Stepping Stones: The product blog by Obo

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Bridge short- and long-term planning

Aug 1, 2019 6:27:51 PM

Product managers must constantly navigate the gap between planning for longer-term business strategy while planning for shorter-term sprints—without falling into the abyss between them. It's not easy!

We get it—we're product managers too: Your role as a product manager or leader is just as dynamic as your roadmap. Agile product planning with Obo fits the ways you need to work today. Obo enables you to organize and validate requirements from multiple sources and to create dynamic product plans and roadmaps based on data.

What is product planning?

There's a lot of confusion about product planning. It's not the same as sprint, financial, corporate, or project planning. It's a core and challenging component of product management: reviewing the backlog of not-yet completed ideas, gathering new ones from relevant sources, evaluating and validating them, and then identifying which will have the greatest impact given costs, timing, budget, and other constraints (like commitments, must-haves, and dependencies).

How to make your product plans "agile"

Engineering teams have moved toward continuous development models and product teams need to shift their planning to adapt. Obo Product Cloud helps product teams adopt an agile approach to product planning.

Agile product planning enables you to achieve your business goals while anticipating that plans will change and giving you the information you need to respond effectively when they do. It helps teams work together to discover, design, and deliver products that meet the objectives of your stakeholders, customers, business, and the market.

Getting started

The key ingredients to agile product planning are:

  • Organization
  • Validation, evaluation, and prioritization
  • Dynamic product roadmaps that show why

Here's more info on each:


To be agile, and best align with your development teams' processes, you need to continuously gather and consolidate ideas, requests, and requirements. And you need to include the backlog of not-yet-built features and ideas, which may be in Jira, spreadsheets, or other tracking systems.

It's important to get all of these items into a comprehensive view so you can assess their value and costs in a consistent way, prioritize them against the many options you have, then choose what to build when. That way you have the complete picture before you start making the tough trade-offs. 

Just because a suggestion gets a lot of votes on an idea portal does not mean it's more important than a requirement from a strategic customer or partner.
Validation, evaluation, and prioritization

Now that everything's organized, it's time to validate and prioritize. Evaluate some or all of the potential features for their value, estimated cost, and impact against business objectives. You can start by asking yourself and then move on to asking others. See our blog on validating for product success for more info.

When you evaluate potential features, use consistent metrics and methods across all of the ideas, requests, and backlog you're considering. For example, just because a suggestion gets a lot of votes on an idea portal does not mean it's more important than a requirement from a strategic customer or partner, or that's it's more urgent than a feature in your backlog that will open new markets or create a major competitive advantage.

Evaluating the value and cost of potential features can be contentious because different people have different priorities and preferences. You want to understand their priorities and preferences, but you can't say yes to everyone. How do you make tough trade-offs?

  • Use methods that work. Sounds so obvious! But stack ranking lists over a handful of items isn't really possible. There are many techniques. We prefer our own Obo Value Survey™ but planning poker is great too.
  • Ask stakeholders for their input. Build buy-in. Obo makes it quick and easy to get stakeholder input on value, cost, and impact against business drivers. Ask engineers for quick cost estimates. Ask customer support, sales, and other teams what they value most. You then have data you can see and use to make and explain tough trade-offs.
  • Ask customers for their input. Everyone has a point of view and likes to be asked. We are not fans of portal voting (read our blog post Are idea portals a bad idea?).
  • Get market input. How do you even reach your market? Obo connects you. We're integrated with the top, professional, vetted market panel providers and made it easy for you to select your target markets based on demographics and firmographics (like demographics but for an organization).
  • Evaluate impact against consistent, top business objectives. What moves the needle? Use Obo to evaluate potential features. Ask stakeholders what they think. Then use this data to prioritize and make tough trade-offs.

Building products and getting them to market is a team sport. But as a product manager, you're on the line to deliver. Getting buy-in and better results, faster, through collaboration and soliciting input is a great way to get the whole team on your team.

Jackie Holen
Written by Jackie Holen

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