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Analysis & Design

Roadmap for Product Development — what do you need to know?

date: 5 July 2022
reading time: 5 min

A product development roadmap is a strategic document which includes a high-level plan of actions, objectives, milestones, and deadlines for a product — including its ultimate vision and functionality.

It’s designed to serve as a navigation point and provide the main context for everyone involved in product development, from the startup founders and project executives down to the development team.

Today, we’re going to guide you through some basic issues related to the product roadmap, so that you know what the fuss is all about, and how your project can benefit from creating a document like this.


The basics

First, let’s clarify a couple of things: the different types of product roadmaps and the main roles related to them, which are very often confused.


4 types of product development roadmaps

  • An internal roadmap for the development team includes project milestones, release dates and tasks that should be completed within a specific timeframe.

  • An internal roadmap for the sales and marketing team focuses on the core functionalities of the product and the features that customers can benefit from, including marketing campaigns, lead generation strategies, and so on.

  • An internal roadmap for executives is related to the most strategic concepts, like the company’s KPIs, business goals, market penetration, and market position.

  • An external roadmap for customers is a visual and easily digestible document focusing on the product’s benefits only.


Product Manager vs. Product Owner

In simple terms, a product manager (PM) is an occupation while a product owner (PO) is just a role within a scrum project (in the Agile methodology). The PM is responsible for delivering the product development roadmap and managing the project as a whole. A PO, on the other hand, defines and adjusts business and/or technical requirements for the project, manages the product backlog, and maximises the product value. These two roles can be combined, but a product owner doesn’t exist outside of a scrum framework.

OK. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we can move on to building an effective product development roadmap — so you can get a general idea of how to do it right.


5 steps to building an effective product roadmap

  1. Define the problem that you want to solve and the purpose of your product

    You need to know why you want to build this product, how it is going to help its users, and what benefits this will bring to your business.

  2. Analyse the market and define target audiences

    Describe your potential customers carefully — build buyer personae in order to create a product that will answer their specific needs.

  3. Set clear goals and results

    Objectives can be general and more mission-like in order to engage and inspire your team. The results, on the other hand, have to be very specific and quantifiable.

  4. Divide responsibilities

    Build your team, clearly define roles and responsibilities, as well as assign tasks, so that everyone knows exactly what to do and who answers to whom. This will help your employees avoid any confusion and misunderstandings.

  5. Determine:
    • vision (clarify the purpose of the project),

    • strategy (break the vision down into actionable steps),

    • timeframes (put milestones in chronological order),

    • features (deliver value to end-users),

    • MVP (focus on core functionalities only),

    • metrics (determine if the results meet the assumptions).

Of course, like everything else in project management, these 5 steps should be considered in accordance with the best practices that have been developed throughout the years.


Building an effective product roadmap: best practices

Choose an adequate roadmap format, e.g.:

  • feature-based (tracks product features — their development and releases),

  • goal-oriented (focuses mainly on achieving goals and providing benefits),

  • now-next-later (outlines priorities without committing to specific timelines and enables flexibility in terms of making changes in ever-changing environments).


Be clear — keep it short and sweet.

Don’t go too deep into details! A product roadmap provides context for your project; it shouldn’t be a rigid step-by-step guide. You need to leave some room for making any necessary adjustments and modifications.


Make sure everyone involved has access to the roadmap.

This is not a classified document — a product roadmap is a navigational beacon of sorts for each and every team member.


Review, adjust and update.

Whenever something that influences the project changes — either in the internal or external environment — react! Your roadmap should be as agile as your product development processes.


Keep stakeholders informed.

Transparency is key in terms of gaining necessary feedback and steering the project in the right direction.


Don’t shy away from using visual tools.

Tools such as Aha! or Roadmunk will allow you to effectively create attractive visual roadmaps — clear for both technical and non-technical people.

Once you’ve created your product development roadmap — and you’ve done it wisely — you will start experiencing benefits that will manifest themselves in your day-to-day activities.


Benefits of having a product roadmap


Focus

  • First and foremost, a product roadmap will help you stay on the path to achieving your goals. Whenever someone is not sure of what to do or how to handle an issue — taking a peek at the objectives, priorities or even written outlines of their own responsibilities can be very helpful.


Management

  • Managing the product backlog is much more difficult when you don’t have your vision, strategy, and goals put together in one document. Also, since the roadmap shouldn’t be set in stone, you always have the opportunity to step back, take a wider perspective, and modify the document as needed, setting the project on the right track.


Communication

  • A product development roadmap helps clarify the reasons behind your actions and “the why” behind your goals. Depending on the type of roadmap — you can use it in both internal and external communications (with employees and stakeholders, as well as customers).


Summary

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Give it a try, and see how it influences your project. And don’t worry — a great product roadmap is something that can be developed in our Discovery Workshop, so if you want to make sure that everything is done properly, just get in touch with us!

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