When brainstorming a new product concept, you have to think about more than just the launch. A product alone is exciting, but once you release the product to the market you have to have a plan for how it will attract more customers, evolve to new demands, and stay competitive with other available offerings. Sometimes the difference between a successful and unsuccessful product comes down to the strength of your planning.
That said, planning can be difficult without a structure to lean on. This is where a product roadmap comes in! You can think of it as a detailed plan of action that outlines the vision for your product over the course of time. The document helps to make sure everyone involved with the product remains on the same page.
In this article, you’ll learn more about what a product roadmap truly means and why it’s so important for your product.
A product roadmap is a strategic plan that defines the product’s vision, direction, and progress over a certain period of time. The stakeholders define the vision of a product, but the roadmap is the tool that lays it out in the form of actionable insights.
Because of this, it’s an important communication tool to keep everyone on the team on the same page and achieve your goals.
Most product teams have a shareholder meeting at the start of a year and during that meeting they discuss the current stage of the product life, what needs improvement, and how to achieve it. This tends to be the standard approach that a majority of teams worldwide follow.
Once the vision is defined, the product roadmap outlines how to achieve it in the form of actionable items. They can be growth campaigns, new features, launches of sub-products, or something even more ambitious. The key catalyst is the strategy that you derived from your vision.
The strategy should focus on robust business goals, but also accommodate changes in the market, upcoming trends, and shifts in user needs. This ensures that the product roadmap is a living document that evolves with the product and can be used as a source of truth for all the stakeholders.
How product teams work with the roadmap varies from product to product. Even teams working on the same product might use the roadmap in different ways. Use cases vary:
It’s safe to say that the needs of each team differs and their use of product roadmap follows suit.
However, the main goal of each team should be to understand the sequence of priorities and the rationale behind their prioritization. This ensures that their combined efforts align with the overall product strategy and ultimately the vision.
A product roadmap works like a blueprint for success. It keeps everyone on the same page and provides a sense of accountability across teams. The main benefits it offers are:
It also helps to manage stakeholder expectations by keeping them aligned with the project trajectory and objectives. This eliminates the risk of setting false expectations both in terms of time and achievements thus reducing the risk of miscommunication.
There are three key areas to consider when you go to develop your own product roadmap — market evaluation, customer insights, and business objectives.
Here, the goal is to gain a deep understanding of rising trends in the market. The second thing is to conduct a thorough competitor analysis and analyze what strategies have resulted in success and which ones have flopped.
If done correctly, the above two strategies can lead to potential market gaps that your product can target and gain an advantage in the market. This can then become the backbone against which the product’s USP (unique value proposition) is defined.
Market evaluation goes hand in hand with customer feedback evaluation. Start by reviewing your current customer data, then dive deeper into their feedback and anticipate how their needs might evolve in the near future.
Once customer needs are in line with the product vision, the roadmap can lead your product to market relevance, increased customer satisfaction, and the business-relevant milestones.
The final piece of an ideal roadmap is to ensure that it aligns with the broad business objectives. Several factors come into play here, like how the product will be positioned in the market, what will be the quarterly revenue targets, and how the expansion will be carried out.
Apart from these considerations, there are other aspects that need attention as well. Factors like resource availability, timelines, and budgets for each domain, play a key role in ensuring long-term success.
Creating a roadmap and presenting a roadmap are more closely related than you might think. A well presented roadmap offers clarity and welcomes engagement from all the stakeholders. It satisfies the different modes and ways of comprehension and understanding from everyone involved.
Here’s how to do it:
Many product roadmaps answer the “what” and the “why” queries, but fail to address the “how” in depth. Questions related to resource allocation, timelines flexibility, and contingency plans should be addressed in detail.
To maintain the validity of a product roadmap as the ultimate communication tool, its evolution plays a big part. Regular updates are necessary to account for market changes, rapid progress, and stakeholder input.
There should be a regular review cycle where all the teams input their feedback. It should happen at every planned milestone and it should be strictly based on:
The simple rule to follow during the review and update cycle is to acknowledge accomplishments, analyze missed opportunities, and plan realistically for the upcoming objectives.
To close out, there are four key practices that help you maintain a successful product roadmap. These include:
A well-crafted product roadmap is more than a document, it’s a strategic asset. These practices go a long way in creating one that serves its actual purpose.
Featured image source: IconScout
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