At Clay, we are all about transparency. This includes informing and aligning all stakeholders on how the product, in this case, SALTO KS, should evolve over time. To facilitate this, the Product Manager presents an overview of upcoming features, technical implications, and their overall vision. This is done through a presentation that (visually) introduces the product strategy on a high level.
It’s a proven fact people feel more motivated when they work on something they are passionate about. But, how can you feel passionate about something you don’t know or see the impact of? This is one of the reasons why we wanted to take our roadmapping process a step further and enable the Bricks to connect the dots from their daily tasks to the company’s overarching objectives to the end-user experience.
Clay’s goal is “To become a data-driven software platform company that builds enterprise access control solutions by knowing our end-user’s needs”. By having a clear goal we tackle the first and most important step: knowing what we want to achieve day by day, together.
At the end of the day, a product is as good as the people that are working on it, therefore they need a platform to voice their unique vision.
The bigger picture
Lots of people underestimate the importance and value of having a product roadmap process in place. Software development is creative work: as a software developer you need to come up with creative solutions that solve problems. Last year we grew a lot! Our team went from one to four Product Owners. We needed the Product Manager to take ownership and set up a clear overview so the team could turn that vision into a reality. When you help the developers and stakeholders to see the bigger picture, the end goals, and the overall direction, it makes it easier to come up with solutions as they go. A well-thought-through product roadmap process brings clarity and creates space to grow and evolve. It’s a lot easier to be creative when you have a clear goal to focus on.
Of course, we are talking about product development, therefore the roadmap is not set in stone. We like to see it more as a forecast, which makes it easier to navigate blockers and be flexible when priorities change while not losing focus on that line on the horizon.
Communication is key
See what we did there? (*cough 🔑cough*). When we started to carve out the product roadmapping process we were somewhat detached from our teams since we didn’t include them in the quarterly plannings. As a result, the teams weren’t involved as they should and felt left out. Additionally, we didn’t include the prioritization framework in planning and decision-making as much as we should have. This made it hard to assess what exactly was needed and/or feasible and features and requests had a long lead time. The estimates for big items were often inaccurate due to that lack of communication.
It was clear we needed to align the teams with the Clay company roadmap to be able to update our customers, stakeholders and to have a clear overview. We now get an estimation from the teams themselves by bringing them together.
Together we estimate the business/customer value-costs for the development of all features we want to work on, per team, including technical objectives. We pick the highest summary value as a feature to work on next. Because the teams get to actively participate and ventilate their opinion, they are more inclined to commit to the final roadmap and conflicts are (mostly) eliminated.
“The features and technical objectives should be our guiding light, forcing us to think about what brings the most value to the users.” – Elena Vladimirova, Scrum Master at Clay Solutions
The company’s OKRs (Objective and Key Results) and the product roadmap should together tie up the overarching company goals.
The next example might help to see the bigger picture: the company’s CEO should be aware of the 5-year company roadmap. The ‘horizon’ is the 1-year product roadmap that is managed by the PM and established for one or more products. The development teams are working alongside the product roadmap that gets renewed every quarter. This quarterly product roadmap is then divided into two-week sprints.
In essence, product roadmapping is a delivery cycle. It’s a forecast for delivery and is created for the outside world: stakeholders. It should become a rhythmic cycle that should not overwhelm or ‘red tape’.
The lead time from PDR (Product Development Request) to the actual feature that’s placed high and dry in the backlog is usually quite long. There are many reasons why this can take up some time. Perhaps we need to talk more extensively to customers to better understand their needs or we need to wait for other stakeholders to confirm or approve for instance. To speed up this process it’s important that the Product Owners get empowered to talk to and inform several stakeholders.
As you can imagine, it takes some time to all get aligned and find a great cadence in creating a similar workflow. But it’s well worth it.
“We use Agile as the core of our innovation cycle, where an idea goes through clients, actual use-cases, developers, and comes to life as a smoother usability for our clients.” – Cem Akcali, Product Manager at Clay Solutions
Let the road mapping begin
There are five phases we go through during the quarterly product road-mapping process:
Set up the roadmap cadence
Every quarter we define the high-level product roadmap for the next three months and gather feedback from the previous quarterly roadmap. In this phase, we ensure the roadmap is aligned with the company goals at every next step of the process. The final act (the last phase) goes by the name of ‘the Clay Roadshow’ where we present the company roadmap to the teams and stakeholders.
In the prioritization session at the end of the last quarter product management and the Product Owners assign value to the requested features and features gathered from feedback. Here we focus on the items coming from businesses, users, and stakeholders and that have the highest priority that aligns with the company objectives and goals. In this session, we ensure all features are considered for delivery. We define the what and why for every feature and determine the right metrics to track. The outcome of this session is the first proposal on how features can be sliced, to ensure a more agile delivery.
Team roadmap preparation
Two weeks before the end of the last quarter it’s time for the Product Owner and development team to discuss the product features and technical objectives and improvements for the quarter and arrange them in order of priority. They review value vs. costs for every feature and commit to deliverables for the quarter. Then they roughly estimate the Sprints. An Epic (multiple Stories) for instance should not run more than two to three Sprints, otherwise, they need to be sliced up. Then the Epics get stack ranked in the Jira backlog in order of priority. This phase results in the roadmap for the next quarter.
At the end of the last quarter, we got input from all team’s roadmaps from Product Management to Product Owners. The outcome of this phase is the company roadmap.
Clay’s quarterly roadshow
With help of the company roadmap, the Product Manager presents the new quarterly product roadmap to all stakeholders at the start of the next quarter, at what is known as Clay’s quarterly roadshow. Additionally, the last quarterly deliverables get reviewed. This way we retrieve feedback to optimize the next roadmap. We define what we have managed and didn’t manage to deliver, and why.
And then it’s finally time to start the Clay roadshow and the journey is complete! That is until the next quarter begins of course.
Curious which teams are collaborating on the product roadmap? Take a look at the companies’ org chart at the bottom of the tech page and click on the boxes to get a clear understanding of how we work.
Clay Solutions is the company that build the cloud-based access control solution SALTO KS, offered by mother company Salto Systems. Clay’s specialists (aka Bricks) are constantly discovering innovative access management solutions. As we release new features, our API expands so you can offer more features and convenience to your customers. On my-clay.com we give you a sneak peek and show you what goes on behind the scenes of a software company. Get to know the Bricks, read what the team is working on, what technologies we use, how we nourish our company culture and last but certainly not least: how to #becomeabrick