Agile Marketing

Working With Product Roadmap Changes

Product roadmap changes are a way of life for a marketer, the question is, how can you deal with changes in a better way.

dealing with a product roadmap changes Working With Product Roadmap Changes Originally written on November 18, 2022 and it will take about 5 minutes to read

Working in tech there are two things that are certain.

One, you will get a branded T-shirt.

Two, product roadmap changes are inevitable.

So how do you look fresh in your Next Level 6210 custom logo tee and work with a moving target that is the product roadmap? Well, it depends but you can stay ahead of the chaos by working incrementally; let’s take a deeper dive.

There are really two ways I look at this situation. The first is what happens when the marketing org is static and siloed and the second when it’s adaptable.

Let’s look at a scenario when a static plan is set and followed.

Jane is the head of marketing for a tech company and talks to Gary, head of product on January 1st. Gary and Jane talk about the roadmap, what’s coming and loose dates for these new features to be released.

Jane goes back to her desk, works up a big marketing plan and starts divvying up the work for the year. She’s built really good launch plans around the bigger releases and her and her team go to work.

On March 1st, Jane and Gary meet again.

This time, Gary shares that the big new feature for this release is being delayed because another, more important feature has jumped to the top of the list and will be ready instead.

Jane, feeling like the past 3 months of work has been wasted, sits at her desk and tries to figure out how she’ll cram 3 months of work into 30 days to meet the launch deadline. Shit.

I’ve lived this life and it’s not fun. It’s the result of too little communication across the tech org and a rigid plan that fails to account for changes.

Let’s look at another scenario

Tom runs product marketing and Cleo runs product management at a small startup. Every week Tom and Cleo get together to talk through the current product roadmap and progress and what Tom needs from Cleo to round out the marketing high-points.

Cleo’s team works in 2-3 week sprints with 1-2 weeks for QA and Tom’s team works in 4 week blocks. Tom’s blocks overlap Cleo’s by a week or two giving Tom’s team time to create any content needed for the current dev sprint.

Today, Cleo let Tom know that the current sprint won’t push a new feature forward, instead that will be released in the next sprint. Since Tom’s team already created the relevant content to address this new feature, his team will just sit on it until it’s actually pushed. There really isn’t any wasted work in this scenario due to open communication between two important departments.

Another scenario

Back to Tom and Cleo.

This time there is a big event coming in 3 months. Tom and Cleo list the recent bigger features that were released and get a grasp on what’s to come. Tom bundles these features into the Spring release for his company and proceeds to create a launch plan. This plan consists of a social teaser 3 weeks before the event, an announcement and digital push during the event and an ad campaign for 3 weeks after the event.

Tom has a 3 week buffer prior to accommodate any unforeseen changes to the release. Since he and Cleo bundled some recently existing features with new ones, they will definitely have something to talk about vs. our first example where the big feature was getting delayed.

In scenario #2 and #3 we see a pretty utopian view of how communication helps inform the marketing leaders. While the examples are basic and cuddly, they are pretty reminiscent of the cadences I’ve had with product people. Talk often, brainstorm and create a loose plan around the new feature(s).

Scenario #1 is also real-life for some people and something I encountered early in my career. The thought of the annual marketing plan was the trend of the day and just what you did. Your forecasted budgets, programs, releases in November of the year prior. It’s stupid, but that’s how it was done.

I’ve lived all the scenarios above and believe adopting some agility will help deal with inevitable development shifts.

It leaves little room for changes and what ends up happening is delayed marketing launches to make up for divergence from the ‘plan’ or even worse, leads to lackluster marketing performance through the year.

So here are my quick tips on dealing with roadmap changes as a marketer:

  1. Communicate. It’s not platitude if you really do it. Talk to product managers, dev managers or whoever will have a significant impact on the work you will produce. Also, I cannot stress the benefits of having a daily chat with your marketing team. This spreads the information you may gather from product and lets it live and breath across the org. Everyone knows vs. 1/2 people and it creates a better ability to roll with the punches.
  2. Don’t plan too much. This really can’t be stressed enough. It’s OK to have a loose, loose annual plan, but your plans only become more solid as you build from real information. Meaning, your product manager has verified work complete or to-be-complete. Plan a little, do some work, communicate and repeat (in the instance of the ‘big event’).
  3. Chunk. Whatever you want to call it: sprints, shapes, blocks, chunks – it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re breaking up work for a period of time that addressing a roadmap that really exists. Your team is aligned with the dev team, so you can break up work that’s more current and likely to happen vs. going heads-down in January only to have your dreams crushed in March due to a shift from the original plan.

Wrapping it up, basically you can best-deal with changing roadmaps by communicating and breaking up work into chunks with realistic source material.


Sidenote: I produced the featured image using DALL-E – using the keywords: a cheetah holding a bullhorn, Banksy – wild stuff

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