Product roadmaps are the backbone of every successful development project. It’s the guiding star for everyone involved – from product managers, product developers, right down to every member of the support staff who’s part of the project. So how do you build this important part of the product development process?
In this article, we will address the challenges of creating your first product roadmap, how to create a product roadmap strategy, and how to handle the most important features of your future product.
What Exactly is a Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap maps out the vision and strategic objectives for a product in a visual way. It shows the company’s short- and long-term objectives that aid in planning, building consensus, and communicating high-level decisions. It’s the step you take to translate your product vision and strategy into projects and actionable steps that the company staff will tackle.
But what comes before the product roadmap? Homework, of course. You need to determine the “why” of your product. That will be the cornerstone of your roadmap strategy. That means aligning the top management and the rest of the team – they all need to be on the same page when it comes to strategic goals and themes (also referred to as initiatives).
A product roadmap describes why you’re building what you’re building as much as it does what you’re building. It also demonstrates how a product can change and grow over time. Product roadmaps are used by SaaS and hardware teams to identify customer issues that are related to the overall strategy and then prioritize features and bug fixes that solve them.
The Beginning: Developing a Product Roadmap Strategy
But, you should not take into account your roadmap until you have a straightforward strategy in place. Your planning structure should look something like this:
- Mission: What are you striving to accomplish?
- Vision: What impact do you want to have?
- Strategy: How do you intend to fulfill your vision?
- Goals: How will you track your progress?
- Roadmap: What do you need to build in order to get there?
Don’t burnout by attempting to incorporate too much detail in a roadmap. So don’t overdo your strategy. Remember, your product roadmap should emphasize on why you’re prioritizing certain projects over others.
Best Tips for Building Your Product Roadmap
Here are our top tips for creating a successful product roadmap that will take you to the launch phase and beyond!
Determine the “Why” of the Product
As we’ve stated above, this is a key strategic question to pose. Without an adequate answer, you can’t justify the capital spendings and wasting time of other employees who could’ve used their resources on another project with a more determined goal.
Furthermore, this first effort will pay off handsomely throughout the development process and far beyond your product’s introduction. Establishing the purpose for your product to your team early on will make all of your subsequent decisions more strategic and unified. It will eventually result in a more successful product
Gather Some Insider Feedback
Gathering insider feedback means communicating not just with your product development team. You should also get input from stakeholders such as partners, sales, and management. All of them can provide useful information that you can further form into vision, mission, goals, and finally the roadmap.
Your product roadmap should not just lead to a satisfied user. It should also align with your company goals and be built with the possibility of measuring outcomes. A good practice is to first build a draft product roadmap, then present it to the team and stakeholders. After gathering their input, you can modify it further. Another useful address for gathering insider feedback is partnering with experienced professionals, such as a product design and development consultancy. That way you can significantly shorten your way to a completed product ready for launch.
Find Out What Users Want
A perfectly logical step to creating a roadmap is finding out the needs of the potential consumer. All the feedback from your top management and other stakeholders will be in vain if the end-user is not pleased. So you need to gather feedback, have test groups, analyze competition and do everything else necessary to find out what the target group wants.
Determine the Main Themes
You need to figure out the key themes and organize them in order of significance. Themes are high-level strategic objectives for the product. They refer to the problems that the organization will be working on. For instance, the theme can be “faster photo upload” or “improving the onboarding process”, etc.
In other words, themes tell the story behind your vision. It gives a clearer picture of the customer benefits and keeps you on the right path.
Make Multiple Versions of the Roadmap
Since the product roadmap is a strategic document, that leads to the logical conclusion that you need to make multiple versions for multiple presentations. If you are sharing the document with top management, you should be aware that they are not interested in the tiny details. They want to see, clearly and concisely, how that product will bring them profit and increase market share.
On the other hand, sharing the document with the team means that you need to present them with an outline of their tasks, the technology you all will be using, the deadline you will be working with, etc.
Organize the Releases
We already mentioned in the paragraph above the importance of giving a deadline to your team. To highlight this again, when you’ve effectively explained and presented the “what” and “why” of your product, it’s time to explain and present the “when.” After outlining the product’s features, you can add the release dates to the timeline. Few teams prefer to arrange product releases based on development capability rather than product launch.
In an ideal world, a roadmap is a document set in stone. But as we’ve said, you need multiple roadmaps, and they must be adaptable and open for editing. In product development, even the most efficient teams will make last-minute changes. The only important thing is that they’re done effectively, without risking quality.
So just make sure you are surrounded with agile and open-minded colleagues, and that you’re all focusing on the end-user.