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How to Do Outcome-Focused Roadmapping (Step-by-Step Guide)

With requests and feedback coming from multiple stakeholders and data sets, and without a clear guide for how to do outcome-focused roadmapping, product teams can easily find themselves stuck in the “build trap”- building features without having visibility into their impact on the company goals.

Traditional feature-based roadmaps are built around a backlog of ways to improve products based on customer feedback and market insights, which is not a bad thing. The problem with this roadmapping model, however, is that the prioritization method is linear. When so 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 roadmaps to outcome-focused roadmaps to deliver products customers love while also driving business outcomes

In a previous post, we covered the factors that lead teams to make the switch from feature-based roadmapping to OKR/outcome-focused roadmapping. In this post, I’ll cover the key elements and provide a step-by-step guide of how to do outcome-focused roadmapping with Dragonboat’s Responsive Product Portfolio Management tool.

The Dimensions Of Outcome-Based Roadmapping

Feature-based roadmapping typically focuses on one type of outcome—for example, more products to market (business outcome), higher feature adoption (customer outcome), or higher revenues (portfolio outcome). A product manager has a backlog of product requests and must choose which features to prioritize based on a selected outcome.

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

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:

Outcome-focused product teams start by first defining their desired goals and outcomes and then deciding which actions are needed to achieve them. Using a purpose-built tool like Dragonboat allows you to consider all the dimensions of your business, customer, and portfolio, as well as time horizons to ensure success in both the near and long term.

Leveraging a tool like Dragonboat eliminates the need for planning across multiple spreadsheets, product backlogs, and feature requests and syncs all your deliverables, product teams, and timelines to visualize a clear path forward across your entire organization. Dragonboat also captures all your outcomes, achieved or not, to inform your next planning phase.

“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 take a look at the ‘how.” 

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

How To Do Outcome-Focused Roadmapping In Dragonboat

Step 1: Set Goals And Key Strategies

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are set at the executive level and during strategic planning sessions, teams brainstorm various strategies to turn those business goals (objectives) into strategic goals (key results) to measure how they are achieving this objective.

These strategies turn into product initiatives that often include one or more product features that collectively carry out the strategy. This is why outcome-focused teams need to create OKRs before product initiatives. 

In Dragonboat, you can connect OKRs to product initiatives to align and allocate towards goals to give you the context and alignment needed to prioritize and build, and measure results with confidence.

how to do outcome focused roadmapping
*Create your goal hierarchy to tie work to outcomes.

Step 2: Define Metrics To Measure Goals

Once you’ve set goals and key strategies, you’ll need to define what metrics to use to measure effectiveness and impact. 

In Dragonboat, you can set both company and team-level goals as well as set key metrics and strategic themes so you can have visibility into how your initiatives are impacting the goal.

how to do outcome focused roadmapping in Dragonboat
*Set key metrics to measure goals

Step 3:  Prioritize The Most Impactful Features And Initiatives

Once your ideas, requests, and initiatives have been centralized, you can group categories, align them to the respective goals they will impact, and prioritize them against each other as it relates to their potential contribution towards that goal. 

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

Prioritizing with purpose is an essential element of building an outcome-focused roadmap. To avoid getting caught in the build-trap, focus on the most important items to solve first. Prioritize backlog items based on those answers as well as 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 roadmap planning/ dynamic alignment process. This enables better product decisions, easily visualized product portfolio metrics, and improved overall outcomes. RICE is another commonly used prioritization framework (illustrated below).

outcome focused roadmapping
*Dragonboat’s portfolio list view shows your goals and ideas displayed together and in priority order.

Step 4: Plan Roadmap-Account For Dependencies And Allocation

To achieve the best portfolio outcomes, you need to 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 long-term success.

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

outcome focused roadmapping in Dragonboat
*View your resource allocation easily in Dragonboat.

Just as important as the proper resource allocation for successful roadmap delivery is to manage dependencies. 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. 

*Manage portfolio dependencies in Dragonboat

Step 5: Monitor Delivery Progress

Once you’ve planned 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’ll be able to see the progress of your roadmap in real-time and be automatically alerted 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
outcome focused roadmapping
*In Dragonboat, you can easily see delivery progress and roll-up reporting from Jira.

Step 6. Monitor Outcome Progress And Adjust Roadmap Based On Results

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

Having a Responsive PPM tool like Dragonboat allows you to easily view and update status and health, so that you can measure results and responsively re-allocate based on performance.

outcome focused roadmapping
*In Dragonboat, the snapshot summary shows actual progress against objectives and initiatives. 

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

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

Using Dragonboat, whether your product portfolio management approach includes metrics like revenue, new market penetration velocity, platform uptime, or NPS scores, prioritization and resource allocation is simple and can be adjusted periodically in response to the market and business needs. 

“With Dragonboat, our Product Team can not only plan, evaluate and sequence work, but they are able to 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

As you can see, moving from feature-based to outcome-focused roadmapping can be done in a few simple steps. The right purpose-built tool will make the process even easier.

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What is Outcome-Driven Product Management, Exactly?

If you are reading this, congratulations! You are already way ahead of “customer-focused” product teams that are operating from a giant catalog consisting of product >> component >> master feature >> feature. So – what is outcome-driven product management? How do you “escape the build trap”?

In this post, we explain outcome-driven product management, highlight four elements of being outcome-focused, review some of the benefits, and explain how individual roles in the product org can become more outcome-focused. 

What’s the Definition of Outcome-Driven Product Management?

Outcome-driven product management is an approach for product-centric companies to bring to market and manage a product or portfolio of products that emphasize outcomes instead of outputs while facilitating top-down alignment, bottom-up innovation, and cross-team collaboration.  

The baseline for outcome-driven organizations begins with setting clear goals. With established goals, you can then evaluate how to create the best solutions. Next, you can tie this strategy together and measure progress towards the desired outcomes. 

Outputs vs. Outcomes

One of the common misconceptions about outcome-driven product management is that you either produce outcomes or outputs. However, it can’t be either or. Outputs are still a necessary means to an end for achieving outcomes. 

This tweet by Jabe Bloom explains the relationship of outcomes vs. outputs perfectly: without successfully laying 10,000 bricks (output), you won’t end up with a house that becomes a home (outcome).

When it comes to outputs, outcome-driven teams distinguish between good and great ideas, delivering the right outputs or features that will create the most significant impact and ultimately lead to the greatest outcomes. They scrupulously prioritize and re-prioritize to prevent scope creep and stay focused. 

Because outcome-driven teams focus on delivering the right thing, they measure success differently. As a result, celebrating outputs for their own sake becomes a thing of the past.  

“Good teams celebrate when they achieve a significant impact to the business KPIs. Bad teams celebrate when they finally release something.”

Marty Cagan

What Sets Outcome-Driven Product Teams Apart?

Many teams strive to be outcome-focused, but how do you know if they are? 

Here are 3 key elements that outcome-driven teams have in common:

1. Work to Achieve Three Types of Outcomes

Both feature-focused and outcome-focused teams work toward the desired customer and business outcome, but the latter works toward a third, the product portfolio outcome. This outcome is the holistic view for the entire product organization, between the near-term focus and long-term vision. 

Outcome-driven product organizations take a portfolio approach even with a single product because it may serve multiple user groups, contribute to numerous goals, and require various teams to build it. Product teams must allocate resources responsively across multiple dimensions to drive the best portfolio outcomes. (More on that below!)

2. Tie Product Strategies to Company Goals

Alignment must occur vertically and horizontally across teams and functions in an outcome-driven organization. The executive team should set the company vision and goals due to its strategic planning. Outcome-driven product leaders then assess and define product strategies that achieve these goals. These strategies become their product goals and initiatives

3. Allocate Resources to Goals

If you set a personal goal to run a marathon but don’t prioritize it by allocating time in your week to train, it becomes more like wishful thinking than a realistic objective. The same is true for organizational goals. Outcome-driven organizations understand the importance of allocating resources to goals to ensure progress will be made toward them. 

Industry-leading companies that endure for decades make sure to balance their resource allocation between multiple dimensions, outcomes and timeframes. They apply the rock, pebble, and sand prioritization technique to best manage their product portfolio. In doing so, they can also move forward with their big, strategic bets that will allow them to continue to innovate and transform.

4. Continuously Evaluate Progress Towards Goals and Adjust Product Focus and Priority

Are you tracking “roadmap progress” and thinking it’s outcome progress? 

If you are over-achieving in one goal and underperforming in another, shouldn’t your product priority adjust? Yes, indeed this is what outcome-driven product teams do!

Benefits of Outcome-Driven Product Management

Here are just 5 benefits of having a culture of outcome-driven thinking:

  1. Rally teams behind a company goal and shared vision instead of features that don’t explain “why.”
  2. Create clarity and incentivize effective cross-team collaboration.
  3. Escape the build trap/feature factory.
  4. Empower data-driven decision-making and iteration.
  5. Stay competitive and avoid being blindsided by new entrants who are disrupting the market. 

How Can Each Role in the Product Org Be Outcome-Focused?

Chief Product Officer (CPO)

Outcome-driven Chief Product Officers take a responsive product portfolio management (Responsive PPM) approach to connect strategy and execution to define goals, align strategies, evaluate allocation based on what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be adjusted. Using a responsive PPM platform like Dragonboat, they can easily guide teams and have visibility into what multiple product teams are working on, how everything ties back to the company goals, and see all the progress in real-time. 

To truly empower teams, an outcome-driven CPO should set the strategic direction and product vision, orchestrate collaboration and goal sharing amongst teams and allow teams to contribute to their goals. 

Dragonboat snapshot view for outcome-driven product management
Dragonboat’s snapshot view allows you to easily see both outcome and roadmap progress.

Product Operations

An outcome-driven product ops manager makes sure to play a highly strategic role for the benefit of the entire company. Product operations’ areas of responsibility enable a successful, outcome-focused product organization. 

Since product ops aim to accelerate portfolio outcomes, this role should naturally help lead the transition from feature-focused to outcome-focused where needed. Product ops should gain the support of a change agent, such as the CPO, plan an agile rollout, and configure the right tool to create visibility and enable the cross-functional team.

Product Managers

Product managers looking to become more outcome-focused should focus on the “why” instead of the “what.” 

Instead of finding solutions that solely meet the customer’s needs, outcome-driven product managers make sure what they build will also contribute to the business and portfolio outcomes. Fortunately, by doing so, they will be more likely to get the resources they need to deliver their roadmap. 

To communicate how their roadmap will contribute to the company goals, product managers should switch from feature-based roadmaps to OKR roadmaps and then adopt an outcome-driven product workflow

What does being outcome-focused mean to you? What are some other ways that product organizations could become more outcome-focused? Let us know on Twitter or follow us on LinkedIn for a steady stream of product-centric goodness.

How to Follow an Outcome-Driven Product Management Workflow?

A product management workflow is how a product idea is pushed through its process and often refers to a number of things such as creating a product, updating a product, adding a new product feature, and even removing a product. Though the process for each of these things will always look different, the steps you need to maximize your time and effort should always be the same. 

A product team can only be as effective as its workflow. A great product management workflow will push your organization towards its goals, streamline the product development process, and enable effective cross-team collaboration. But what defines a winning product management workflow? This article will take you through the steps of an outcome-driven product management workflow.

Why Focus on Outcomes?

We’re all familiar with a product management workflow, but what are the advantages of an outcome-driven product management workflow?

Many teams without a well-defined product management workflow experience the following:

  1. Wasted time and energy just getting up to date
  2. Reacting to roadblocks after they occur rather than adjusting to avoid roadblocks before
  3. Getting lost/overwhelmed when things go wrong
  4. Easily getting disconnected from the big picture

All of these pain points add unnecessary steps to the product management workflow. An outcome-driven product management workflow will avoid all of the above by allowing you to do 3 main things:

  1. Align every step of your product development to your overall objectives
  2. Empower data-driven decision making and iteration
  3. Create clarity and enable effective cross-team collaboration

By adding an outcome-driven mindset to your product management workflow, teams can push their organization forward with every step. The power is in the fact that the process emphasizes organizational visibility and clearly defined objectives. That way even when things veer off-plan (and they always seem to) your team can feel secure knowing that product leaders can easily adapt and adjust.

Now let’s jump into what you should keep in mind for an outcome-driven product management workflow. 

Steps to Follow an Outcome-Driven Product Management Workflow

This guide covers how to use Dragonboat for the best practice outcome-focused product management workflow.

The best practice product management workflow can be represented in 3 timeframes. 

  1. Before Product 
    1. Collect and evaluate feedback / requests
    2. Define and prioritize objectives / focuses
    3. Evaluate and prioritize initiatives best to achieve these objectives
  2. Before Scrum
    1. Organize and prioritize product ideas by objectives, themes, or other dimensions
    2. Estimate to understand / adjust resources required for each Idea
    3. Push to engineering tool for execution
  3. During Scrum
    1. See progress automatically rolled up
    2. Keep stakeholders and teams up to date  
  4. After Scrum
    1. Evaluate product outcomes continuously to help evaluate and prioritize future roadmaps

Now let’s take a look at how to execute each of these outcome-driven product management workflow steps. 

Before Product

Think of the timeframe before you push your product through as your opportunity to strategize and align. This will set your product up for success in the long run by giving you a reference point to return to, allowing you to adjust for the inevitable changes along the way. 

1. Collect and Evaluate Feedback and Requests

You can’t build everything at once and even if you could, doing so would stick you in a build trap. That being said, you want a place to put all the ideas, requests, and feedback so you can centrally manage and prioritize as you go.

Dragonboat’s request module allows you to collect, organize, and prioritize feedback before linking any of them to new or existing product features or initiatives (which you can do at any time).

Dragonboat Request Portal
Pictured: Dragonboat’s Request Portal to collect, organize, and prioritize feedback.

2. Define and Prioritize Objectives / Focuses

Ask yourself 3 main questions:

  1. “What are we building?”
  2. “How will this help us achieve our outcomes”
  3. “What are the metrics we can use to measure success?” 

Answering these questions before starting any process will allow you to be mindful of the objective in every task you do. Keep in mind that these goals only need to be specific in scope and direction but can remain general in objective. Also be cognizant of your resources, because resources will determine whether your objective is actionable or a wishlist.

You should seek to answer these questions with your team and although you do not need to agree on every answer, you do need to be aligned on the conclusion.

Once you’ve tackled these first, you can begin to narrow your scope as you get deeper into your workflow with the comfort of knowing that everything connects to a broader objective.

In Dragonboat, create your objectives using Settings > Objectives
Pictured: In Dragonboat, create your objectives using Settings > Objectives

3. Evaluate and Prioritize Initiatives Best to Achieve these Objectives

An Initiative represents a big undertaking that may have multiple Ideas. In a Responsive PPM framework, Initiative may be at the top or middle level of an organization’s strategy and execution horizon. An initiative, also sometimes called a program, spans a few months or quarters (whereas an idea would span a few weeks), could involve multiple teams, have multiple releases and could have its own estimates, timeframe, roadmap and/ or objective.

Once your initiatives are added, you can begin easily dragging and dropping Ideas into the related Initiatives. Now for the fun part – prioritization!

Before Scrum

Now that you’ve squared away the important basics of what your product will look like, you can begin to flesh out the aspects of your plan. Create a clear, visible, and actionable roadmap with the following steps:

1. Organize and Prioritize Ideas 

The first step before scrum is organization and prioritization. To best prioritize your backlog, you need to have all your ideas clearly laid out. We recommend organizing your ideas by their objective, themes, and product as seen in the example below.

Dragonboat Board View to organize and prioritize backlog
Pictured: Ideas organized and prioritized by Goals in Dragonboat.

When deciding how to prioritize, there are many scoring models you can use like RICE to determine what idea will have the most impact towards your goal. Ideally, the model you choose will also allow you to remain responsive and iterative to changes in product development.

Dragonboat Portfolio List to sort and group ideas and score them to match your prioritization method
Pictured: Sort and group ideas and score them to match your prioritization method in Dragonboat. The scoring methods used here are RICE and MoAR for a quantitative prioritization approach.

2. Estimate Resources

This next step serves as a vital indicator of your product investments. Create high-level estimates or T-shirt sizing to get an idea of where you need to allocate more resources and identify any bottlenecks.

Lastly, adjust the resources required to balance allocation across your portfolio.

Dragonboat Forecast module to check current allocation against the target
Pictured: Dragonboat’s Forecast module to check current allocation against the target.

3. Team Execution

Now that your planning is done, it’s time to get the work done. Share your plan with your team for visibility and context. Then push your data set to Jira, Github issues, Shortcut or whatever DevOps tool you use so your team can begin carrying out your product plan.

During Scrum

From the start of ideation, your product management workflow has considered the big picture. Now to complete your outcome-driven process start to finish, you will need real-time visibility during and after scrum.

1. Check Progress from Engineering Tools like Jira, Github, or Shortcut

Stay ahead of potential roadblocks with progress roll up and visibility. Tools like Dragonboat can do this automatically so teams can easily do check-ins and focus on the areas that need attention. 

Dragonboat’s two-way integration with Jira for automated roll-up progress tracking, allowing quick adjustments to the plan.
Pictured: Dragonboat’s two-way integration with Jira for automated roll-up progress tracking, allowing quick adjustments to the plan.

2. Keep Stakeholders and Teams Up to Date

Embed in wiki/ Confluence and create customized reports for various stakeholders to create clarity and visibility around the roadmap plan and progress.  

Create customized reports in Dragonboat for various stakeholders and teams in a variety of formats so they can get the relevant information that they need.
Pictured: Create customized reports in Dragonboat for various stakeholders and teams in a variety of formats so they can get the relevant information that they need.

After Scrum

Outcome-driven product teams evaluate product outcomes continuously to help evaluate and prioritize future roadmaps. Creating a snapshot view for your execs to easily see both outcome and roadmap progress is a great way to connect the strategy and execution to understand what’s working, what’s not and what needs to be adjusted.

Dragonboat Outcome Focused Summary

Outcome-driven product management is all about sticking to the big picture while remaining iterative to change. Having an effective outcome-driven product management workflow empowers you to manage setbacks because you can confidently return to your plan knowing that you can adapt.

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