Waaah! Are We There Yet?

The Road Trip

Pacifying your CEO, while bringing a product to market, is like taking a cross-country road trip with your kids. Being an expert, you budgeted, planned and packed very well for the trip. You probably had to explain to your impatient kids, many times over, how long it would take and what they should expect during the ride. Your spouse, the dedicated navigator, discussed all major milestones, points of interest and pit stops.

And so you set off.

The Long, Whiny Road

The beginning the product lifecycle can be deceptively easy. The kids have signed off on the business requirements and there are more than enough sights, DVDs and sugary snacks to keep everyone happy. Early signs of impatience can be soothed by passing a sippy cup to the backseat or pulling out the magnetic checkers. Yet a few more miles along, the impatient whining escalates. "Are we ever going to get there?" "You are the worst parents ever!" "I hate you. Why are you making me take this trip?"



Maybe your navigator took the cheap way out by promising that there would be plenty of ice cream sundaes waiting at the final destination. "Great," you say, "You've just raised the expectations tenfold." You start to bicker over how to effectively parent, and soon get lost. Now, not only are you on a trip to hell, but it is going to take much longer, and your kids blame you, the responsible parent. While you could threaten to turn back ("No ice cream sundaes, no Grand Canyon, no Disneyland."), you are the parent, after all, and responsible for this trip in the first place. How did such a well-intentioned effort to create value take such a wrong turn?

In Praise of the Product Roadmap

This is every product manager's dilemma. No matter how hard he plans, prepares and updates, there will almost always be a higher-up who doesn't understand the value of respecting proven product development principles. Given the current competitive pressure to launch and refine search engine marketing tools and technology, you can bet there are carloads of screaming CEOs everywhere.

Search engine marketing is, for the most part, a service business. Yet its efficiency and measurability are completely reliant upon products. While one could most certainly use third-party tools, most SEMs have opted to build their own technology. For some, it is a competitive advantage. For others, it is the hopes of a higher multiple come exit time. Regardless, most have learned the hard way that building strong technology requires a product-centric culture.

For the CEO who is accustomed to modifying a particular service deliverable on the fly, it is a slap in the face to be told that her new idea cannot be incorporated during product development "lock down." And believe, me, I have seen more than one CEO stop the presses and force changes very late in development while insisting on the original launch date. The result? Resources are wasted, the end product suffers and employees get frustrated.

You Are the Best Mommy Ever!

Fortunately, not every CEO (or higher-up, for that matter) is a bratty kid. And even if your boss is, you can still come out a winner. Assuming that you haven't caved in, completely compromised the end product or gotten fired, there's one consolation: most children, upon arriving at the golden destination, instantly forget how bad the ride was.

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