You’re presenting a well-crafted product roadmap to a room of stakeholders and group members when a senior chief begins to take over the assembly. This particular person is asserting their very own judgments, suggesting alterations, and usually shifting focus away out of your plan. Whereas these actions might come from a spot of excellent intentions and former expertise, the impact will be demoralizing. If not dealt with appropriately, this state of affairs can even have detrimental penalties on the product roadmap.
In the event you’ve been a product supervisor for any size of time, you’ve probably discovered your self on this state of affairs, face-to-face with the HiPPO: the “highest-paid particular person’s opinion.” The opinions of a high-ranking or influential particular person within the group—who is usually the particular person in a gathering with the best wage—are inclined to take priority over the insights of different group members. With such authority, the HiPPO can have a major impression on the path of the product roadmap; thus, going up towards, and even disagreeing with, the HiPPO will be extraordinarily intimidating.
I’ve been constructing merchandise for greater than a decade and I nonetheless repeatedly 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 perfect roadmap potential.
Why HiPPOs Are Harmful
In a product growth context, the HiPPO’s impression will be harmful once they impose adjustments based mostly on private expertise, instinct, or with out full data of the product or the vary of things that would have an effect on its success. Moreover, these adjustments is probably not consistent with buyer wants or market tendencies, leading to merchandise which might be outdated, irrelevant, or fail to satisfy buyer expectations.
One other downside arises when the HiPPO is threat averse, preferring the relative security of techniques they’ve seen work properly up to now. This could result in a scarcity of innovation or a stagnant product roadmap. It will probably additionally result in losing time and sources on tasks that find yourself failing, being axed, or getting redirected down the road.
Typically, govt enter may end up in roadmaps which have much less room for creativity and experimentation. Agile product roadmaps ought to talk outcomes moderately than the outputs that Waterfall roadmaps usually do, however the 2023 State of Product Administration Report discovered that 70% of roadmaps most affected by requests from govt management give attention to speaking outputs over outcomes.
Product roadmaps regularly influenced by the HiPPO can stifle creativity and injury the morale of the product group. That is probably essentially the most detrimental impression of all, as a high-functioning group is important to success.
Methods to Handle the HiPPO
Whereas HiPPOs pose many challenges, there are steps you may 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. This can be a essential basis for countering any opposing views, as you may have full confidence that your roadmap is the appropriate option to go.
A robust product roadmap ought to embrace a transparent imaginative and prescient and goals, 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. Determine which metrics to trace (e.g., buyer satisfaction, engagement, income). Use this knowledge to validate the standard of your future roadmaps.
For good product roadmap execution, determine how you’ll monitor progress, evaluate and replace the roadmap, and take a look at and validate concepts. Quantitative knowledge from surveys, mixed with qualitative sentiment assortment from interviews and different interactions, gives compelling insights which might be onerous to refute. Information from different sources, resembling 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 Determination-making Course of
With a purpose to preserve management of your product roadmap, create a sturdy course of for decision-making. In the event 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 group with representatives from all related departments, together with product administration, engineering, advertising, and buyer help. This group can have the authority to make collaborative selections based mostly on each knowledge and subject material experience at sure factors within the roadmap (though you need to take steps to make sure that having this group in place doesn’t decelerate your growth course of). Ought to the HiPPO intervene, this constant analysis will make sure the product stays on monitor.
Talk Recurrently With Stakeholders
Each stakeholder—together with the senior determine—is necessary in making a profitable product, however it’s essential to make sure that there’s a clear understanding of the product roadmap and every particular person’s function in it throughout all departments.
Set up one system for holding 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 Staff
Belief shall be an important element in constructing constructive long-term relationships between the senior determine and the product group. Strengthen belief by celebrating evidence-based selections from group members that produce profitable outcomes. A technique that has labored properly in my expertise is a month-to-month or quarterly award given to a person or group that tackled an issue having a detrimental impression on the product. This serves to exhibit the worth and experience of the group, which can afford higher 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 group to handle their involvement in decision-making. You must permit 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 offer proof to help them. You’ll want to doc these processes formally and clearly for all group members. (This course of might 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 massive displays, giving them a discussion board by which to precise their issues and you a chance to handle these previous to the assembly. An intimate atmosphere makes it simpler to have harder 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 moderately than private expertise or instinct. The HiPPO can, due to this fact, have a major impression if their enter just isn’t dealt with properly. Making use of the easy however efficient methods I’ve laid out right here can mitigate and stop injury to the roadmap, product, and group. Having clear roles and bounds in place, constructing belief, and making evidence-based selections are essential.
Strong, constant processes will make it easier to and your group confidently design and execute product roadmaps which might be consistent with buyer wants and market tendencies—and that may result in worthwhile merchandise. Suggestions from senior figures can undoubtedly be precious, however in relation to the product and its roadmap, you and your group ought to have the insights that matter most.