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How to Build Your First Product Roadmap

From an idea through launch, to getting in your customers’ hands, your product has a long way to go. So how do you ensure it reaches the finish line safely and on time?

Two words: product roadmap.

Join us on this exciting journey as we discover what a product roadmap is and how to build one from scratch.

Let’s start!

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a tool for visualizing and directing a product’s strategic goals.

Simply put, it is a plan of action that serves to coordinate the activities around the product’s short and long-term objectives and their achievement.

What types of product roadmaps are there?

There are many types of product roadmaps, but the five most commonly used are market and strategy, visionary, technology, platform, and product.

Let’s examine these five types in more detail.

Market and strategy

The market and strategy roadmap serves to point to the direction of the potential markets you want your product to enter over time. It also includes developing the strategy for building a product (in-house or by acquisition) that will correspond with the desired marketing needs.

Visionary 

Visionary roadmaps identify industry trends and society in general. By understanding trends, you gain a better insight into how your product can respond to the current demands of your target market.

Technology

Technology roadmaps are an excellent tool for recognizing the latest technology trends and finding the ways they can help accomplish your product’s strategic goals.

Platform

Platform roadmaps present which platforms and software you are going to use for product development over time. It also includes planning for system, components, and processes updates, as well as following security and reliability features.

Product (internal and external)

Product roadmaps aim to show the time of product release and its main and secondary features. Internal roadmaps serve to develop priorities and aid in communication between upper management and other departments. It is also responsible for securing funds for the company.

External roadmaps communicate with customers, partners, and any other relevant parties outside the company.

Each type serves a specific purpose, but the combination of different roadmaps can help you create a clearer perception of the product’s development process.

Why do you need a product roadmap?

Having a clear roadmap in place is crucial for timely and successful project development as it helps with:

Making adjustments along the way

When you have long-term plans defined in your roadmap, you can pinpoint strategies that are not working by comparing your current metrics with the ones you have defined in your roadmap. 

Looking at the results, your team can fine-tune features and goals, or give up on the strategy completely and implement Plan B.

Connecting the pieces of work to create a bigger picture

A product roadmap will give each member of your team a full insight into product development. This can help create a better workflow and allow all of your employees see the impact of their work on the outcome.

Ultimately, a product roadmap will help you turn a vision into a reality while keeping your development machinery in sync.

Now, let’s answer the burning question…

How to build your first product roadmap?

Creating your first product roadmap can be an overwhelming task, so we have put together four steps that will get you started.

1. Define your goals

The first step you should take is defining a clear vision and strategy for your product’s development process. You need to determine what benefits you want to provide for your business and users in a long run and how to do it.

The three most common high-level types of product goals are:

  • Business-driven goals focus on revenue, growth tactics, development, human resources, and cost-effective processes.
  • Market-driven goals priorities are finding the options for expanding into the new markets, developing relevant partnerships, and deciding on the strategies for handling the competition.
  • Customer-driven goals aim to boost customer experience, nurture customer growth, and proactively engage them in the development process.

2. Prioritize

Once you have gathered a team around a shared product vision, development strategy, and goals, it’s time to set the priorities, and here is how:

  • Use customer feedback and behavior – what are their most frequent requests regarding the desired features or improvements? Do they find those features to be of high value? How do they interact with your product? Include the data gathered from product analytics, on-page surveys, support transcripts, user testing, etc.
  • Measure value vs. complexity – start with the list of the potential features, estimate their possible value, and see how complicated it is to build them. Prioritize the ones that bring high value/low complexity over the low value/high complexity features.
  • Use weighted scoring – implement a scoring system that will show the comparison between a potential feature’s benefits and possible costs.  

Prioritizing tasks will help you build a more efficient and objective roadmap for your product development.

3. Summarize your plan

The next step is creating a roadmap working draft that should include the following elements:

  • Timeline – set your short-term, medium-term, and long-term expectations for features’ releases.
  • Strategic context – inform your team on what features are going to be realized and when.

Summarizing your plan can help you answer any of the “why” questions your stakeholders might have.

4. Choose the right roadmap software

Implementing new software into your workflow can be a challenging and time-consuming task, so you might want to consider hiring one of the top Iot companies to help you integrate these tools into your system successfully.

The best software solutions currently on the market that can help you create your product roadmap are:

1. Dragonboat – best for outcome-driven road mapping

Dragonboat offers templates that will help you build outcome-based roadmaps using data-driven prioritization and portfolio modeling.

It can help you capture and organize feature requests, connect initiatives with objectives, and compare roadmap storylines to justify decisions.

There are templates for creating a strategic framework that will guide your product decision-making process across all levels.

Dragonboat also offers templates for planning product launches that can be integrated with the delivery tools. Other templates can help you automate custom reports for all stakeholders and improve feature decisions based on your past performance.

Dragonboat offers a somewhat expensive Starting package for $39 per month/editor. Other options can cost you between $69 per editor + free readers for the Scaling package and $99 per editor + free readers for the Enterprise package.

You can also choose the Enterprise+ alternative, where you will get a custom price according to your specific needs. 

2. Airfocus – best for quick and simple product road mapping

This product management platform can be adapted to your specific needs. They offer simple, ready-to-use templates, features, and apps, as well as great customer support.

Other great Airfocus features include an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, consolidating multiple roadmaps into a single portfolio, and centralizing feedback from multiple channels.

Airfocus has pricing plans that range from $15 per month/editor for the Essssential package to $89 per month/editor for the Pro version.

You can also opt for the Custom package that is billed annually for an amount that agree with the company.

3. Wrike – best for managing tasks and projects

Wrike is a versatile platform where you can create your own custom dashboard and work in real-time across your entire organization.

It is not as user-friendly as Airfocus and can be difficult to handle at first. However, once you get accustomed to its ways, you will get a powerful tool for aligning your team members and monitoring who is doing what in the process.

Wrike has a free Startup option, while their other options can cost you between $9.80 per month/user for the Professional package and $24.80 per month/user for the Business package.

They also offer an Enterprise alternative but you would have to contact them for a pricing plan created according to your needs.

4. Aha! – the most popular road-mapping tool

With over 5,000 companies and 500,000 users, Aha! is one of the most popular road-mapping platforms.

Aha! software can help you set your strategy, crowdsource ideas, prioritize product features, visualize your plans, and track your progress.

Aha! offers a free Startup pack for early-stage companies. Their other options range from $59 per month/user for a Premium package to $149 per month/user and more for an Enterprise option.

5. Roadmunk – best for custom-made product roadmaps

Roadmunk is another excellent mapping tool. It allows you to choose between timeline and “swimline” visualization, create multiple roadmap views from one data set, export sharable roadmaps to URL, PNG, HTML, etc.

What is unique about Roadmunk is that it allows multiple teams to create separate roadmaps and bring them all together in one master view.

Roadmunk offers a free trial period, other options can cost you from $19 per month for a Starter pack to $99 per month/editor for a Professional option with more features.

When you are choosing the right software for building your product roadmap, consider the offered features from each platform provider and decide on the one that can bring the most value to your product development process.

Conclusion

Building a product roadmap can be a challenging and time-consuming task, especially if you’re doing it for the first time, but it is a crucial part of successful product development.

A roadmap will help you control your product’s path from start to finish, run your management processes smoothly, and support your future fundraising endeavors.

We hope our article helped you understand the importance of creating a product roadmap and provided you with valuable tips on how to execute this complex, multi-layered task effectively.

Author bio

Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.

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