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How to start your education services product roadmap

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on June 11, 2020

Value proposition design is a necessary starting point for building your education services offerings and marketing plans. Once you have completed your value proposition canvases, it’s time to start planning your offerings. You will have plenty of courses to plan because the process of documenting customers profiles and ways in which you can deliver value to them will give you a seemingly endless supply of offerings that you can create. Ideas will flow to the point at which you get overwhelmed by the number. “How are we doing to do all of this?” Creating a product roadmap will help you deal with all of these ideas in an organized way. 

What is a product roadmap? 

According to Bree Davies, principle product manager at Atlassian, "A product roadmap is a shared source of truth that outlines the vision, direction, priorities, and progress of a product over time. It’s a plan of action that aligns the organization around short- and long-term goals for the product or project, and how they will be achieved."

If I could be so bold as to summarize Bree’s definition, I would say that your education services product roadmap is a tool to a) help you know what you will work on and when; and b) communicate status and progress to your stakeholders. 

Education services teams should build a product roadmap capability and use it as a tool for planning and executing strategy. Let’s talk about how to build a product roadmap.

Education services product roadmap on the Learndot Blog

Know where you want to go

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else,” said Yogi Berra. If you don’t have a team vision, you will end up reacting to every customer request and who knows where that will take you. Customers are not exactly famous for knowing what they want, especially, how to communicate what they want. 

That doesn’t mean you don’t listen to customers. You do. It’s just that you choose what to listen to. You do this using the value proposition canvas and validating what you put on it. 

I promise, if you go through the value proposition design process, you will start to see what your education services vision might be. It might be something like this:

  1. We will create an entire market of “Our product” certified professionals.

  2. We will create a new job category that will become one of the fastest growing jobs in the market.

  3. We will make our product/technology the one people have to learn.

  4. Companies will put our product/technology name in their job description.

  5. We will help grow our company by producing educated customers who use our product to create outcomes, buy more product, and remain customers longer. 

These are generic, I know. But they represent visions for a purpose you might have in developing education services for customers. If your team has a vision to follow, it will also make it easier for them to decide what to work on. It will also make it easier for you to communicate progress towards that vision. 

Create your list

Make a list of all the courses you will want to create. No order. Get just them down. If you designed your value proposition canvas, this will be easy. If you still need a nudge because you feel overwhelmed, just start by making a list of topics you want to cover that address jobs, gains, and pains from your canvas. 

If you want to be smarter about it, take Philip Bourne’s advice: categorize your list at a higher level than topics: Think in terms of the offerings, modalities, and bundles you will offer. Then insert topics. With this technique, you might write down that you want to create virtual ILTs, on-demand videos, and a certification program. 

Good. 

Write those down. 

Then you might think, what customer profile or product function should we build these three for? You might then write down, Admin 101, vILT, on-demand videos, and certification. Then for the second customer profile of project manager 101 you add vILT, on-demand videos, and certification program. 

I am overly simplifying this, but you get the point. 

All of a sudden you have six offerings to build. 

Of course, you aren’t going to build all of these over night. It will take time, and you need to plan that out. 

Here’s how you might do that? 

Prioritize and take a quarterly view

Once you have your list of offerings, it’s time to break them up into a timeline of when you can create and deliver them. Be realistic. If you are ambitious, you might overcommit yourself and plan to get too much done in too short a time. If you are cautious, you might plan for things to take way too long and your management team and customers will say, “I need help now. That’s way too long.” 

You need to fall somewhere in the middle. 

This is where I recommend you a quarterly view. 

On a spreadsheet or document or Trello board or Confluence page, create a table with a row for each of the next four quarters or make a header on your document or wiki for each quarter. 

Something like this:

Quarter 1

Quarter 2

Quarter 3

Quarter 4

Within each quarter, list the offerings you plan to deliver in that quarter. 

Quarter 1

  • Admin 101 vILT

  • Admin 101 on-demand videos (3 videos)

Quarter 2

  • Admin 101 on-demand videos (3 videos)

  • Product manager 101 vILT

  • Admin 101 first low stakes assessment

  • Admin 101 vILT revisions

Quarter 3

  • Product manager 101 on-demand videos (6 videos

  • Product manager 101 first low stakes assessment

  • Product manager 101 vILT revisions

  • Admin 101 on-demand videos (3 videos)

Quarter 4

  • Admin 101 Final draft assessment

  • Pilot Admin 101 certification (low stakes)

Above is a first draft of your education services product roadmap. It’s not perfect. But it gives you a vision for where you are going. 

Share it with your team. Get input. Challenge it. Move things around. Add things. Remove things. 

Then put a stake in the ground and call it done. 

Basis of your communication plan

Once you have your roadmap, you have a tool for communicating with your stakeholders what you are working and how when things will be delivered. You can use a summary version of your roadmap in every report or presentation you give to management showing progress. 

If your stakeholders ask you for a status in your progress, you can give them that slide(s). If a VP of another team wants you to prioritize something else because they have an important enterprise customer with huge needs or the CEO wants a new initiative to drive some product or revenue result, you can get your roadmap and say, “OK. We can prioritize this. Let’s figure out what we can move around on the roadmap, so we can make it happen.” 

Building a roadmap will help you plan your execution, and it will help you communicate with the rest of your organization. And if someone in your organization asks what you are working on, you will always have an answer. 



It’s time to get serious about agile 

You might now have a strong feeling of being overwhelmed with the possibilities described above. You get it, but think, “How are we going to do all of this?” Part of understanding product management practices is thinking about lifecycle management and development cycles. It’s time to get serious about learning agile methodologies, especially scrum. 

We wrote a guide to walk you through how to use scrum as a process for developing courses and delivering more value to customers. It’s called The Learndot Guide to Better Course Development.

Download guide

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