A successful product launch requires dedicated efforts from the entire product development team. As a project manager, it is his or her responsibility to equally divide tasks among team members so that none of them are over-exhausted and neither sitting idle.
Therefore, you need to create a solid product roadmap that contains all stages of development methodology - starting from nurturing the idea to launching the product in the market.
A product roadmap is a high-level visual summary that gives an idea direction about your product offering over time. It also communicates the "why" and "what" behind the designing product that you're building.
Some of the goals fulfilled with a product roadmap are:
- Define the vision
- Execute the strategy
- Align internal stakeholders
- Update external stakeholders on a daily basis
Articulating the product strategy ensures that everyone in the team is putting their efforts to achieve a common goal.
Note that roadmaps aren't limited to only products. Other roadmaps, such as IT roadmaps and marketing roadmaps can also follow similar objectives as defined for product roadmaps.
How To Build Your First Product Roadmap?
Just diving in and trying to pick an initial set of features with an arbitrary timeline seems straightforward and easy for any project manager. But think harder!
Creating the product roadmap from the scratch isn't a walk in the park for any product manager. To start with, they must have answers to the below set of questions:
- Why should we build this product?
- What can be accomplished?
- How will this help users?
However, there are many other things that a product can do, but a minimum set of functionalities must exist as stated in the form of above questions.
One of the methods to start with a creation of a roadmap is to adopt a top-down approach. This approach starts with a clear understanding and vision of a product and also gives an idea where you would end up. That is, a team can agree on accomplishing certain tasks on priority than others which in turn can help product managers to effectively work on backlog.
The other striking benefit of this approach is that it synchronizes stakeholders with the onboarding plan and lines up with the end goal of the product.
Abstraction is really important for any roadmap, especially in the beginning stages of a product's life cycle. The layers of abstraction keep the healthy discussion among team members on the features to be developed.
Thus, there are many good reasons for organizing a roadmap around “themes,” or high-level strategic objectives.
Using a theme-based approach helps everyone focus on a single objective and bring out ideas and creativity across the team, which likely would not surface if the people working on the initiative could see only a series of disjointed tasks.
However, implementing this approach requires that themes must match key goals and initial requirements.
This is a well-known fact people admire or respond more to visual presentations rather than to text-packed PPTs or spreadsheets.
To create the right impression and engage team members, product managers spend long hours on creating a beautiful product roadmap presentation. The presentation would be completely about using large fonts, subtle colors, and keeping details at a high level.
Product managers must visually convey their thought process behind the roadmap to secure the buy-in. The best part is that he or she does not need to have strong designing skills or PowerPoint expertise.
There are a lot of product roadmapping tools available in the market to make life easy for managers.
The purpose of using any product roadmapping tool is that they are easy to use and have features like drag and drop, a highly customizable scoring board, and ability to add multiple users, which in turn helps create a gorgeous roadmap and improve the collaboration process.
Progress Of Roadmap With The Maturity Of Product
As product development moves ahead, the product becomes more and more complex as it now starts integrating with other products and services.
As a result, the product roadmapping also goes through a lot of evolution of its own. Let us shed light on how roadmaps created by startups differ from the ones created by established organizations:
- Horizon: Roadmaps of startups probably won’t go too far in the future as they don't have much capability and skill set to predict future requirements of the products. On the other hand, established organizations have a better understanding of their customers and market to capture product requirements.
- Frequency: Startups push things in order to release products fast. This leads to an immature product gaining no popularity. However, established organizations don't panic and space out their releases.
- Dependencies: Startups move rapidly and break tasks regularly. Mature products have a legacy to worry about third-party integrations and regression issues to contend with.
- Goals: The goals of startups are completely different from an enterprise product. The former focuses on viability, delivering the product before time, and taking on more projects. The latter will have more nuanced strategic objectives and more diverse targets.
Prioritizing The Priority
Roadmaps are a result of lengthy analysis, deliberations, and considerations. Once the strategies and goals have been set, it automatically comes down to the prioritization process and enhancement based on various criteria.
There are a plethora of methods and frameworks for prioritizing potential roadmap items. Some of them are OKRs, MoSCow, RICE Scoring Model, etc. Regardless of which approach is ultimately selected, proper prioritization requires product teams to do their homework. Assess each item under consideration for value, level of effort, and opportunity costs.
Teams must also give importance and enjoy the benefits of short-term wins versus making progress toward long-term goals. Any good product roadmap would have a combination of both as it ensures that incrementing gains are seen regularly without doing the hard work to advance to the overall product development strategy.
Presenting A Product Roadmap in Four Steps:
Creating a product roadmap needs utmost focus and attention to detail. All hard work might go in vain if product managers could not convey the final product via presentation. In order to avoid such a situation, they must lay the groundwork for success.
Here are 4 steps that must be kept in mind while presenting the roadmap:
Understand Your Audience
The presenter must keep in mind that the presentation should clearly and concisely define the responsibility of each team member. Everyone should be able to understand their concerns, challenges, and deadlines. Product managers must make them feel motivated to stay with a positive mindset in order to achieve the ultimate goal.
Focus On The Narrative
Providing context, anecdotes, and sources of inspiration puts the audience at ease. It also demonstrates how much thought and consideration were invested in the process.
Include High-level information
The presentation does not need to revolve around telling minute or individual features. This can turn team members to start losing interest in going ahead with the presentation.
The presenter must focus only on including goals, strategy, and themes to convey a message in a fruitful way.
Add Some Metrics
Everything in the organization is measured including your performance, production, KPIs, etc, and so are roadmaps. The tasks created on a roadmap should improve the overall metrics of the organization’s values which in turn can help team members to grow. It becomes really easy to have a discussion on measurable outcomes rather than spending long hours in vague and abstract endpoints.