You’re presenting a well-crafted product roadmap to a room of stakeholders and staff members when a senior chief begins to take over the assembly. This individual is asserting their very own judgments, suggesting alterations, and customarily shifting focus away out of your plan. Whereas these actions could come from a spot of fine intentions and former expertise, the impact will be demoralizing. If not dealt with appropriately, this situation also can have damaging penalties on the product roadmap.
Should you’ve been a product supervisor for any size of time, you’ve seemingly discovered your self on this state of affairs, face-to-face with the HiPPO: the “highest-paid individual’s opinion.” The opinions of a high-ranking or influential individual within the group—who is commonly the individual in a gathering with the very best wage—are likely to take priority over the insights of different staff members. With such authority, the HiPPO can have a big influence on the path of the product roadmap; thus, going up in opposition to, and even disagreeing with, the HiPPO will be extraordinarily intimidating.
I’ve been constructing merchandise for greater than a decade and I nonetheless usually encounter the HiPPO. Over that point, nevertheless, I’ve developed methods to enact earlier than any product roadmap presentation to make sure stakeholder satisfaction and the most effective roadmap potential.
Why HiPPOs Are Harmful
In a product growth context, the HiPPO’s influence will be harmful after they impose adjustments based mostly on private expertise, instinct, or with out full information of the product or the vary of things that would have an effect on its success. Moreover, these adjustments will not be in step with buyer wants or market tendencies, leading to merchandise which are outdated, irrelevant, or fail to satisfy buyer expectations.
One other downside arises when the HiPPO is danger averse, preferring the relative security of techniques they’ve seen work effectively up to now. This will result in an absence of innovation or a stagnant product roadmap. It could actually additionally result in losing time and sources on initiatives that find yourself failing, being axed, or getting redirected down the road.
Typically, govt enter can lead to roadmaps which have much less room for creativity and experimentation. Agile product roadmaps ought to talk outcomes fairly than the outputs that Waterfall roadmaps sometimes do, however the 2023 State of Product Management Report discovered that 70% of roadmaps most affected by requests from govt management deal with speaking outputs over outcomes.
Product roadmaps frequently influenced by the HiPPO can stifle creativity and harm the morale of the product staff. That is probably probably the most detrimental influence of all, as a high-functioning staff is significant to success.
Methods to Handle the HiPPO
Whereas HiPPOs pose many challenges, there are steps you possibly can take to keep up management of your product and get buy-in from management.
Develop a Excessive-quality, Proof-based Roadmap
Step one is to make sure you have a product roadmap that works. It is a important basis for countering any opposing views, as you possibly can have full confidence that your roadmap is the correct option to go.
A powerful product roadmap ought to embody a transparent imaginative and prescient and targets, in addition to a timeline for attaining them, with key milestones plotted. Establish the stakeholders concerned at every stage of the method. Select how you’ll measure success. Resolve which metrics to track (e.g., buyer satisfaction, engagement, income). Use this knowledge to validate the standard of your future roadmaps.
For good product roadmap execution, establish how you’ll observe progress, overview and replace the roadmap, and check and validate concepts. Quantitative knowledge from surveys, mixed with qualitative sentiment assortment from interviews and different interactions, provides compelling insights which are onerous to refute. Information from different sources, similar to market analysis and competitor evaluation, needs to be utilized too. You need to have the ability to reply to buyer suggestions and adapt to altering wants; you are able to do this by incorporating a suggestions loop into the roadmap.
Set up a Resolution-making Course of
With a purpose to keep management of your product roadmap, create a sturdy course of for decision-making. Should you don’t have one already, develop a framework for gathering buyer knowledge and evaluating this info. This course of and its outcomes needs to be clearly documented and communicated to all stakeholders, together with the senior determine. Refer again to this evaluation to counter any opinions that don’t align along with your evidence-based roadmap.
Put collectively a staff with representatives from all related departments, together with product administration, engineering, advertising and marketing, and buyer help. This staff may have the authority to make collaborative selections based mostly on each knowledge and subject material experience at sure factors within the roadmap (though it is best to take steps to make sure that having this staff in place doesn’t decelerate your growth course of). Ought to the HiPPO intervene, this constant analysis will make sure the product stays on observe.
Talk Repeatedly With Stakeholders
Each stakeholder—together with the senior determine—is essential in making a profitable product, however it’s essential to make sure that there’s a clear understanding of the product roadmap and every individual’s function in it throughout all departments.
Set up one system for protecting stakeholders knowledgeable of adjustments to the roadmap, and one other system for gathering, evaluating, responding to, and incorporating their suggestions. When everybody feels heard, you’ll encounter fewer points alongside the journey.
Foster Belief within the Product Workforce
Belief will probably be an important element in constructing constructive long-term relationships between the senior determine and the product staff. Strengthen belief by celebrating evidence-based selections from staff members that produce profitable outcomes. A technique that has labored effectively in my expertise is a month-to-month or quarterly award given to a person or group that tackled an issue having a detrimental influence on the product. This serves to show the worth and experience of the staff, which can afford better autonomy from senior figures sooner or later. It additionally emphasizes the significance of data-driven decision-making.
Set Clear Expectations
Lastly, and maybe most significantly, previous to any roadmap discussions, develop a system in partnership with the senior determine and your product staff to handle their involvement in decision-making. You must enable all events to really feel heard whereas setting clear expectations for his or her roles and obligations. Everybody—together with senior figures—needs to be held accountable for his or her selections and enter and be anticipated to supply proof to help them. Be sure you doc these processes formally and clearly for all staff members. (This course of could even deter the senior determine from providing unfounded opinions.)
Meet with the senior determine in a one-on-one setting a day or two earlier than any giant shows, giving them a discussion board through which to precise their considerations and you a chance to deal with these previous to the assembly. An intimate atmosphere makes it simpler to have tougher discussions with out the added stress of an viewers.
Product Roadmaps Are Pushed by Information, Not Expertise
The success of a product roadmap depends on being pushed by knowledge fairly than private expertise or instinct. The HiPPO can, due to this fact, have a big influence if their enter isn’t dealt with effectively. Making use of the straightforward however efficient methods I’ve laid out right here can mitigate and forestall harm to the roadmap, product, and staff. Having clear roles and limits in place, constructing belief, and making evidence-based selections are important.
Strong, constant processes will provide help to and your staff confidently design and execute product roadmaps which are in step with buyer wants and market tendencies—and that may result in worthwhile merchandise. Suggestions from senior figures can undoubtedly be precious, however on the subject of the product and its roadmap, you and your staff ought to have the insights that matter most.