June 29, 2020
Hurray! You got an idea. The excitement begins. While thinking through the idea, and talking with prospective customers, many new ideas and feature requests will emerge. A product roadmap is a great tool to capture and tag these ideas for future releases. Similar to any other map, the product roadmap is a visual representation of your product, which keeps everyone involved with the product well informed throughout the journey – MVP, releases, and beyond.
First, behind every journey there is a purpose or destination. The “destination” may be business objectives, goals, vision or mission that you intend to achieve. The product roadmap helps to keep everyone focused and move towards the destination in the same direction. A product roadmap also helps to make product decisions – what to develop, when to develop, etc.
Second, building features takes time, funds and effort. It is important to spend the resources efficiently, especially during early stages. The roadmap helps prioritize features based on changing needs. We often see founders with grand visions, but the important question to ask is whether it is important today? A roadmap can help answer it.
There are many different types of products from MVPs to enterprise applications. Some are done in a few weeks and some take years to complete. Over the lifetime of the product, many stakeholders – customers, employees, investors, partners, vendors, etc. help shape the product. Depending upon their wants and needs, different types of roadmaps are used – strategic roadmap, features roadmap, release roadmap, etc. However, the goal of the roadmap is to achieve the business objectives effectively and efficiently.
The roadmap can be simple or complex depending where the product is in the life cycle. At FreelancingTeams, we use features based roadmap, which shows the features and categories in a hierarchy. Below is a simple example of a feature based roadmap for Mercedes E-Class. This gives a high level overview of features grouped together by different categories – transmission, engine, safety, etc. You can include timelines and schedules, if required. The releases must be aligned with business goals.
To build a vehicle with all the features may take years, and millions of dollars. Instead of waiting for years to get the vehicle out to customers, Mercedes can create an MVP with few features (as highlighted below) and go-to the market faster. This may help generate revenue sooner and validate the concept before spending too much time and effort. Based on customer feedback, Mercedes can prioritize new features for the next release. As you can see, the product roadmap can be highly valuable in categorizing and prioritizing features throughout the product life cycle. At the same time, it also gives a visual representation of the entire product.
As the product evolves, the roadmaps get more complicated and may require more sophisticated tools such as Aha!, Atlassian, etc. But for the early stage, a simple excel or powerpoint is a good start.
As you move through the product journey, it is important to keep the roadmap updated with the latest status. You can use different color codes or use a table structure to represent the releases. If it is not well maintained, the roadmap can be soon outdated and may not be useful over the time. Well maintained roadmaps can provide the single source of product truth, prioritize, plan, and evolve product over the years.