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How to Create Outcome-Based Roadmaps (A Step-by-Step Guide)

People connecting puzzle pieces to illustrate the concept of outcome-based roadmaps.

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Without a clear guide for creating outcome-based roadmaps, product teams can easily find themselves stuck in the “build trap” – building features without visibility into their impact on company goals.

Traditional feature-based roadmaps center around a backlog of ways to improve products based on customer feedback and market insights, but this prioritization method is linear. When many factors and dimensions play into decision-making, such as business, customer, and market needs and timelines, an approach with more depth and perspective is required.

Today, product teams are switching from feature-based to outcome-driven roadmaps to deliver products customers love while meeting business objectives. Below, I explain why and provide a step-by-step guide to outcome-focused roadmapping using Dragonboat’s Responsive Product Portfolio Management tool as our example.

Feature-Based vs. Outcome-Based Roadmapping

A product roadmap visually represents your product strategy, showing how your team will execute over time. But all roadmaps are not the same. 

Feature-based roadmapping typically focuses on one type of outcome, such as more products to market (business outcome), higher feature adoption (customer outcome), or higher revenues (portfolio outcome). Product management has a backlog of requests and must prioritize a list of features based on a desired outcome. But when you build a roadmap from a backlog, you effectively limit yourself to the specific features on your list, leaving little room for adapting to evolving business or market needs.

With an outcome-focused approach (and the right product portfolio tool), product teams can build outcome-based product roadmaps and aim to achieve multiple outcomes, manage teams, and provide a framework for their product workflow.

Outcome-driven product teams start by first defining their desired goals and outcomes and then deciding which actions to take to achieve them. You can still prioritize certain features from your product backlog, but be selective, favoring those that align with the problems your company wishes to solve. For instance, if your organization wishes to improve adoption, you would prioritize backlog items that support that goal. 

Check out this episode of the Product Experience, where I discussed escaping feature factories, the three signs of a truly outcome-focused product org, and more:

Using a purpose-built tool like Dragonboat allows you to consider all dimensions of your business, customer, and portfolio, as well as time horizons, to ensure success in both the near and long term. It eliminates the need for planning across multiple spreadsheets, product backlogs, and feature requests – syncing your deliverables, product teams, and timelines to present a clear path forward. Ideally, it will also capture all your outcomes, achieved or not, to inform your next planning phase and streamline communication.

“You need to understand how you contribute to the strategy, and that’s what Dragonboat helps you do. It gives you the understanding of how all the things you’re working on ladder up into the bigger company goals and how that looks across the portfolio. Even if you’re not making those strategic decisions about what to start and stop, you need to understand how you fit into the picture.”

Melissa Perri, CEO of ProduxLabs at ProductCon

Now that we’ve looked at the “why,” let’s look at the ‘how.”

Here’s a step-by-step guide to ditching the feature factory and adopting an outcome-driven approach to product development using Dragonboat:

How To Do Outcome-Based Roadmapping

Step 1: Set Goals and Key Strategies

High-level Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and the overall product vision are set at the executive level. Then, during strategic planning sessions, teams brainstorm various strategies to turn those business goals (objectives) into strategic goals (key results) to measure how they achieve them.

We then translate these goals into product initiatives that often include one or more product features that collectively carry out the strategy. That is why outcome-focused teams need to create OKRs before product initiatives.

In Dragonboat, you can connect OKRs to product initiatives and get the context and alignment needed to prioritize, build, and measure results confidently.

Screenshot of using Dragonboat to connect goals and initiatives in an outcome-based roadmap.
*Create your goal hierarchy to tie work to specific outcomes.

Step 2: Define Metrics to Measure Goals

Once you set goals and key strategies, define the metrics to measure effectiveness and impact.

In Dragonboat, you can set company and team-level goals, key metrics, and strategic themes so you can have visibility into how your initiatives impact the plan.

Screenshot of using Dragonboat to set the metrics you plan to use to measure goals.
*Set key metrics to measure goals

Step 3: Prioritize the Most Impactful Features and Initiatives

Once your ideas, requests, and initiatives are all in one place, you can align them to the goals they will impact and prioritize based on their potential contribution. 

For more on Dragonboat’s approach to prioritization, read “Rock, Pebble, and Sand Product and Portfolio Management.”

Prioritizing with purpose is essential to building an outcome-oriented roadmap. To avoid getting caught in the build-trap, focus on the most critical problems first. Then, prioritize items based on your available resources in the upcoming timeframe.

Leveraging the Metrics over Available Resources (MoAR) prioritization framework allows you to incorporate a direct measure against goals into your planning process. It enables better product decisions, easily visualized product portfolio metrics, and improved overall outcomes. RICE is another commonly used prioritization framework (illustrated below).

Screenshot of using Dragonboat to prioritize your outcome-based roadmap.
*Dragonboat’s portfolio list view shows your goals and ideas displayed together and in priority order.

Step 4: Allocate Resources and Plan for Dependencies

To achieve the best portfolio outcomes, you must allocate resources towards short-term and long-term goals to ensure your company is not only achieving current goals but also growing and innovating towards future success.

Each goal you define should have planned allocation to build the most effective outcome-driven roadmap. For example, you can allocate 50% of resources to new revenue and 50% towards innovation. In Dragonboat, you can easily see your planned vs. actual resources and adjust where needed.

Screenshot of using Dragonboat to set resource allocations at the goal level.
*View your resource allocation easily in Dragonboat.

Managing dependencies is just as vital for successful roadmap delivery. If left unchecked, roadmap dependencies can hinder your progress and delay outcomes. Dragonboat helps you effectively plan, visualize, and auto-track dependencies to ensure successful product delivery.

Screenshot of using Dragonboat to manage dependencies.
*Manage portfolio dependencies in Dragonboat

Step 5: Monitor Delivery Progress

Once you have set your goals, strategic themes, prioritization, and resourcing within Dragonboat, push to execution tools (like Jira) for delivery and roll back up to Dragonboat for visibility and insights. 

Within Dragonboat, you will be able to see the progress of your roadmap in real-time. The tool will also automatically alert you to any delays or delivery risks.

“What I love about Dragonboat is that it’s much more than just a product portfolio management software. It enables a framework for how to run a successful product company. It’s insightful and intuitive. Every outcome-focused product organization should use it.”

– Eston Taylor, Bushel
*In Dragonboat, you can easily see delivery progress and roll-up reporting from Jira.

Step 6. Monitor Outcome Progress and Adjust Your Roadmap Based On Results

Not only is it important to track the progress of product roadmap items (initiatives), but you should also track the progress of your OKRs (outcomes) to understand what worked and what didn’t to inform future product planning. You can monitor the outcome progress and return to step 4 to adjust the roadmap iteratively.

A Responsive PPM tool like Dragonboat lets you easily view and update high-level status and health to measure results and responsively re-allocate based on performance.

Screenshot of the snapshot summary in Dragonboat to illustrate tracking results in an outcome-based roadmap.
*In Dragonboat, the snapshot summary shows progress against objectives and initiatives. 

Create Winning Roadmaps With Dragonboat’s Outcome-Focused Portfolio Management Tool

Great product managers exist at both market-leading and market-losing companies. So, what sets the two apart? A focus on business, customer, and portfolio outcomes. By following the above steps and integrating these dimensions with time horizons, you will move from being a feature-driven factory to outcome-based roadmapping. 

Whether your product portfolio management approach includes metrics like revenue, new market penetration velocity, platform uptime, or NPS scores, with Dragonboat, prioritization and resource allocation becomes simple. And you can adjust periodically in response to changing market and business needs.

“With Dragonboat, our product team can not only plan, evaluate, and sequence work, but they can tie all their ideas directly to the target company and product objectives, connect them to Jira, and get seamless and dynamic health and predicted end dates, all in one place. They can also easily manage up using the dashboard and allocation reporting features.”

– Jackie Orlando, Director of Product Operations, Tealium

You can move from feature-based to outcome-based roadmaps in a few simple steps, and the right purpose-built tool will make the process even easier.

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Becky Flint

Becky is a product and tech executive based in the Silicon Valley. She has built and scaled product and engineering teams globally for both startups and Fortune 500 companies. Currently Becky is the founder and CEO of Dragonboat with a mission to empower responsive leaders and their teams to build better products faster. Prior to founding dragonboat, Becky has held executive roles at Feedzai, Bigcommerce, Tinyprints/ Shutterfly, and PayPal.
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