To create the best software product, your team needs effective documentation that functions as their guide. So here are some tips on how to create your new software product roadmap. Are you ready to take the first step?
Product roadmaps are used to execute business strategies into developing software products. This functions as the one source of truth that will guide the software team and leaders in the organization. Also, understanding the importance of product roadmaps is essential to make your team efficient and also productive.
Software product roadmaps help illustrate that strategic vision to the team. It also helps teams align with company goals in developing quality products. It might be to launch a new product to your clients, product upgrades, or in-house software for your organization.
When you’re building your product, you need a roadmap that will keep you and your team focused on the goal. Your product roadmap will help you keep track of the timelines and milestones you set in place. But what is a software product roadmap? Let’s find out.
What is a Software Product Roadmap
A software product roadmap is a guide that gives direction on the product development over a period of time. It is a high-level summary of the goals and functions of your software product. Additionally, it’s a strategic mapping that will define what’s expected of the software team when building the software.
Creating a product roadmap follows a step-by-step process:
- The organization defines the vision and requirements for the software product.
- Then, the project lead relays the requirements to the development team.
- The development team will then put it on a blueprint or a Gantt chart. The chart will include product-specific goals in the timeline based on estimation.
- Finally, project managers, developers, and other software team members will convert the high-level plan into tasks. This includes timelines and milestones that are necessary to keep the project going.
The steps are quite simple but are crucial to delivering the company’s vision to the market.
Different types of Software Product Roadmaps
There are different roadmaps depending on who’s viewing them. It is important to know about the different types. Here you can decide on what components are necessary based on the information you need to convey. These are four of the most common types:
- Portfolio – This type of roadmap shows the deliberate releases across a couple of products in a single view. That is useful for providing a strategic evaluation of your plan to executives or advisory boards. It may additionally assist internal groups in recognizing how their unique tasks relate to the work of different teams.
- Strategy – A strategy roadmap displays the projects or efforts the organization will invest in to deliver product requirements. This is crucial when presenting initiatives to executives. It also gives internal groups information on how they contribute to the overall enterprise strategy.
- Releases – This determines the tasks that need to be delivered before the software product is released to the market. You can use the RACI matrix (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) to highlight responsibilities between teams. This product roadmap is beneficial for coordinating activities between separate teams like sales, marketing, engineering, and customer support.
- Features – A features roadmap is a great way to communicate the timeline for when new features will be released.
Examples of Product Roadmaps Used by Software Teams
Product roadmaps aren’t only used as a presentation, they also serve as a guide to the team during their product development. It is where product managers determine the results of high-level planning. Here are some examples.
- Single or Multiple Product roadmaps – they are designed to give executives an overview of the product development process. This shows them the long-term strategies and activities done from start to finish. When you are creating a strategic or a portfolio-type roadmap, this should be the format to use.
- Agile or Sprint Roadmaps – are used to communicate requirements to the software development team. It shows the short-term goals related to the requirements for a specific sprint. Individual projects are linked together towards the main objective. This is usually the format when creating a feature or release roadmap.
Why Learn all about Product Roadmaps
Building a product roadmap is essential to strategic planning. Here, you can visually communicate where the project is going and keep internal teams and stakeholders updated. With this much visibility into the project, the organization can prioritize and plan for upcoming software releases.
Product managers own roadmaps and are responsible for keeping everybody in the loop and communicating changes effectively. One example would be launching a software product to market. You need to inform the marketing team when you plan to launch effective campaigns to the market.
You will also need to agree with the software development team with expectations and priorities to meet the deadline. Here are more examples of internal teams who need to be included in the roadmap:
- Members of the executive team and board will need information about the product. They need to know the goals, vision, strategy, and high-level metrics.
- Customer support and the After-Sales team need to know what updates your users need to know. Also, they need details on updates, release dates, and their impact on the user experience.
- The Sales team needs to know the ultimate selling point of the product to entice more customers. They need to know product specifications, features, benefits, and pricing.
By ensuring that internal teams and stakeholders are aware of the product goals, you avoid misalignment of business goals.
Knowing the value of a software product roadmap helps you develop, launch, market, and sell products to your users. Without a systematic strategy, there might be a possibility for the team to fail. So how can you create an effective product roadmap?
Top Tips in Creating a Software Product Roadmap
Creating a product roadmap is a complex process. There is a significant amount of planning involved with it. You will overcome the difficulties of creating one by focusing on core business priorities. Let’s explore some tips that will help you create an effective roadmap for your software team to use:
1. Determine the “Why?”
Before we get excited and plan out the product features, we need to understand “why” we are building the product. Sure, the features will serve a purpose, but the ‘why’ exists to solve a specific problem for a target group.
Gain insight into the purpose of why you are building the product. This will influence the decisions that teams make during development. You will be planning for activities that need to be accomplished over a defined time period. It is wise to drive the team with the ‘why’ in mind so everyone will be on the same page.
Determine the requirements in developing the software product. In the meantime, focus on high-level goals and work from there. Take note, other strategic decisions from here will follow from the initial choices you make at this stage.
2. Determine the “Who”
You cannot create a software product roadmap without knowing your audience. Determining the “who,” whether it be your executives or the development team, will help you customize it.
For example, if you’re creating a product roadmap for your stakeholders, they will be concerned about big business goals. This includes timelines, deliverables, and milestones.
Another important example would be a product roadmap for your software team. Your focus on this should be on planning the tasks and resources. Consider deadlines and breakdown of work for this kind of product roadmap.
There are a lot of product roadmaps that are available for you to use. Templates are even available online. However, you need to customize it to fit your goals. There might be requirements in templates that don’t apply to your software product. Carefully plan and customize your roadmap as you see fit.
3. Strategize and Prioritize
At this stage, you will be developing the content of your software product roadmap. Start with the most important or highest level. From there, you can add the details you want to include. One tip is to create categories for major product modules or functions.
You should also include problem discovery in your strategy. Anticipate the needs of your users and the time it will take to fix the problem. Try to search for issues that might create a significant impact on your business goals. Then your team will be able to respond to:
- Customer feedback
- Usage data
- Software product competitive analysis.
By understanding your users and their issues with the product, your team can get a glimpse of the amount of work involved. Anticipate your user’s needs and focus on a solution to the problem. By improving features you increase product performance.
Quantifying work in the planning phase helps you determine how to measure success and connect it with KPIs. The software product roadmap must illustrate, inform, and answer the following questions:
- What is the long-term impact?
- How is ‘impact’ measured to know it has been achieved?
- What is the process for communicating updates and progress for ‘impact’?
One thing you can do is determine your Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). This is a goal-setting framework where a high-level vision is broken down into smaller tasks. Objectives are actionable, and Key Results take objectives and turn them into measurable milestones.
4. Review and Update
Even when your product roadmap is complete, it is also important to update it over time. You have to be flexible about any changes.
Your roadmap is not static. Instead, it is a moving document that your team can work on together. Periodically, you need to make updates to accommodate changes in priorities and requirements. That way you will bring your software product successfully out the door and into the market.
Keeping the product roadmap current will eliminate false expectations and confusion among the team. Your software product roadmap should reflect the updates you want to make.
Plan Execution: Software Teams and Product Roadmaps
A software product roadmap defines the vision, strategy, and plan. It is not the finished product yet. Execute the software product roadmap properly until you get to that point.
As your software product evolves, they also become more complex. That is why updating your product roadmap is necessary. Your roadmap goes through an evolutionary process throughout the software lifecycle.
The steps in executing a software product roadmap are:
- Make sure the teams understand the objectives of the roadmap and their unique roles in executing the defined tasks.
- Involve the product manager from the design phase up to deployment.
- Regularly engage between teams.
- As soon as you have updates, introduce new information or changes to the team.
Ideally, a product roadmap is not a definitive resource for project management and delivery dates. Since changes are documented here, it would be difficult to move dates around. This roadmap is expected to show outcomes and targets within a determined amount of time.
That’s why it is advisable to have some flexibility on the software product roadmap. In the course of developing the software product, new priorities might be discussed. So, during the presentation, be clear about how these changes will affect timelines and how it is a vital part of the development process.
Just make sure that when you act on changes during development, keep tabs on progress and product KPIs. You will also need to keep internal teams and stakeholders informed as you go along.
Product Roadmaps in the Last Phases
In the last phases of testing and deployment, your teams should ensure quality. Here, they are expected to check and test if your software product meets the deliverables defined in the product roadmap.
Your software product roadmap should establish the work your team will need to accomplish. This will also help them be more effective in their day-to-day tasks. Overall, this keeps your team members aligned, which contributes to the success of product development.
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