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How do you approach getting approval for your roadmap from internal stakeholders?

5 Answers
Marc Abraham
Marc Abraham
Intercom Senior Group Product ManagerJune 22

To get roadmap approval from internal stakeholders, we need to make sure that they're bought into the overarching product vision and strategy first. This means explaining and getting input into the direction for the product and the path we're taking to achieve the vision. It thus become easier to get approval for roadmap goals and sequencing from stakeholders, as they should logically follow the vision and strategy. 

One thing to align with stakeholders on is the expected format of your product roadmap. A roadmap is a communication tool and it's therefore important to be clear on what your stakeholders expect to learn or do with the information provided through a roadmap. For example: What is the expected level of detail of roadmap items? Timings? Etc.

773 Views
Andrew Clark
Andrew Clark
VP of ProductJune 9

I flinched at the word "approval" here.

I don't like the idea that Product would be seeking roadmap approval from other departments in the org.

What you really want is buy-in. You want your key stakeholders to be as confident and excited about the roadmap as you are. 

Here's how to make that happen:

1) Provide channel(s) for continuous input and take that input seriously. Stakeholders will make sure their teams to provide good input so long as they see how that input influences the roadmap. You may have to connect the dots for them.

2) Over-communicate roadmap strategy and the why behind it. Do this all the time. Product priority can often seem random to others in the org, regular reminders about what you're aiming at can help.

3) Shop the roadmap around to key stakeholders on an individual basis, and speak their language when you do it. This is typically a quarterly exercise, done before decisions are final. You want it to be clear that they have genuine influence during this stage, but you/team are still making the final decisions. Speaking their language means talking about things they care about—most don't care too much about your prioritization process/formula/etc, they just want to know how what you're doing will impact their team's success and the business overall. Usually in that order. : )

4) Build trust by delivering on your claims. This one can be tricky! When you get good at estimating impact, you can go back to your stakeholders and say "See? The process works." Depending on your team's maturity, this may be broad and somewhat vague or very specific to the direct impact your releases had. You want to always move toward the latter.

If you can do those things consistently, you won't be asking stakeholders for approval, you'll be regularly collaborating with them on the best way to move the product and the business forward.

973 Views
Omar Eduardo Fernández
Omar Eduardo Fernández
GitLab Director of Product ManagementApril 27

The question asks about getting approval, but I'll instead focus on how you gain feedback and improve your roadmap so that there's alignment around it. This distinction is important, you are responsible of the roadmap. Instead of trying to get approval, focus on building the best possible roadmap after incorporating stakeholder input, and then communicate it.

To do this, I'd recommend the following:

  1. Have a strong grasp and communicate how your roadmap aligns with company priorities. By telling a compelling narrative as to how your roadmap contributes to your division and company goals, you have a much better chance of aligning with other stakeholders. Ultimately, you should all be working towards the greater company goals.

  2. Unearth disagreements by asking the right questions. Ask specific questions of other stakeholders, such as "are there initiatives that we aren't prioritizing that would better contribute to our company goals?" By doing this, you show willingness to revise the roadmap, but you also focus the conversation on how the initiatives will help the company.

  3. When there's disagreements in priorities, focus on data-driven criteria used to prioritize efforts. When someone thinks that one of their initiatives should be higher priority, be transparent as to how you're prioritizing, what factors matter, and how you see the initiatives stack up. For example, someone from operations may be advocating for an initiative to reduce costs, which isn't getting prioritized. You can be transparent that cost reduction initiatives are not being focused on at the moment because the company leadership is prioritizing initiatives with revenue growth potential. Similarly, if someone is advocating for another revenue growth opportunity, you can look at the data and determine whether there's clear signals that point to one of the initiatives having higher revenue potential and base your prioritization decision on that. If the data is missing, be transparent as to what data you do have and how that's influencing the decision.

  4. Involve the right stakeholders in conversations. Sometimes, you'll see conflicting information from various stakeholders that is causing prioritization issues. In these cases, it's important to either (1) drive clarity and alignment across those stakeholders by bringing them together to discuss - either on a call or asynchronously or (2) involve other stakeholders with a broader perspective of the business that could help provide additional context. For example, when I had conflicting requests from different stakeholders in sales about what initiatives would better support our revenue goals, I had to bring in a more senior sales leader that would oversee multiple departments to help challenge and clarify which of them was truly expected to more impactful and why.

These are some of the main things that I do to get alignment. It is important to document all these decisions and discussions so that in the future you can reference them. This is why I appreciated GitLab's focus on asynchronous communication, since that leads to more of the discussions being written down and documented. If there are disagreements in the future, it's easy to reference past discussions for context.

487 Views
Clara Lee
Clara Lee
Hootsuite VP, ProductJanuary 4

The path to gaining product roadmap approval depends on the decision-making culture of the company:

  • If you are in a place where approval rights are clear, the key is understanding what those stakeholders need to say "yes." What level of detail do they require to feel confident that the team is doing the right things? Do they like to be brought along on the journey or handed a solution? Are they most likely to respond to data, written descriptions, visuals?

  • If you are in a place where approval is less straightforward (e.g., are implicit, or granted via consensus), then I'd suggest "previewing" your roadmap with key stakeholders individually to surface and address concerns that might otherwise go unspoken in a larger/generalized group setting.

366 Views
Tracy Montour
Tracy Montour
HiredScore Head of Product MarketingJuly 29

Get alignment early and often. Stakeholders should not be surprised by anything on the roadmap when they see the proposed draft. Outline which stakeholders you need to influence, get their inputs, incorporate them where necessary, and show them you're strategically moving the roadmap forward. There will always be pushback and inputs at every stage of the roamdap process but your life will be a lot easier with this approach because stakeholders will feel they were part of the process. 

244 Views
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