Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve
Co-founder & CEO @ Alan
19 juin 2018Tech & produit

Simple tools to design your roadmap

When you’re working day in, day out, it’s possible (and easy) to loose track of your mission. Here at Alan, we’ve designed the priority week (or “prio week”) to design our roadmap at least once a year.

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Photo by Justin Lawrence onUnsplash

It’s important to know what you stand for, to pinpoint what your goal is. When the company’s vision is clear, precise and captivating, it’s easier to attract new talents, clients or investors. Take our vision: “To help everybody live healthier life in an hassle-free way by crafting beautifully designed tools.” To achieve it, we need to define concrete steps.

These steps are a way to break down a big problem into issues that are small enough to be effectively dealt with. That’s simply what we do during the prio week. Involving each and everyone of us, it allows us to shape a new roadmap for the following 3 months and vision for the next 18 months.

I would like to share here the methodology we have crafted, hoping it will help you.

🏄‍ What is the prio week and its outcomes?

If you follow us on our blog, you might’ve read that we’re not big on meetings. You can imagine the prio week as a week-long asynchronous team journey.

It is mostly about doing a lot in a short time-span. It brings a lot of value to have the whole company focused on the same subjects at the same time.

The whole team is divided in smaller crews, formed of 5–6 members. Crews are a melting-pot: design, product, engineering, finance, customer service and so on. We have a crew leader in each crew and we make sure that the crew leader has a key role in the organisation.

What do we get out of there for each crew is:

  • A 18-month vision summarized in a few sentences
  • A clear statement of what the sub-KPIs are, how they are computed and how they are expected to relate to the company-wide KPIs
  • A 3-month roadmap starting the week after (ie.a one-dimensional list of tasks ranked by priority and explanation of this ranking)
  • A paragraph stating clearly what are the expected objectives at the end of the 3-month roadmap.
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📖 Prerequisite to launch a prio week

The work starts before the actual prio week. We need some preparation to be really efficient during the show-time. Here are the main steps we follow:

  1. Write-down the mission of the whole company and how it translates in 18 month
  2. Define our company KPIs
  3. Organise our existing roadmap
  4. Have crew leaders
  5. Crew leads plan the week at least 4 weeks in advance
  6. Prio Week
  7. Final decision on the roadmap

Vision and mission
The first thing to do is to prep for our prio week. We start by writing down our company’s vision and mission, thinking of the ways to make it happen in the next 18 months. Remember the breaking down of a large problem into smaller chunks? This is it.

In our case, the mission and vision have been shared by the CEO and challenged by the team so we get to a common understanding of what we want to build for our users.

KPIs definition
Then, we define our main KPIs to help us take decision on the roadmap and validate we are aligned with our vision. First, we define what we feel is important and how to track it. Then, we challenge with the team. And we end up with five main KPIs.

Existing roadmap organisation
The next thing to do is to regroup all the existing tasks you have in different clusters. For us, clusters are both around end-users and systems. The result you’re aiming for is to get a clear definition of the scope of each streams.

🖊️ To do list — before the prio week

Rules & tools

  • Almost everything can be done async up to the last sizing phase
  • We use Github issues in each team as a way to structure each step for transparency and documentation
  • We use Trello to centralise and organise ideas and ideas owners
  • We use a prio team dedicated Slack channel to announce steps, deadline, questions about the process, etc.

From then on, we allocate ourself four weeks in order to organise the crews and the schedule.

  • 4 weeks in advance: we define the crews and make sure everyone in the team is fully available (no holidays, no recruiting activities, etc)
  • 4 weeks in advance: we keep a trello roadmap open and ask the whole team to spend one half-day prior to the prio week thinking of new ideas for every stream
  • 3 weeks in advance: we take time to clean existing product roadmap from all “S” (Small) tasks that we regroup on bigger topics
  • 3 weeks in advance: we share a list of “insights” (data about our company, market, demographics, locations etc).

🗓️ The prio week : from day 1 to day 5

#Day 1: defining the big picture
On the first day, each crew define its own mission. In short, in 18 month from day 1, what has the crew achieved. The crew define its proper sub-KPI, that can overlap with the company’s ones.

The exercice is similar to the one to define the company mission but at a more focused level.

#Day 2: gathering ideas
The second day is dedicated to building a list of ideas from the crew members and from the backlog.

The crew members spend around 45 min alone to come up with new ideas. These are then added in on Trello cards. Each Trello card:

  • tell a compelling story summarized in a sentence “A <stakeholder> can <clear action with context>”, or alternatively “A <stakeholder> <verb for undergone action>
  • describe the problem solved, or the opportunity created.
  • explain how does it contributes to KPIs
  • describe the functional scope of a first version (MVP)

#Day 3: cleaning up the room
Now that each crew has produced and formalized new and old ideas, it is time to clean up the room:

  • review the cards, ask for precisions, comment, share critical input
  • define an owner for each card
  • make sure no card is forgotten (or kill them).

A card is ready when:

  • The formatting is correct (title, problem definition, MVP)
  • It links to external material
  • Optionally: Elements of required steps / involved work.
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#Day 4: estimate cost and value 
The goal is to end up with an estimated metric for both the cost and the value for each task.

Cost & Externalities:
First, split cost in different categories, depending on the crew. Here is an example of common scale:

  • S: 1 day or less from one person in the team
  • M: 1 week or less from 1–2 people in the team
  • L: more than one week, up to a full crew
  • XL: more than a month

To define the value, we use the company KPIs in complement with 0 to 3 custom sub-KPIs. Each KPI is evaluated with the following scale:

  • 0: No value
  • 1: Low value
  • 2: Some value
  • 3: A lot of value

Having a 0 to 3 scale force people to be either positive or negative, and give stronger weight to 3 or 0. The result should be clearly stated in the Trello card in a reproducible way.

#Day 5: Prioritizing our actions
We put all the tasks on a Value vs Cost Graph where value is the Y axis, from bottom to top and cost is the X axis, from right to left.

This graph allows us to kill stories and prioritize the remaining ones.


Value vs Cost Graph

Take the final cut
Since we are in limited resources, we won’t be able to work on every subject at the same time. We need to take decisions on what we are going to do with the team we have. In our case we wanted to have no more than 4 crews live. To take the final cut, the CEO draft a proposal which is discussed with the team in a GitHub issue to validate the final scope and ressources.

We’re now left with a clear vision of the next 3 months. Since everybody took part in the prio week, the involvement is also at its maximum.

Et voilà, this is the way for us to have an updated, coherent and powerful new roadmap. Hope it helps :)

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