Nowadays, technologies change very quickly and require companies to innovate more often and bring new products to the market. But interesting ideas don’t mean perfect results in the end, and the business owners typically hesitate to make the right decisions. A roadmap is an effective tool for describing the development of a product, for connecting people involved, and attracting money to improve products. But it is difficult to create a roadmap effectively, the rapidly changing external circumstances must be taken into account. In this article, you will learn basic practical tips on how to make product roadmap.
A high-level visual summary, mapping out the direction of your product over time, is called a product roadmap. It connects and communicates what's and why's behind the project being built. A product roadmap is a strategic document, working together with the product strategy execution plan.
The goals of creating an MVP product roadmap are the following ones:
- To enlighten the strategy and the general vision
- Working with the documentation related to the strategy
- Work coordination with the internal stakeholders
- Options and scenario planning discussion facilitation
- Improve the communication process between the external stakeholders and the customers
Below we will make a brief guide aimed to define all the stages of making a product roadmap and will also explore the services which will help to create a product roadmap that will rock.
A couple of years ago, the casual approach to developing a product roadmap was just to use PowerPoint or Excel. Now, thanks to the numerous services, a roadmap creation turned out to be an activity worth spending time on.
Why designing a product roadmap is in need?
To answer this question, one should determine what is the main goal of the roadmap as it is. First and foremost, it is to convey the goals of the initial product to be developed. Also, the roadmap underlines the implementation stages, making them vivid not just for the team but for the external stakeholders as well. They include shareholders, partners, and even the customers.
In simple words, the product roadmap is a visualization of the main goal to be achieved and all the steps required for it. The features of the product should not be included, just the goal and the steps required.
Important note: To create a roadmap for product development working as it should, it has to be updated throughout all the stages of the product development lifecycle. Also, the opinions of the managers and the other members of the team who are responsible for the product delivery should not be dismissed. On the contrary, they have to be taken into account.
However, there’s no stated standard of the way the product roadmap should be organized and how it should look. There are a lot of templates to be used, so the data will be displayed in the most convenient way:
- Product Strategy
- Release dates
- The functionality of the product «release to release»
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How to create a product roadmap?
To create any piece of documentation from the scratch is a tough task for the manager, simply because it is not always obvious where to start from. Another issue is the need to include a lot of data, taking into account all the peculiarities while creating a digital product roadmap.
What seems to be the most logical and appropriate first step? Yes, to pick a set of features to be implemented first. But now one should stop and take a step back. A huge step back. The first thing to concentrate on is the reason why THE PRODUCT exists at all.
- Why is it built? Why was the building of the product initiated at all?
- What is about to be accomplished?
- How the product and the accomplished goals will help the users?
When the product manager answers these questions, he focuses on the most important points. Surely it works the best if these questions were answered long before the product building process started. Keep in mind that there always will be features to be improved, as well as the things the product can do better. Still, the baseline set of functionality has to exist before the additional expectations and improvements will be implemented.
Tools for building a product roadmap
Old good tables
Yes, spreadsheets still work and are still used! The most obvious and “classical” decision is Excel. Just create a spreadsheet with the product ideas, deadlines, and priorities. Tablets, being widely used, have a huge drawback - poor to zero visualization.
Let’s make it clear: the better approach to creating a product roadmap is the visualized one. So in these terms, PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides are the solutions worth considering. But in case of any updates, they should be executed manually, so the shortcoming here is the same as with the other tools like Excel and other services.
Other web-based tools for creating a product roadmap
Here the question comes - why should we use special services to create a roadmap at all and how to create a product development roadmap with their help? So, here are a couple of reasons:
- The product roadmap is properly visualized
- The team can work together on the roadmap creation
- An update is easy and is conducted in time
- Integration with the third parties services as a plus
Let’s have a look at the TOP-5 platforms which will be in hand for anyone who has decided to build a product roadmap.
- Ganttpro is the best app for small teams management because it's super user-friendly and has a lot of features.
- Roadmunk is also easy to use. During 15 minutes, you can make a roadmap and share it between teams. The well-defined tool has a large stock of ready-to-use envisaged topics.
- Proofhub is not a completely interactive program but also is working. Every single function is valuable and does its work very well.
- Roadmap planner offers a built-in tool for strategic planning. It includes different templates that can speed up the planning process.
- Taskworld is a tool for planning and making a list of tasks. It has a pleasant interface and the personal profile is made in the best way. It has a very stable and fast API.
- Aha! consists of modules that help you manage a product through its entire lifecycle.
- Craft helps you make different stories and translate those into the visual roadmap.
- Lucidchart offers connecting online, with a simple, nice interface.
- One desk helps you identify and prioritize requirements straight.
- ProductPlan includes drag and drop features that help you to see several roadmaps in the main plan.
- TrendsRadius analyzes customer feedback from multiple channels and then translates that feedback into actionable insights.
- Smartsheet offers a Gantt chart with a lot of views, adaptation features such as color and symbols, and the possibility of working in all real-time.
Ok, the service is chosen. But what is the first step to begin with? Let’s have a look.
Things to consider while creating product roadmap (or not everything is roadmap worth)
To add, anything that comes to mind while working on the project - is it the right approach? Wrong. The difference between the roadmap and any other artifact is that it has a tough bouncer working the door. It should be kept clear, with no extended branching. There are a couple of filters used to keep the roadmap as clear as possible:
- Is there value to users in this branch? If yes, add it. If not - don’t waste space.
- Is there any evidence that the branch is valuable enough? Gut feelings are not the point to be considered by the professionals, keep it in mind. Only metrics and documented facts matter.
- What about the owner? Any request should have the one who will fight for it, understanding all the nuances.
- Does the request fit at all? The roadmap is about prioritization and scheduling, not about adding any first best good idea.
Stages of creating a product roadmap
1. Strategy is the king
First and foremost, figure out what are the objectives of the client’s “pain” and how the product to be developed can solve it. Mark the desired functionality on the roadmap.
Your policy of working will set the vision of your product, the goals, and the initiatives, and how it helps to achieve business targets.
Important note: all the team should have a clear vision of how the product will solve the client’s pains. Of course, the understanding of the whole process should be the same for all team members.
2. Priorities do matter
Keep in mind the needs of your customers, regardless of the stage of the mobile app development services and bespoke web app development services process. Evaluating every single of your ideas will avoid subjectivity and allow you to identify indicators that will draw up your strategy ultimately. Ideas that mean a lot and have higher ratings could work for us.
Important note: Study metrics, use the most convenient one, and feel free to make changes in the roadmap if the obtained results require it.
3. Define requirements and features
Your strategy already addressed the why. Now your features will define the what. You may recall from the introductory guide that this is not your problem at this point. The show will be tackled by the development team later.
You have to figure out what features support your strategy. Then you’ll create user stories around those features and build them out to give them context. You want to provide your engineering team with as much information as possible, so they can come up with a solution for your new target audience.
4. Know When to Show Dates
Marking dates while a product roadmap is developing has been a hotly debated question. We highly recommend using dates or time frames on an internal roadmap that regulates the work of marketing, sales and support, and the development team. It helps you strike a balance between timely delivery and the full realization of your goal. Moreover, it provides clarity for the interested parties and development teams helping them to do their work.
The level of detail of your roadmap needs to leave room for innovation and agile responsiveness. It needs to set a time frame, in this way you’re committing your team to keep the promises they make. It is important to remember that a key function of your product roadmap is providing guidance. So, rather than specifying dates, many managers choose planning at the monthly or quarterly level. Moreover, you can omit dates at all.
Important note: when you use an external roadmap that is shown to customers and users and often used as a sales tool, then we suggest not demonstrating any dates but streamlining your releases and possibly using a now-next-later grid to order them.
5. Tailor your roadmap to your stakeholder(s).
A product’s success depends on the participation of other internal teams. To get full support during MVP app development services process, aim to get stakeholders’ support at an early stage. You can help persuade stakeholders by customizing and presenting a roadmap taking into account their particular interests.
Here’s common information that stakeholders typically want in a product roadmap:
- Company’s management: each element in your product strategy, plus any data on the sizes of the market.
- Promotion: product features, how your product will compare to similar products on the market, and your product’s potential for sales increase.
- Sales: Release dates and detailed information about product benefits for customers. Remember: don’t promise specific dates, demonstrate general timelines.
- Engineers and developers: Requirements, time frame, sprints, and specific tasks.
Important note: If you’re bothered with the question of how to build a product development roadmap for each group of stakeholders, don’t really worry. You don’t have to create several versions of your roadmap for each group. Instead, you can use a flexible online tool to highlight the information that is most relevant to a specific party.
6. Sharing and communication
Communication is significant, the product can't be developed and successfully delivered in isolation. So when the roadmap is ready, share it with the team. Modern tools allow doing it with one click, so don’t miss the possibilities to make the teamwork smooth, simple, and efficient.
Sharing your roadmap has several advantages. Apart from encouraging teamwork engagement and support of senior management, your roadmap includes all the progress you’ve made and sets goals for the next stages. Whether you choose to share your roadmap using spreadsheets, PowerPoint, or with a cloud-based software program, sharing your roadmap is an important step to ensure accountability amongst your group, and keep everybody updated.
Important note: A roadmap is a tool not just for the managing process but for improving teamwork productivity.
How Does Agile Development Affect Today’s Roadmaps?
Earlier, before Agile methodologies started to dominate the working processes, the product roadmap examples were more static, with much fewer fluctuations during the product’s lifetime. In some cases, the roadmap could have been static for about a year and a half and even longer.
Now it is a living document, especially if the company uses Agile. The timeframes became shorter, the adjustments are made more frequently, and depended on the market and priorities. Of course, Agile roadmaps in most cases differ from the casual ones because of the reasons mentioned above, even if they are multi-product related.
Amongst the secrets to how to create a software product roadmap that will have success, keeping it current is one of the most important ones. If the roadmap is outdated, it confuses the team and gives the customer false expectations. To avoid this confusion, one should use efficient tools for creating the roadmap, so it can be easily updated as frequently as it is needed.
No matter what approach you choose, the recommendations in this section of the product management guide will give you a solid framework for building, sharing, and maintaining your product roadmap.
Are you ready to make your own roadmap? Or still don’t know how to create a plan of product development? You can contact us for help. We provide IT consulting services.