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Looking at your next five years as a product leader can be a challenging exercise. Especially if you typically do it in a spreadsheet like many. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE me some spreadsheets. In fact, my nickname “Spreadsheets” was affectionately given to me by a past drug information sales team at one of my former companies.

I love information. I need useful information as a product leader.

Getting Organized

It takes the organization of data to give a leader the information that we need to make effectively make decisions. We have more data today than ever and simply not enough time to pull it together to improve our decision-making process.

I stumbled into data visualization out of necessity over a decade ago. I’m a visual learner like many. I have had to build manually many of the visuals that I use today because what I want doesn’t meet the complex environments that I work in on a daily basis. Plus, I like to be a little unique in my approach.

Graphs are nice. They are a quick way to do some nitty gritty information sharing. I’m not a formally trained designer by any means, but I know what inspires me. Graphs must evolve.

Too many cookie-cutter approaches to information display, and we all end up with bland spreadsheets and graphs. Blah!

Take Notice

When someone sees something new that is interesting the first time, we take notice. Hence the proliferation of Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Facebook, et. al. Or how about the first Tesla or self-driving Google car?

So, what do you think about my latest supergraphic example for product leaders?


Next5 Product Planning Roadmap

It is light on the legend because I want users to take it in visually first. I know that I am displaying a significant amount of information in a single 4:3 slide format in this example.

The Genesis (my “Why?”) of this graphic is that I needed a way to show a 5-year plan. The infographic was my attempt at that for my team.

Be Inspired by Something

It could easily be adapted to show the next six months of about anything for any product. In this example for one of my enterprise software-as-a-service applications, I’ve chosen to obfuscate the real metrics I used in my recent presentation of the information. I’m channeling my inner visual magician with smoke and mirrors so I can share it with you today–in case you are wondering these numbers are definitely not real.

I had an idea of what I wanted to do, so I looked first to see if one of my applications I use (like would already have something I could use. I found something similar but ultimately decided to build my own.

Hopefully, you are inspired by the graphic I created above on how you might do something similar for your product. That is where many of my ideas come from–seeing others design. So, I’m doing my part today by sharing. The other graphic was my muse from the pros.


Big Goal: Buildings and Shadows

The original goal was to show in a clean format the cash flow in/out, team needs and expected expenses planned over the next five years.

In the product planning roadmap supergraphic I have the following information:

Buildings on the Left
Investment or profit is the height rising above timeline
Monthly Recurring Revenue is the depth
Implementation Revenue is the width

Shadows on the Right
User Growth
Product Expenses
Team Members
Employee Allocations
Growth Wish List

Anything stand out for you as you peruse my attempt to visualize the information?

Doing More

As the visual designer, some datasets might not work as you expect–like information height could hide depth or shadows might not be representative of height. I also realize that some of my art won’t make it on display if it does not work with my dataset. Advice if it does not work, simply keep doing more. I could have added some additional details today, but I did not want to get too far down in the weeds. Sometimes less is better in words and visuals.

Einstien said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

I hope this inspires you and that you can share your favorite graphics too as we make sense of more datasets in business and life.

Happy visualizing!
Brian Stout
Software Product Leader & Curious Visual Practioner