What Is A Product Roadmap?
Simply put, a product roadmap is a strategic blueprint that outlines a company’s product release timeline. These strategic outlines are intended to formalize the product feature release schedule and typically formalize the release structure three to five years in advance. This strategic planning can allow a company to formalize their long-term goals, focus their development efforts, and separate long-term goals into smaller feature releases. A typical release structure will follow an agreed-upon major release and point release cadence; e.g. 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 2.1, and so on. The clear benefits of creating a coherent product roadmap are that it allows a company to align with the market research for their industry, provides governance for how the company operates, and delivers a clear vision for the company’s and the product’s future.
Why Is A Product Roadmap Important For Your Company?
The value of a product roadmap is that it brings teams from different segments together within the company to agree on a unified vision and plan of action for a specific product. These elements of strategic planning and intersegment communication are critical characteristics of a healthy functioning company. An effectively constructed product roadmap can provide many benefits, but there are a few that clearly stand out.
Shows Customers Where You’re Headed: A great feature of the product roadmap is that it provides your customers with a clearly defined direction for the product. Assuming you’ve gathered adequate market research and customer input, your roadmap can represent your answer to customer feature requests and align with your ever-evolving industry.
Avoid The Silo Effect: Healthy dialogue and collaboration between segments removes the silo effect that would otherwise stifle healthy business productivity. Why? Customer-facing departments within a company may have a better understanding of the value that a given product or feature could provide for the marketplace, whereas development-focused segments may have a better understanding of the design hurdles or technical considerations in taking that same product or feature to market. When multiple segments within a company collaborate to agree upon a product roadmap, it can provide a value-driven realistic path for the company’s design and release process.
Ability To Make Clear-Cut Budget Decisions: Once you’ve implemented an agreed-upon product roadmap, it is easier to make decisions around the allocation of a budget. Spending requests for features or products that do not align with the product roadmap can be easily pushed onto the back burner, while budget requests that are roadmap-focused can be funded more easily. This in turn can save your company money by avoiding frivolous spending.
Best Practices For Creating A Product Roadmap
Step 1: Research And Planning. Remember, the product roadmap is primarily a product planning exercise. It enables a team to decide what to build and when to build it. It helps categorize product dependencies and helps formalize the go-to-market strategy. This is all possible through effective research and planning. At this stage, it is critical to reference market research to understand where your respective industry is headed. Spend adequate time to reference customer input, so you’re driving design around their product requests. First and foremost, you want to design a roadmap that solves a problem for your customer base.
Step 2: Formalize Objectives. Once you’ve done the proper research, formalize this into clear, executable objectives. Here, you’ll surely find that some features should take priority over others. Organize these features accordingly into your release structure. Also, remember that smaller additions and feature sets may be a better fit for a smaller “point release.”
Step 3: Internal Collaboration. After you’ve set these objectives, it’s critical to ensure you have everyone onboard. Do the expectations of the product manager team align with what the development team can produce? Clear intersegment dialogue is a must here, so you do not fall short of your long-term goals.
Step 4: Gauge Results. Feedback is critical throughout the process. Once you start implementing your product roadmap, you can begin to gather feedback. How are your customers responding to these product releases? Are you finding that other features are becoming more valued in the marketplace as your industry evolves? How is your development team handling the workload? Having a pulse on the effectiveness of your product roadmap is critical to finding success as you move forward.
As you move forward and implement each key phase of your product roadmap, focus on the key aspects that dictate success. Ensure that you have strong input and support from key players. Remember that healthy, effective communication among organizational groups is the first step to outlining clear, realistic objectives for your product roadmap. Seek key stakeholder participation early and aim to capture early buy-in on your product roadmap vision. This key stakeholder support will allow for a unified approach, increasing the likelihood of support of your given product roadmap.