For any software product, having a clear vision of what it looks like is an important aspect for how it gets done. Seems pretty obvious, but all too often a product starts out as one thing and ends up as something else. Many factors can contribute to this, and one of them is that the stewards of the product can lose the vision they had for the product in the first place.
There is also a delicate balance at play with software products, and it’s the line between these two sides:
Delivering features that lead to sales
Delivering those features on a solid technical foundation
If you’ve been around long enough, you know that most products are built with features being the overwhelming priority. Features sell, plan and simple, and initially it can be the lifeblood of a product. But at some point, features become a zero-sum game and can lead to a bloated product where 80% of the “must-have” features aren’t actually used by its customers.
Whether that happens or not, the trick is being able to put in place an underlying technical platform that helps you to continue pushing the product forward. And they key to this is an Architecture Roadmap.
A Vision Reborn
Backstory time. A little over a year ago I joined Znode and basically spent my first month asking questions from anyone who would give me five minutes. Questions about the Multifront product, its history, how it got to this point, what are its strengths and weaknesses, who our customers were, what were their challenges, how do we market and sell it, where do our partners fit in, what is the out of box experience, and on and on. I asked questions from all angles.
What emerged from those discussions was a new vision for where the Multifront product should go. It needed to change from a standalone application into a true enterprise-class ecommerce engine platform. Someone put it to me this way: this will be like trying to change the wings and navigation system of an airplane full of people, but the plane must remain in flight while doing it. Yes, something like that.
An Architecture Roadmap Is The Key
In order to accomplish this monumental feat, we needed a plan, so I began curating a list of technical to-dos that would have an impact in the Multifront transformation. Over time, this simple to-do list morphed into a broader architectural roadmap, with buy-in not only from the development team, but also sales and marketing and Znode’s leadership team. This architecture roadmap is our guide to know where we are going and how we will get there.
30 Items, 40 Revisions
As of this writing, our Architecture Roadmap is on revision #40 and contains 30 items. Many of these things are big-ticket items, a couple are pie-in-the-sky types of things, while others are smaller in scope. But the size of these items is not what matters. What matters is that they exist and are visible to everyone in the company, which helps foster discussions and planning for future releases.
Again, it’s all about knowing where we’re going.
More to Come
This post kicks off my next series, where I’ll dive into the details for some of the items on our Architecture Roadmap. Stay tuned.