The following is adapted from Build What Matters.
We’ve worked with Paul Fredrich for many years and across multiple companies. He is currently head of product at Ordergroove, an omnichannel commerce platform that makes subscription purchases and reordering easy. The company has effectively created a new category, which they refer to as “relationship commerce.” While exciting, it has yielded an interesting challenge for Paul at the same time. The abundance of feature ideas, problems to solve, and potential strategic opportunities require him to be highly selective about what to invest in with limited development resources. Although ruthless prioritization is an important function of the head of product, there’s a risk of him being perceived by stakeholders as the “head of saying no to good ideas.”
One of the ways we’ve mentored Paul is in communicating why “good ideas” sometimes don’t make it onto the roadmap. After some iterative process improvements, these are the approaches Paul is now using to ensure understanding and appreciation of the difficult tradeoffs that he needs to make:
- Maintain an “idea bank” for product suggestions, including those that are not on the roadmap. Everyone has visibility into it and is encouraged to contribute their ideas, and all ideas are welcome.
- Provide transparency not only about what’s on the roadmap, but what’s not able to make it onto the roadmap and why. The underlying constraints and rationale are always communicated along with the roadmap contents.
- Establish a simple consistent framework to assess each idea’s impact vs. effort—in this case, RICE—to compare product initiatives fairly. All parties understand the framework being used for comparison.
- Regularly review the ideas in the “idea bank,” their respective RICE scores, and corresponding ranking. The team takes the time to share these back with the stakeholders who submitted the ideas to avoid surprises when the roadmap is presented later.
For Ordergroove, the issue has rarely been whether an idea has a solid business case when evaluated in isolation. The core question needed to be reframed as, “Is this idea so much better than all the other good ideas that it’s worth displacing them?” By implementing these approaches, Paul has successfully shifted the company’s mindset resulting in far more confidence in its product roadmap and prioritization process.
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