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When Your Platform Dictates Your Roadmap

Platform product owners struggle to develop a product roadmap and prioritize backlog items when their system supports multiple external products across business lines. Teams are used to a LoB or consumer product owner defining and prioritizing changes, but how do you manage these requests when they are coming from many different product owners?

Examples: Underwriting system for insurance and loans, CRM systems, SOA platforms, collaboration tools such as Salesforce and SharePoint, billing systems

In Build a Better Product Owner we identified three product owner perspectives that need to be identified and represented when mapping your product owners to your products and services.

  • Business Product Owner – LoB product owners focus on the products and services consumed by the organization’s external consumers and users. The role centers on the market needs, competitive landscape, and the operational support to deliver products and services.
  • Technical Product Owner – Technical product owners are responsible for the IT systems, tools, platforms, and services that support business operations.
  • Operational Product/Service Owner – Operational product/service owners focus on the people, process, and tools needed for manual processing, actions, and decisions when automation is not cost effective. Product owners in this space are typically called service owners due to the nature of their work.

In the case where the software platform supports many different LoB product owners and operational product owners, the technical (platform) product owner needs to own the primary roadmap and backlog for the shared system. Just like working with many stakeholders, the technical product owner needs to manage and communicate the roadmap, backlog, release milestones, and criteria used to prioritize change request.

This is best handled by leveraging a product management or roadmapping tool. Ideally, this tool should integrate into your delivery management tool. The key difference here is that we aren’t trying to use our sprint or Kanban management tool to communicate the product roadmap. Agile tools are excellent for managing delivery and releases but are too far into the weeds for strategic planning between consuming product owners and stakeholders.

Having a consolidated view will improve communication, increase collaboration, and reduce competition for changes. Make sure your prioritization criteria are clearly stated and aligned to your organization’s strategic goals and priorities.

Our Take

  • Shared platforms require the platform owner (Technical Product Owner) to own the primary roadmap and backlog.
  • The platform roadmap must be coordinated with LoB and Operational Product Owner perspectives. They are your customers.
  • The platform is more than the sum of individual Product Owner requests. The Platform Product Owner must create a product and vision that can grow and support future organizational needs.

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