5 Things You Need Before Building The Product Roadmap

What Is A Product Roadmap?

The product Roadmap showcases what you are doing, in what order, and in most case by when you plan to do it.

It is meant for certain use-cases and audiences, largely those who are not a key part of the decision-making process, but who are affected by it and by leadership, who don’t have the time to dive deep into the how and why of products and features.
It is quite literally a navigation map for others to see, a mechanism to get maximum relevant information that a single glance can get. It showcases what just happened, what is happening now and what will happen in the future while hiding all the other complexities.

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Incentives & Their Effects on Products

Netflix & PrimeVideo are so different from YouTube as products, driven into different directions based on their incentives. Here are a bunch of observations

  • Netflix and Prime know their content. Which powers features like X-ray in prime and the ability to skip intros and recaps in Netflix. Even subtitles and episodes lists are better supported in the apps. Added value for users. YouTube, on the other hand, knows very little about the content which can add value to the users. Which is why it is heavily dependent on a recommendation engine, which also takes the user from videos on 1 topic to another. Disconnected yet interesting dots
  • Netflix and Prime just focus on the current video, YouTube shows you other videos as soon as you start the video. Thus the screen space is used in different ways. Netflix and Prime have a volume slider, YouTube does not (and it is an irritation)
  • The focus on the content allows Prime and Netflix to reuse the content in different languages, YouTube does not have that benefit yet. AI/ML might solve the problem, but I am not sure dubbing of user-generated content will work
  • Organization of the home screen is also driven by their individual incentives. You come back to series for new episodes in Netflix and Prime, so they are placed higher, YouTube showcases its recommendation engine.
  • Because they don’t need to show ads, Netflix and Prime allow Picture in Picture on the iPad, and YouTube does not.
  • YouTube original content strategy is always at risk personally, free content and subscription content are diametrically opposite. More on that here: http://ravivyas.com/2018/07/16/diametrically-opposite-skills/
  • UGC platforms like YouTube have the advantage of having content for everyone, but the big disadvantage is you need a constant stream of content, both to support creators and consumers, you can’t stop ingestion of new content. Which put a lot of strain on quality.

To end: Incentives always drive products and their features. Where you can, choose your incentives carefully.

The tale of two Googles

Google is a Goliath, it is one of the largest tech companies which has made an impact to practically everyone who has ever gotten on to the World Wide Web. In fact, it has also changed the internet itself. It Search algorithms decide the etiquette of websites, It brought the Ad-Driven model to every content creator out there, YouTube grew into the video destination of world and Android is bringing a computer to ever pocket.

Driven by the need to execute Moon shots, it has innovated at a breakneck pace and given the world technologies like the self-driving car, Google Fiber, Google Glass and is working on curing “aging” and age-related diseases. I would not even call them 1st world problems, these are problems some of us will have in the future.

Then there is the other Google, one that is working getting the internet to the world with project loon, one that folded a cardboard sheet to give us Google cardboard and a taste of VR & AR and is now working on Accelerated Mobile Pages to speed up the Mobile web, or as some like @jeffjarvis say, save the web.

It is very hard to imagine how a single company can work towards solving both the problems of the future and those created by the past. Some of us might fear it, not trust it or dislike it, but we can’t be not affected by all the Davids working under the Umbrella named Google.

Facebook is the new Cookie, and that is how Google will crumble

Facebook this week announced their new Ad Exchange, basically extending their Video Ad network which was powered by LiveRail to Display Ads too. In short, this means that marketers spending money on Facebook can now use Facebook’s targeting capabilities on other display networks, essentially converting some of the other Ad Networks to Dumb pipes and out-performing other exchanges. People hoped Mobile RTB was going to be as game-changing as it was on the Web, the biggest hurdle was the lack of an equivalent to the Cookie on Mobile, due to which Exchanges started heavily depending on Data Management Platforms (DMPs) which tired to function like Cookies by aggregating data from various 3rd parties. But Mobile RTB never really took off, on the other hand, Facebook started to outperform Google and others on Mobile because of better targeting.
How powerful Facebook is at targeting the right user was already shown in the capability to deliver the best performance for App Install Ads, information a bunch of developers have shared with me. Other signals of this are Facebook growing at a rapid pace, and according to some estimates, they will overtake Google (and have done the same in the US already). This when they have just started leveraging Instagram and have not even though of Whatsapp.
As Facebook goes strength to strength it just shows they are sitting on the proverbial “pot of gold” w.r.t the user data. As it surges ahead, more advertisers will start spending money on it, thus more publishers will start using the exchange, thus making Facebook cash rich. And where will they spend that money? Probably rolling new products and features to keep users hooked on to the Facebook family of Apps. If they do succeed here, they will probably have the most useful data for targeting the users.
While there would be various Ad networks and Exchanges effected by this, the biggest looser here could be Google, as users go to Facebook and sister apps to talk to friends, talk to businesses and read the news, people will do few searches, which will hit Google and it’s revenues.
Photo credit: mkhmarketing / Foter / CC BY

Going Downhill from “Let’s build it in house”

Are you ready to support something that is not your core product?
Engineers usually have an itch; An itch to build everything they have from the ground up because at first thought it feels like it will be cheaper. They go to the extent of building a product & open sourcing it or providing it for free (Which is what probably fuelled the free App Culture in Android).
It is due to this that many a times tech guys tend to look away from SAAS services when trying to solve a requirement. Yes, it might seem simple to dump data into a MySQL Database and then query it to say you have an Analytics solution. But do you really have a solution? What if someone from Marketing wants to build a funnel? What if your CEO wants to know each user’s LTV? What if the Sales VP wants to know which region is underperforming? Your Duct-tape solution may not have all the answers. It is even worse if you have to now build those features in, it is time you could spend building and polishing your product.
Here are some of the reasons you need to shy away from building a side feature in-house:

  • It’s Not your Core product feature: Let’s face it, we all have limited time in a day, time is best spent on your product’s core features.
  • You are probably not competent enough: I am not trying to be rude, but that is a fact. In one of my organizations while trying to digitize our Human Resources department, we thought we could just build it in-house, alas we knew nothing and decided against it, which in retrospect was a great decision.
  • Save Costs: This is trivial if you are using a SAAS service you don’t need to set up infrastructure or hire a team to maintain it. You also don’t need to hire a team to build the solution, which is a massive saving in cost.
  • Faster Integration: Since you don’t have to build it, you don’t need to hire a team or train a team. You probably just need to integrate an SDK and then never bother your tech team.
  • One Less Product to worry about: If you are using a SAAS provider you don’t need to worry about updating features, improving efficiency or reducing costs. The SAAS provider has that covered.

That being said if you really have a unique need, it might make sense building a solution in-house, but remember, products & features are like relationships, they need a lot of commitment from your side.