6 Steps to Create a Product Roadmap

A carefully crafted roadmap will make the release of your product a smooth and painless experience.
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As your business grows, it becomes more and more apparent that planning and strategy must become a part of the process. When you were smaller, and your product deliveries were less frequent or crucial to the success of your operation, you could work without documenting the process or creating a plan to make your vision a reality. 

But as your company scales to meet growing demand, you’re going to need to implement a roadmap to help make this process not only possible but productive on a level that’s efficient and effective.

Consider this: in the creation of your product, you might have to make use of materials, labor, distributors, developers, time, bug testing, quality assurance, frameworks, and numerous programming languages (such as Java, JavaScript, .NET, Python, and Ruby). Not to mention the various stages the product will go through from inception to deployment. Because of the many pieces involved, you need a product roadmap.

 

What is a product roadmap?

You’re probably asking, “What is a product roadmap?” On the surface, a Product Roadmap is a source of truth that outlines the following:

  • Vision
  • Direction
  • Priorities
  • Progress 

The Roadmap is the strategic communication tool for everyone who works on a particular product. With this map, it’s possible to communicate the process of your company’s deliverables, such that everyone involved knows the status of the project. This tool will serve as a high-level product strategy and makes it possible to coordinate the team’s efforts.

Product Roadmaps make it possible to:

  • Create team alignment around a product.
  • Empower managers at every stage of the process.
  • Facilitate cross-team collaboration.

Now that you understand what a Product Roadmap is, let’s find out how to create one.

 

Step 1: Define the strategy for the product

The very first thing you must do is to define a strategy for the product. This strategy will answer the following questions:

  • Why do you want to make this product?
  • Who is the audience for the product?
  • What does your audience need from this product?
  • What will this product do differently than similar products?
  • What are the complications of bringing the product to market?
  • How will this product be deployed and marketed?

By answering the above questions, you’ll wind up with a very clear idea of what the product is about. Without those answers, you’ll struggle to find clarity moving forward.

 

Step 2: Refine your ideas

Now that you’ve created a strategy for the product, you’ve probably discovered some of the original ideas you had aren’t nearly as sound as you thought. This is an important step because many times those initial thoughts were a bit too rough around the edges to be viable.

One way to make this step work for you is to create a means to score your ideas. You can do this with the help of idea management software (such as Brightidea, Remesh, Miro, or Bluescape). With this type of software, you can remove opinion from the process, such that you can get a better idea of what ideas should remain and what should be dropped.

 

Step 3: Set product features

At this point, it’s time to create a list of specific features to be found in your product. It’s important that every feature included in your product supports the strategy. If you find a feature that either works against the strategy or doesn’t add any value to either the product or the strategy, you should remove it from the roadmap.

 

Step 4: Organize the product life cycle

With your project refined enough to be a viable product, it’s time to map out the lifecycle of the development process. For this, you want to start with the big milestones (such as Alpha, Beta, and Final release dates) and then fill in the spaces in-between (such as UX design due dates, first code upload, Q&A, UX refinement, testing, and bug fixing).

You’ll also need to decide the type of roadmap you want to use. There are 4 primary types of product roadmaps:

  • Portfolio – shows planned releases across multiple products.
  • Strategy – displays initiatives and high-level efforts each team must invest for a successful release.
  • Releases – lays out all activity that must occur for the release to be brought to market.
  • Features – offers a timeline for the delivery of each new feature.

You can use one or more of these types.

At this point, it’s time to start entering all of your data into a Project Management tool (such as LiquidPlanner, Teamwork, Zoho Projects, ProofHub, or TeamGantt). This step of the process will take some time, and you should be very careful to enter in every piece of information you have for this product (including the teams that will be working on the product at every phase).

 

Step 5: Assign teams and team members

With the lifecycle organized and everything entered into the project management software, it’s time to start assigning teams and team members to every step in the roadmap. This could take as much time as originally entering everything into the software, as you’ll need to break this down into the smallest tasks possible. 

You’ll also need to schedule every task with a workable timeframe and know which team members will be taking care of what part of the project. The good news is, once you’ve taken care of this step, everything else gets easier.

 

Step 6: Share the roadmap

With your roadmap complete, it’s time to share it out to the team responsible for building and releasing the product. If you’ve created the roadmap carefully, everything at this point should either be automated (at best) or managed manually with ease (at worst). 

 

Conclusion

A carefully crafted roadmap will make the release of your product a smooth and painless experience. Just remember to give yourself (or your team) ample time to create this properly. Done poorly and the roadmap will work against you. Done well and it will guide you through the product lifecycle with ease.

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