How to Run a Successful Product Council Meeting

Sam Wortman Avatar photo

The idea of holding a formal Product Council Meeting is relatively new, often underused, yet essential to the success of the product roadmap. 

But at Vivun, we’re hearing a lot more about it from our customers. They consistently ask us: what are the best practices for running a Product Council? They want to know what they should be bringing to the table, who should be involved, how they should structure it, and what decisions should come out of it. And when we talk to our customers about what they’re doing now, we’ve found that the norm—even if they’re running something similar to a Product Council—is they’re usually not running it with the right audience.

In a healthy and functional Product Council, Product is meeting with PreSales, as well as the Post-Sales department. And that’s the biggest miss we see.

So the question is how do we bring these worlds together—PreSales, Product, Post-Sales—and actually have a meaningful meeting of the minds with the data to power it? That’s what the Product Council ultimately sets out to accomplish; it’s a big cultural change for most organizations to have some version of this, where they have a formal quarterly or biannual meeting with PreSales, Product, and Post-Sales teams, so they can share feedback and negotiate which product gaps need to be on the roadmap. 

Pre-Product Council Work

When preparing for a Product Council Meeting, no matter if you’re on PreSales, Product, or Post-Sales teams, representatives from all teams should prioritize product gaps based on the potential revenue that will be affected if a gap is prioritized or closed. Often gaps are ranked based on political reasons within the company or the loudest voice in the boardroom, when really the participants should bring in hard data to prove that the gap has a significant revenue component. The goal of the council is to collectively align on the priorities for development. 

At Vivun, during the product gap triage process, a “T-shirt” size estimate is given to each product gap to estimate the amount of work that is projected to be needed. This helps each team prioritize what gaps they would like to get on the product roadmap and the amount of work that would be required. 

The T-Shirt Size Legend is as follows: 

Small: Mainly front end work (i.e. Confirm before closing modal)

Medium: Front end + back end work on existing services (i.e. Funnel filters)

Large: New back end work in problem spaces we’ve solved previously (i.e. Calendar Intelligence)

X-Large: New back end work in new problem spaces (i.e. SAP CRM integration)

Since “Small T-shirt” size gaps typically take less of a lift to complete, more can be listed as compared to “X-Large T-shirt” gaps which we suggest only listing no more than two. 

When each team is listing the product gaps they would like to see on the future product roadmap, it’s important to rank the importance of the gap getting on the map as well as the revenue attached to each. 

The Formal Product Council Meeting 

The Product Council Meeting is a formal meeting between PreSales, Product, and Post-Sales that meets either quarterly or biannually. Previous to the meeting, team leaders should come prepared with product gaps ranked in order of priority with revenue attached and lift (T-shirt legend) to get the product gaps they wish closed on the product roadmap. 

By doing the prep work for the meeting, team leaders can stay on topic and focus on negotiating which product gaps will ultimately be added to the product roadmap and which must remain. You can think of the negotiation between the three teams’ wishes for product gaps to be added to the roadmap as a “This for That” conversation. We suggest that each gap being negotiated must be of the same “T-shirt size” and no more than three gaps are ultimately added to keep the roadmap and expectations manageable. 

Having a diagram that denotes which team is responsible for specific product gaps helps keep everyone accountable. For example, PreSales should be responsible ongoing for opportunity gap entry and account gap entry, and Product should be consulted weekly for product gap estimates, Post-Sales for quarterly prioritizing product gaps and ad-hoc for development item linkage. 

Towards the end of the meeting, the final decisions the team leaders’ have made should be recorded so everyone is on the same page, and therefore, these decisions can be tracked. 

Post-Product Council Meeting

Now that the teams have negotiated and agreed on the product gaps added to the roadmap, it’s important for the progress of closing these gaps to be recorded. 

We suggest creating a google or excel sheet that all three teams have access to at all times that tracks prioritization, size of gaps, due dates like late Fall 2021, status like planned or work in progress, ownership, and approvals. The transparency holds all three teams accountable and keeps everyone on track and in the loop. 

The Product Council Asset is coming out soon!

At Vivun, our Co-Founder and COO Dominique Darrow and VP of PreSales Brett Crane have found the Product Council Meeting an invaluable part of their communication to build incredible features for Vivun, and our other solutions currently under wraps for only a short period of time longer! 

We are excited to announce that our Product Council Meeting Asset will be available in the coming months to help companies communicate between teams and make the most out of their product roadmap!

In the meantime, sign up for a Demo and we’ll show you more!

Sam Wortman Avatar photo July 14, 2021