A strategic product roadmap is a high-level document that explains the vision behind your product and helps guide the direction you take throughout the entire project. It explains what you’re creating, why you’re creating it, and how it will benefit the end-user. It’s different from your development backlog, which is focused on how you create the product.
Product roadmaps offer valuable insight and direction that you won’t get from tools like your development backlog. If you want to stay focused on building a user-centric product that solves the right problems, creating a strategic roadmap is key.
Why Create a Strategic Product Roadmap?
Lack of focus is ranked as one of the top reasons that startups fail, alongside a failure to listen to customers. Creating a strategic product roadmap helps prevent both of these potentially catastrophic issues.
Stay Focused on the End User
Your roadmap is all about the problems that your end user faces and how you plan to solve them. Keeping the customer in mind when you create your roadmap ensures that you’re not creating features for the sake of it or losing sight of your actual users.
In creating a roadmap that’s focused on the user, you might find that you don’t develop as many features, but you make the few features you focus on much better. This is more likely to lead to success than a ‘shallow’ product with tons of features that don’t work well.
Adapt to Changes in the Market
Your roadmap doesn’t have to be a static document. In fact, it’s a great tool for adapting to changes in the market as you’re developing your product. It’s a given that things will change while you’re still in the development process and having a roadmap helps you to identify features that need to be changed. If you don’t have a roadmap to refer to, it’s too easy to power forward on something that no longer adds value.
Solve the Right Problems
Your product can only solve a finite number of problems, so it’s important to hone in on what’s most important. Carrying out customer research as you create your roadmap will help you to get a really clear idea of what will add value for your users and what won’t. Using Design Thinking to define your product strategy when you create your roadmap is a simple way to get a deep understanding of your market and user base.
How to Create a Successful Product Roadmap
There are 5 steps to creating a product roadmap:
Step #1: Define your product strategy.
Using our tips on Design Thinking, define your product vision and goals. Do a complete competitive analysis and product positioning before jumping into the next steps.
Step #2: Identify key product features.
Review your list of potential product features that your team came up with during the product strategy stage of your roadmap and prioritize them based on reach, impact, confidence and effort (RICE).
Step #3: Define requirements and resources.
Break up the work into smaller pieces and assign teams to each part of the product development. Estimate the time and effort needed for each stage of development and ensure that you have the right amount of resources allocated.
Step #4: Define timeline and releases.
Work with your team to create a product development timeline and realistic release dates. Work alongside your engineering leader or scrum master to make these decisions. Make sure to factor in any dependencies, risks, and constraints that may affect the timeline.
Step #5: Visualize and communicate the roadmap.
Make sure that your roadmap is easy to understand and communicate across all stakeholders, such as the product development team, sales team and executives.
Your completed roadmap should be a high-level document that defines your core product features, resources required for success and an estimated timeline for completion. A successful product roadmap helps businesses to map out the effort required to complete a project, set realistic goals and link the project to the company’s larger business vision.