Building a successful digital product from the ground up requires careful planning and execution, both of which take varying levels of communication between executive leadership and development teams. However, when tasked with long-term projects, it can be challenging to execute all development needs without a clear picture of all of the tasks at hand, realistic budgets, and acceptable timelines without the right documented plan.
Below we'll discuss how developing a product roadmap can help you and your organizations better prepare for project execution and how you can create one effectively.
What is a Product Roadmap and Why is it Beneficial?
When it comes to software development, product roadmaps are constructed as step-by-step visual plans that outline all relevant goals and milestones involved to get a product from concept to final design. Often, the scope of a project may seem too large to tackle without segmenting tasks into smaller, more manageable project components. Product roadmaps provide an easy-to-digest, actionable outline to follow, ensuring all members of a project have clear goals they can follow to contribute to its completion.
Product roadmaps are a great way to bring teams together on a project, giving developer teams, marketing teams, company executives, and stakeholders a transparent view of a project vision and the goals needed to achieve it. This helps to foster a culture of communication, focus, and brand alignment that results in better teamwork and improved product deployments.
Below we'll cover five key components of a product roadmap and what you need to make it successful.
Define Your Goals and Strategies
The first stage of a product map is to define exactly what you're looking to accomplish. This could be a new digital product, idea, or improvement that needs a strategic plan to execute. This stage can also be referred to as a project summary and can be an invaluable element when it comes to getting stakeholder buy-in for the project.
It's important at this point to present relevant answers to questions about your product:
Who is the product for?
What are its benefits?
What are some differentiators from the competition?
Answers to these questions and others like it will help ensure your project goals and strategies are well-documented and put the project's scope in perspective.
Project timelines are the lifeblood of your product roadmap. They ensure tasks are completed on time and that all relevant parties have a sense of the high-level priorities of the project. While these timelines aren't necessarily set in stone, they can help keep teams accountable for finishing their individual tasks on time as they help visualize all cross-departmental needs.
Timelines are typically one of the more visual elements of a product roadmap, often represented as a Gantt chart that stacks individual project elements onto another, showing sequential tasks to take place from left to right. An important note for developing timelines for your project is that you should plan them in shorter sprints. For example, timelines scheduled for 3-6 months show 20% better prioritization than projects spanning six months or more.
Build Measurable Results
Product roadmaps should be built to prioritize elements that have desired outcomes and measurable results. The goals you set should be measurable with specific milestones that identify whether or not a project is staying in alignment with the initial vision set out.
Depending on the type of product, there may be a number of metrics that can be used to ensure you're meeting both your customer and business needs. For example, software development teams may use metrics like customer acquisition costs, recurring revenue, conversion rates, or other application metrics that highlight success. These can be implemented and monitored at different stages of your product's long-term roadmap to ensure you're hitting key milestones along the way.
Determine Acceptable Costs
An essential part of your product roadmap is budgeting. However, establishing a budget for a long-term project isn't always easy, and many organizations aren't sure how they should start documenting the process. One way to do this effectively is by identifying project benefits vs. cost considerations and using them to drive decision-making in this area.
Project benefits can range considerably in scope and strategic value, including increased revenue, improved long-term cost efficiency, better brand engagement, and any other measurable improvement for the business. When measuring whether or not a certain product feature will be worth the development effort, you can measure the implementation efforts, operational costs, and project risk with the perceived value of the initiative. If the benefits outweigh the cost, this should be added to your overall costs outlined in your product roadmap.
Secure Buy-In From Necessary Stakeholders
Product roadmaps are invaluable to keeping a project on task and ensuring multiple teams understand the overall vision. However, they also serve as a great tool to use when securing buy-in from necessary stakeholders in the organization.
Product managers often have to present ideas to a wide range of audiences. A product roadmap, if appropriately structured, helps to identify the value of new projects and effectively communicate the status of ongoing projects. In addition, since stakeholder buy-in is often needed to approve a particular budget, a well-drafted product roadmap with measurable objectives, documented timelines, and clearly outlined business benefits will give stakeholders all relevant information they need to approve the project.
Product roadmaps have become an essential component of all successful product launches. They not only provide the level of detail necessary to communicate the total value of a project, but they play an important part in keeping teams connected, on task, and in alignment when executing all areas of a project.
By following these steps when constructing your product roadmap and ensuring you secure the necessary stakeholder buy-in, you'll be sure to infuse more productivity into your projects and encourage more collaboration within your development teams.