A product roadmap serves as a strategic blueprint, encompassing the objectives, features, and initiatives that drive a product’s development within a defined timeframe. It plays a crucial role in aligning product teams, maintaining focus on goals, and effectively communicating with stakeholders. However, the fluid nature of business means that product roadmaps are not impervious to change.
Various factors come into play, reshaping and influencing the trajectory of a product. While some of these factors are evident, such as product goals, user needs, competitive landscape, resource availability, risks, and stakeholder feedback, there are also a few elusive factors that silently impact the product roadmap. I call these Biases. In this article, we delve into these mysterious forces that shape product development.
Popularity (Vs Priority) bias
Popularity is a measure of how many people want a particular feature. This can be determined through surveys, user interviews, or other forms of feedback. Features that are popular are often seen as being important to users, and they can be a good way to increase engagement with the product.
However, popularity is not always the best indicator of whether or not a feature should be included on the roadmap. For example, a feature that is popular with a small group of users may not be worth the development effort if it does not have a significant impact on the overall product.
Priority is a measure of how important a feature is to the overall success of the product. This is determined by considering factors such as the product’s goals, the needs of the users, and the competitive landscape. Features that are high priority are often those that will help the product to achieve its goals, meet the needs of its users, or gain a competitive advantage.
In some cases, popularity and priority will align. For example, a feature that is popular with users may also be a high priority for the product. However, this is not always the case. In some cases, a feature that is not very popular may be high priority if it is essential to achieving the product’s goals.
Balancing popularity and priority
The best way to prioritize features is to balance popularity and priority. This means considering both the needs of the users and the goals of the product when making decisions about which features to include on the roadmap.
There are a number of different ways to balance popularity and priority. One approach is to use a scoring system. This involves assigning a score to each feature based on its popularity and priority. The features with the highest scores are then included on the roadmap.
Another approach is to use a voting system. This involves asking users to vote on the features that they would like to see included on the roadmap. The features with the most votes are then included on the roadmap.
The best approach for balancing popularity and priority will vary depending on the specific product and the needs of the users. However, by considering both popularity and priority, product teams can ensure that the features that are included on the roadmap are the ones that will have the biggest impact on the product’s success.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and to ignore information that contradicts them. Confirmation bias can also lead to the exclusion of certain user groups from the product development process. This can have a significant impact on the product roadmap, as it can lead to the prioritization of features that are not in the best interests of all users.
For example, a product team that is biased towards a particular feature may be more likely to seek out feedback from users who support that feature, and they may be less likely to seek out feedback from users who oppose that feature. This can lead to the team making decisions about the product roadmap that are not in the best interests of all users.
The following are the ways by which product teams can mitigate the problem of confirmation bias:
- Being aware of your own biases
- Getting feedback from diverse stakeholders
- Using a variety of research methods to validate the hypothesis.
- Being open to feedback
Attribution bias, a cognitive bias that influences how individuals attribute causes and reasons to events, can have a significant impact on the product roadmap. This bias occurs when people attribute outcomes or successes to internal factors such as their own skills, intelligence, or efforts, while attributing failures or setbacks to external factors beyond their control.
For example, suppose a product team holds a bias towards a specific feature. They might tend to credit the success of that feature primarily to their own capabilities, while downplaying the influence of external factors, such as user needs. Consequently, this bias can result in the team making decisions regarding the product roadmap that may not align with the best interests of all users.
The attribution bias can affect the product roadmap in several ways:
- Misinterpretation of success – Leading to overestimation of their own role in decisions and actions but ignoring the external factors that led to the success.
- Neglecting external factors
- Disregarding user feedback
- Resistance to change
To mitigate the effects of attribution bias on the product roadmap, it’s important for product teams to foster a culture of self-reflection, open-mindedness, and data-driven decision-making.
Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of people make decisions that are not in the best interests of the group because they are afraid of disagreeing with each other. This can have a significant impact on the product roadmap, as it can lead to the prioritization of features that are not in the best interests of all users.
For example, a product team that is experiencing groupthink may be more likely to prioritize features that are popular with the team, even if those features are not popular with users. This can lead to the team making decisions about the product roadmap that are not in the best interests of all users.
There are a number of things that product teams can do to mitigate the impact of groupthink on the product roadmap. These include:
- Encourage dissenting opinions.
- Get feedback from diverse stakeholders.
- Use a variety of research methods.
- Be open to feedback.
Affinity bias, also known as similarity bias, occurs when individuals exhibit a preference for people who are similar to themselves in certain aspects such as background, interests, or experiences.
For example, when a product manager focuses on feedback from colleagues who are fitness enthusiasts while developing a mobile app for fitness, they may unintentionally neglect the needs of beginners or users with different fitness goals. Consequently, the product roadmap may heavily emphasize advanced features for experienced fitness enthusiasts, disregarding potential users who are new to fitness or have alternative goals.
Affinity bias can lead to a narrow perspective, homogenous decision-making, neglect of user diversity, limited market penetration.
To mitigate the impact of affinity bias on the product roadmap, consider the following strategies:
- Embrace diversity.
- Encourage user research.
- Challenge assumptions
- Utilize personas and user stories.
Biases have a significant impact on the product roadmap. Popularity bias prioritizes popular features over alignment with goals and user needs. Confirmation bias excludes certain user groups and disregards opposing feedback. Attribution bias leads to overlooking external factors and user input. Groupthink limits diverse perspectives. Affinity bias neglects the needs of different user segments. To mitigate biases, embrace diversity, seek diverse feedback, challenge assumptions, and remain open to feedback. By addressing biases, product teams create inclusive and user-centric roadmaps.