Image of a product roadmap
Product Roadmaps

Retaining Engineers with Product Roadmaps

An important but frequently overlooked benefit of well maintained product roadmaps

Most organizations cannot match the compensation offered by Google, Facebook, Apple, and a few other industry titans. It doesn’t mean that titans get all the best talent (they get a lot of it!), but not every top-tier engineer wants to work for one of these companies because some don’t personally wish to contribute to their success. The fact that some engineers want to use their skills for something significant (over say, something addictive) is excellent news for mission-focused organizations — as long as they can convey their mission effectively.

Impactful Work

Product roadmaps are how mission-focused organizations convey the opportunity to do meaningful work to their engineers. The impact-driven engineer is making a difficult choice by placing a positive impact with their work ahead of their financial best interests. For this engineer, it is infuriating to both make less money and feel like they are wasting their time doing low impact work. With the product roadmap at hand, team members can analyze the roadmap and make an informed decision about where they can be most impactful.

To attract and retain top talent, the mission-focused organization must invest in its product roadmaps.

Product Roadmaps Can Be Hard

If it were easy to develop a product roadmap, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I wish that I always had compelling product roadmaps at my fingertips for my understanding and to champion to engineers — but I don’t always have them, or sometimes I have them, but they are shallow, unclear, or inconsistently formatted.

I said invest earlier because many organizations need to spend a lot of time and money sort this out because it could be an indicator of a more significant problem. If it is unusually challenging to develop a product roadmap, an organization might be pathologically reactive or unfocused at its highest levels. It is possible that the organization is new to the product management function and is tasking product managers to do the wrong work and not providing them with the right training and tools. Regardless of the cause, organizations can’t afford to be fundamentally poor at communicating their direction to internal stakeholders.

There are many different details and dimensions of a good roadmap. Minimally, a product roadmap should show epics on at least a one-year timeline that fits into the organization’s initiatives and high-level themes. Product roadmaps should scannable and carefully worded to convey thoughtfulness. A product roadmap that ends in the past, is sloppy, overly complicated, or is vague is going to backfire at offering the assurance that many engineers need.

About the Author

Ryan's FaceRyan Mahoney is the director of technology for the customer-facing technology department of state of Massachusetts’ public transportation agency. He has spent the past two decades leading engineering teams as a founder, director, manager, and tech lead working with brilliant engineers that make positive impacts with their work.

More Posts in Agile