the first people to start writing about Product Management in an agile context. Hence, when I saw this book I picked it up in an instant and read it. It was a breezy read and for an experienced product manager, lot of stuff was a refresher for what you know.

While some parts were definitely very interesting the Product Strategy part was largely subpar. Several strategy books (Clayton Christensen, Steve Blank, Harvard Business books on strategy and more) have covered product and business strategy better. Roman did put it all in context of product management with a neat diagram that I loved. I also loved the part where he distinguishes Core, Adjacent, Disruptive innovations. This part was worth reading the book by itself.

The Roadmap part was much more interesting though. Roadmaps and prioritization have largely not been covered by academicians (have been searching a good book on prioritization for product managers for a while). Hence, his chapters are a welcome addition. In the epilogue, he also covers his response to “roadmaps are dangerous/ useless” argument which several people (including Marty Cagan) make. Finally, he gives a thumb rule for when should you visit the roadmap again. He also covers various models for prioritization (Kano, Cost-Benefit being the major ones). Overall, I’d give the book 3 out of 5. It has enough sparkle to be remembered. I wish Roman keeps producing new editions and upgrades this text. The innovation in organization diagram, product roadmaps, vision-strategy-roadmap-backlog cycle were the most interesting parts for me. It took me about 3 hours to read the book.

Rating I gave on Goodreads: 3/5 How did I read this book: Kindle Device How long did it take to finish to book: 3 and a half hours, in 2 sittings

Some key highlights from the book:

  • The product strategy describes how the long-term goal is attained; it includes the product’s value proposition, market, key features, and business goals. The product roadmap shows how the product strategy is put into action by stating specific releases with dates, goals, and features.
  • Note that a product strategy is not a fixed plan or something you only create for a new product: it changes as your product grows and matures. As a consequence, you should review and adjust your product strategy on a regular basis—at least once a quarter as a rule of thumb.
  • The vision is the ultimate reason for creating your product; it describes the positive change the product should bring about. An effective vision has four qualities: it is big, shared, inspiring, and concise.
  • Products are value-creating vehicles. In order to generate value, a product has to offer something new; it has to innovate to a greater or lesser extent.
  • Core innovations optimize existing products for established markets; they draw on the skills and assets your company already has in place, and they make incremental changes to current products. Adjacent innovations allow you to open up new revenue sources, but they require fresh insights into customer needs, demand trends, market structure, competitive dynamics, technologies, and other market variables. Instead, a disruptive innovation typically solves a customer problem in a better, more convenient, or cheaper way than existing alternatives.
  • Succeeding with disruptive innovations requires an entrepreneurial mind-set and the ability to experiment, to make mistakes, and to fail. You will benefit from using an incubator: a new, temporary business unit that provides the necessary autonomy to think outside the box, break with traditions, and to iterate and fail quickly. Having a small, collocated team with full-time members is a must, as is employing agile and lean product development practices. Be aware that creating a reliable financial forecast is impossible for disruptive innovations. Requiring a solid business case can prevent you from creating disruptive products. It’s often better to use the risk of inaction—the danger of not investing in a disruptive product and therefore losing out on future revenue and profits.
  • Twitter actually changed from what we thought it was in the beginning, which we described as status updates and a social utility. The insight we eventually came to was [that] Twitter was really more of an information network than it is a social network. That led to all kinds of design decisions, such as the inclusion of search and hash tags and the way retweets work” (Lapowsky 2013).
  • A tool that helps you with this challenge is the Power-Interest Grid, described in Eden and Ackermann (2011). As its name suggests, the grid analyzes the stakeholders. As Peter Drucker writes in his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, “The best, and perhaps the only, way to avoid killing off the new…is to set up the innovative project from the start as a separate business” (1985, 163).
  • But such an incremental change may not be enough. Take the case of Instagram, which started as a location-aware service and then changed to a picture- and video-sharing product. And Instagram is not alone: Flickr was once an online role-playing game, and YouTube was a video-dating site (Love 2011).
  • Because developing and updating a portfolio roadmap tends to be more challenging compared with a product roadmap—not least because more people are involved—I recommend that you develop a solid product roadmapping practice before you employ portfolio roadmaps.

Image credits:

comments powered by Disqus