7 steps to building a roadmap with confidence

At my day job, a client of ours asked us to help create a roadmap for a new B2B customer service portal. Their team got a bit stuck deciding on what to include in the portal and what to launch with first.

Our intense collaboration involved many of the client's stakeholders. It resulted in a roadmap where customer and business value blended perfectly together.

These are the 7 steps we took to maximize the customer portal value for our client and for their customers.

1. Agree on the business objectives

To develop a roadmap that is both valuable to our client and their customers, we needed to understand what "valuable" exactly means. The first step of the process was therefore defining the business objectives behind the customer portal. The three most important objectives of the portal were:

  • Growing the share of wallet with existing customers;
  • Decreasing the transactional cost-to-serve;
  • Increasing customer intimacy and loyalty.

2. Talk and listen to the customer (no, really)

Next, we held qualitative interviews with the intended users. We asked our client's distributors to take us through their day. We kept asking how and why they did the things they did.

Our goal was to just listen and try to understand their professional context. We did not let the business objectives of our client or our ideas about portal features interfere with these interviews at all.

To build something cutomers will actually use, first try and focus exclusively on the customer context.

3. Define the Jobs to be Done

Using the "Jobs to be Done"-framework (JTBD), we categorized the information we had gathered.

We defined what it is that the distributors actually want to achieve. In other words, what is their definition of progress, of improvement, of value?

The JTBD-framework made us all think very hard about:

  • What distributors struggle with on a daily basis;
  • The habits that keep them from changing to a new solution (such as a customer portal);
  • The anxieties they have about new solutions.

4. Think of Value Creators

Based on what we knew by then, we developed potential value creators. These are high-level features that improve the daily professional lives of the customer.

A worthy value creator

  • Takes away the distributor's struggle;
  • Promises and delivers progress;
  • Changes a current habit;
  • Removes anxieties.

5. Do an internal prioritization

Our list of value creators was then prioritized based on our client's goals. Although we were already working with sales, marketing, customer service and IT, HQ and other departments got involved as well.

We measured each feature's supposed feasibility and its expected contribution to the business goals we defined earlier.

These two parameters decided the internal priority of each high-level feature. The less effort and the more impactful its contribution to the business goals, the higher the feature's place on the preliminary roadmap.

_A template for internal feature prioritization_

A template for internal feature prioritization

6. Confirm with the customers

The list of more than 20 high-level features was then confirmed with the same distributors we had talked to before.

Using the Kano method, we assessed the customer attitude towards each feature. Basically, this comes down to categorizing features as (in order of priority) Must-Be's, Performers, Attractors and Indifferents.

Some features we thought were valuable slipped down to an "Indifferent" status (meaning customers didn't care). Contrary to our expectations, other features rose up to being Delighters or even Must-Be's.

Plotting the (anonymized) features as Kano categories_

Plotting the (anonymized) features as Kano categories

This final customer validation decided the roadmap for the customer portal.

7. Now set KPI's

Only after the final validation with the customers did we define the KPI's. KPI's serve as the bridge between the initially defined business goals and the final feature roadmap. For each feature, we decided on how we would measure its contribution to the business objectives.

Outcomes

With this approach we helped our client save money and create real customer value. We did so by methodically challenging assumptions and finding out what value means for the customer using the portal.

An example of such an assumption is end-to-end ordering. Everyone assumed this feature -- although expensive to build -- was a basic and must-have feature.

But it was not. Customers prioritized many other features above the ability to create fully automated orders. People wanted to assemble their orders, but they still expected a human counterpart to do the final confirmation.

Sometimes little things can create a lot of value. Logistics are expensive and we included a feature to show the total weight of an order when assembling it. To be able to see whether an order fills a complete truck turned out to be a big delighter for customers and a major reason to use the platform.

Some assumptions were half-right. That's of course a cue to start digging deeper. For example: some customers loved the ability to split the transport bill for small orders. But other distributors -- the larger ones of course -- were none too fond of this. The assumption that all distributors would like this feature was half-right and therefore a dangerous one. Implementing it would have raised the anger of our client's larger distributors.

Thanks to our methodical approach, we asssembled a roadmap that

  • Contributes to our client's business goals in a way that is measurable;
  • Aligns all stakeholders;
  • Was confirmed by customers to be valuable to them.

Moreover, our approach raised the level of confidence in the succes of the project. By methodically challenging assumptions and focusing on customer value, we helped our client build a portal that will actually be used.

I first published this post on the blog of where I work.

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