You plan for days for your trip. You set a date, plan the whole itinerary of the travel, where you will go at what time, where you will stay, and everything you would do. Having a plan makes your travels smoother. Correction, a good plan or strategy makes your trip successful.
A good plan is always a guarantee for a successful outcome. Whether you plan for a new product, a feature, or an entirely new business, a product roadmap will make the process smoother.
So, what is a product roadmap? A product roadmap is a plan mapping out a vision to reach a positive outcome over time. It outlines direction and progress to attain the desired goal aligning with your idea.
How To Build A Product Roadmap?
Before creating a product roadmap, you need to define your vision, the goals you desire, and all the research that will help you reach that goal. If you are making a revolutionary product capable of changing the world, you need to do fundamental research to check its viability. Whether it aligns with your vision, your stakeholder’s goal, and your customer’s demands, you need data to support your idea. When you have put together all the research, you are ready to design a strategy. Read more on how do you structure a product roadmap.
Define Strategy – When you have done basic research, put together a strategy that will be best to launch your idea. Your product can be a new type of pen, software, or even a feature in your existing app. Devise a plan that will be best for your product. This step is the most crucial stage as it will help you lay the foundation of the plan.
Suppose you intend to go to a place A. You need to start at a correct location that will help you reach that intended place. Starting at the wrong point or starting midway will not take you to your destination. It will be as good as a hopeless case.
Gather Requirements – You cannot cook a good dish without putting together all the ingredients. If you don’t keep these handy, you might end up burning your food.
Before starting, list out all the requirements. Meet with the concerned team to get a better picture of the things. Consult with the product development team, sales team, quality assessment team, and any other team involved in the product development. Make a list of all the requirements and devise a roadmap accordingly.
You can also take information from your would-be customer to make your product more viable and functional to their demands. In a nutshell, what inputs do you use to build your roadmap? These are market, product strategy, technology, and existing product enhancements.
Set a Timeline – There’s no such thing as an indefinite timeframe. When you don’t know when you need to complete your goal, you become relaxed. Putting a timeframe will smooth out the process and give you a clear picture of how much you achieved and how much is pending.
Align Stakeholder’s goals – The stakeholders for your project are you, your investors, the people involved in the product development, and the customers. You need to align each stakeholder’s goal to your product development process.
In your product roadmap, add the goals and inputs of all the stakeholders in the roadmap. The roadmap will become a guideline to follow while developing the product by putting the interest of all the stakeholders.
Share – After developing a full-fledged roadmap, you need to share it with all the teams. It will allow you to keep all the teams involved and in line with the overall goal and objective of the project.
Best Practices for Product Roadmapping
Why do you need a product roadmap? To keep your project aligned with the goals, the stakeholders to the progress, and the finances well under budget. Making a roadmap also helps in knowing how much you will end up spending and whether it is viable or not. A clear, concise, and thoroughly detailed roadmap will ease the product development process. Check out these best practices for developing a better product roadmap.
#1 Keep A Clear Objective
The first and foremost best practice is to keep a clear objective. An objective should be feasible and tangible. Suppose you are developing an educational platform for children. Then you cannot put something like ‘for a better and brighter future of children. The goal is vague and not necessarily obtained via your product.
Use tangible goals like ‘to provide education facilities to underdeveloped and underprivileged children. Putting such a goal will help you in targeting better. It will also help in laying out a better strategy to achieve your end goal.
#2 Keep Eyes On The End
Keep the goal in mind and not just the feature of your product. You can install a lot of features in your product. But if your product doesn’t fulfill the criteria to achieve the goal, you have not succeeded. The outcome is crucial than some upgrades on your product. In the case of educational platform, installing emoji packs are an attractive feature. But are they essential to achieve your end goal? Not necessarily.
#3 Make It Good To The Eyes
Processes are better understood when explained with diagrams. That’s the way our science teacher in school taught us about complicated science stuff. Use visual templates to make your product roadmap easy to understand.
#4 Plan B and a Plan B for Plan B
Things can go wrong at any time. In 2020, we faced the biggest crisis of the century. Many businesses went haywire, and most top-graded product roadmaps were useless. Because of the uncertain factor ‘Covid-19’, no product roadmaps could accommodate the goals.
Keep plan B for such cases. Make multiple versions of your roadmap, listing out various things that can go wrong. Planning out things ahead and making leeway for when something goes wrong can help you keep calm and take things smoothly. So, always keep a plan B product roadmap and another plan B for plan B.
#5 Leave Breathing Space
Keeping the timeframe rigid will not leave space for tackling uncertainties. You might face problems in some phases of product development. With a tighter timeline, you don’t have time to tackle the issue and adjust the rest of the deliverables.
If one process is delayed, the following steps also get delayed. In such a situation, you end up compromising the quality of the product. Keep the timeline flexible enough to cope with sudden changes or improvements.
#6 Sharing is Good
Don’t keep the roadmap just to yourself. The goal of making a roadmap is to align the visions when developing the product. It helps you to see the bigger picture. When all the teams can check the roadmap, they too can keep a tab on the progress.
#7 Keep Your Ears Open
You should make your product roadmap flexible not just in terms of the timeline but also in terms of concept. Any change can happen when you are developing the product. You might see technological advancement, a political change (that can affect the product), or uncertainty that can change the course of your product. There can be an event that can render your product obsolete. Keep your eyes and ears open for such situations. You can only maneuver your path to achieve your end goal.
Product development is an ongoing process. There can be new changes and need for enhancement when developing the product. Constantly review the product and keep on making improvements. And so, your roadmap also needs to be modified often.
How often should product roadmap planning be done? You can do it monthly or once in three months. The motive is to keep the roadmap dynamic.
#9 Roadmap Not A Backlog
Another best practice of using a roadmap is ‘to use a roadmap as a roadmap’. A roadmap sets your goal and in-line the objectives with the procedure. It is not a good practice to use it as a backlog. You need to adhere to the timeline and achieve the target within the stipulated time.