How to Sync Your Priorities with Overlapping Roadmaps

James Colgan

Senior Director of Product Management at Microsoft



How we build and develop our products is heavily reliant on working with several different teams and can incorporate a number of different things. Due to this, the need for a unified framework around how we prioritize our features and roadmaps becomes pertinent. As roadmaps begin to overlap, the varying priorities can get out of sync and work time can get wasted by waiting for other teams to align themselves.

Actions taken

Implement a loose coupling for the assembly of products.

"Intuition is likely to lend itself to believe that once products and solutions start being delivered, organizations should integrate and everyone should function the same. This is wrong and bound to lead to failure."

"Despite having good, successful products, they are all uniquely on different trajectories of their product lifecycle. They will therefore operate and move in separate phases that work for them. This should be both honored and supported."

Ensure clean, defined boundaries between companies.

"Similar to an API, you'll want to make sure that innovation is occurring on both sides of a clean API, at different forward moving rates and methods."

"In this way, it is important to consider an organizational approach by pulling together these two teams and discovering better ways to collaborate, communicate, prioritize, and establish a shared framework. Essentially, you will want to agree on a shared context."

Create a shared human context as opposed to a document.

"Facilitate this through communication channels, making sure you have frequent touchpoints in different modalities, all the way up to the top of the management chain."

"Allow for weekly, instantaneous, ad-hoc communication through email. Then establish a more formal cadence where people can come in prepared, with a pre-understood and shared agenda for what you will be doing on a weekly basis. All the while, discussing metrics for success and how the progress will be measured quantifiably."

"There should also be a monthly commitment to the leadership team stakeholders and sponsors. Then maybe a two month or quarterly executive level business review, where you hone in on more strategic aspects of the program. This is where you might discuss some of the more high level, impactful or challenging opportunities where roadblocks need to be removed or resources are required to be added to a particular team."

Lessons learned

  • All product roadmaps touch each other, so you need to have a shared framework around which you are going to rationalize those priorities. Rather than kill the magic of these distinct, yet coexisting functions, ensure the growth of these connection points through loose couplings.
  • A shared context between companies is culturally important in terms of inclusivity. It allows those bringing a challenge or opportunity to the table, to be received in an authentic way, without having to constantly explain first principles. There should already be enough precursory shared context in place to avoid misunderstandings.
  • It is paramount to share context throughout the management chain. Whatever you agree on at the execution level needs to be supported and sponsored all the way up.
  • The key to building a rhythm of business is the need for active listening and empathy for your partners' context, situation, and priorities.
  • Going in with a fixed agenda and wanting someone else to help you is a backward approach. It is better to go in with the mindset of how you can first be of assistance and then garner personal help from there. At the same time, however, make sure your issues stay front and center.
  • Time is everybody's most valuable commodity. I generally find peoples discipline for meetings to be very low. You must be organized and punctual as to otherwise not waste somebody else's time. In the same breath, work should be done before meetings, as they are only meant for checking in and answer tough questions.

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James Colgan

Senior Director of Product Management at Microsoft

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthTeam & Project Management

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