Marty Cagan, Partner at Silicon Valley Product Group and Author of Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, shares how to craft product vision and strategy, modern best practices for product roadmapping, and his framework for prioritizing opportunities.
Marty has 35 years experience in the technology industry. He’s worked at some of the most innovative companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape, and eBay. More recently, he’s created some of the most popular product management resources through his company, Silicon Valley Product Group, and his book, Inspired.
In this interview, Marty provides his perspectives on crafting a product vision, developing a product strategy, creating product roadmaps, and prioritizing opportunities. According to Marty: "The product vision is really that common objective that we all have, the big way we're trying to change the world."
He recommends defining the product vision in terms of the future you’re trying to create. Strategy then breaks the vision into chunks that Marty describes as “a series of product-market fits.” His approach to strategy is unique in that it focuses on the different markets the product will serve over time.
Marty also provides his unique approach to product roadmapping. Traditionally, a product roadmap takes the form of a prioritized list of features and projects. This generally leads to a scenario where everybody fights for ‘what are the features that should be on the roadmap?’ When this happens,
we're all making assumptions on which features are actually going to work with customers and which ones are going to actually work for our business. It turns out in most cases, they don't. Locking us in to a bunch of work, a quarter, six months, some companies do year long roadmaps, is just ridiculous, and it is truly the antithesis of lean startup.
Marty says that many assumptions on the roadmap will turn out not to be true:
Almost all of those assumptions, or many of those assumptions turn out not to be true. So, the business plans today, most people I think rightly scoff at a typical old school business plan, just because they know it's going to prove to be ridiculously misleading. Today we really highlight ‘what are those assumptions and what are the risks?’ and we tackle them.
That’s why he recommends instead establishing a prioritized set of business problems to solve, and letting the product team discover and iterate on the best solutions for those problems:
Instead of telling them, "Go add this feature," you tell them, "This is the business problem. Figure out what we need to do that." They might end up adding that same feature, but even if they do, the difference is if that feature doesn't work the first time, and it very likely won't, they know they're not done. They have to go iterate on that feature, or try a different approach, or do a redesign instead of a new feature, whatever they have to do.
We spent the remainder of the episode talking about prioritization and what Marty describes as the primary day-to-day role of product managers: discovering the best solutions to business problems by getting feedback from customers. Marty says product managers should address these four risks before developing solutions:
Value: Are people going to use this?
Usability: Can they figure out how to use it?
Feasibility: Can we build it?
Business: Do we have the ability to get this to market?
You’ll learn a lot about strategy, roadmapping, and prioritization from this episode.
Here are the highlights:
Marty’s approach to crafting a product vision (5:05)
How Marty develops product strategy (7:00)
Modern best practices for product roadmapping (9:25)
Marty’s recommendation for prioritization and deciding what products and features to build (15:20)
How product managers should develop solution ideas (18:10)