5 Basic Practices for Building an Actionable Product Roadmap

If there’s a short phrase that precisely describes today’s business environment, that’s rapid changes. A lot of technologies are being replaced with modern and more advanced alternatives on a daily basis. In consequence, such businesses as tech developing companies are continually at stake.

It would appear that the idea of launching a new innovative service is bound to succeed. No such luck! Running a business nowadays is much more challenging than it might seem and even cutting-edge product owners often find themselves unprepared for the pitfalls on their path towards the triumph.

That’s where a roadmap comes to rescue and may help to avoid issues related to:

  • determining the direction of product development
  • communication between all the participants
  • over expenditure
  • the building of a market entry strategy

 For those involved in the strategy creation, these problems are all-too-familiar. Luckily, that time has passed when the only handy tools which the businesses had in their armory were Excel, PowerPoint or Word. They now have a range of native roadmap software that gives them more flexibility, helps to move smoothly towards the goals and share high-quality presentations.

 And so without further ado, let’s get down to business and find out 5 practical tips for creating an actionable and agile business roadmap.

1. Choose the tool that suits you best

The first thing to do before building your roadmap is to learn the top tools and choose the one that is most suitable for you and your company needs. Believe it or not, this has nothing to do with Excel which is still, for some reason, considered by some PMs as the best solution to all problems.

 If to refer to the term “roadmap”, it means a strategic, visual and easy to share document describing the path from a product concept to its successful release. However, there are still companies that try to build their roadmaps in Excel. This spreadsheet is a perfect solution to lots of everyday routines but isn’t tailored for building roadmaps at all.

 A lot of services are now available specifically for creating visually appealing documents. Speaking of Roadmap Planner, you’ll be able to track all the initiatives across your teams, merge these ideas into one complete view and accept any changes on the fly thanks to the software’s flexibility. And this is hardly a complete list of all opportunities you’ll get by leapfrogging over the obsolete tools.

2. Keep it simple

According to Internet statistics, our brain processes visual data 60,000 times faster than text one. With this in mind, you should create short and easily digestible roadmaps that also leave room for inevitable changes you’re likely to face.

 In order for a product roadmap to inspire not only its creator but all of the project participants, forget the myth that the more details, the better. You should concentrate on the things that have the most meaning and leave out minor and insignificant ones.

Following this approach, you’ll be able to create and share a clear vision of your company’s perspectives with stakeholders and prevent your presentation from being too clunky.

3.  Collect data from different sources

Even though building a roadmap is a direct responsibility of PMs or product owners, who have a deep knowledge of the product’s functionality and features, the contribution of сustomer feedback, sales and marketing departments, the c-suite and partners is invaluable. Some of them work very closely with the users; therefore, they delve further into their problems and are aware of their feature ideas or any complaints they might have. This information is an extremely vital base for the further adjustments of your roadmap.

 Additionally, sharing your roadmap with everyone who plays a role in the product’s success lets them stay up to date and promotes good communication within all the participants.

 4. Be agile

The agile environment will inevitably lead you to the need to make changes in your roadmap. So, instead of guessing what functionality will be demanded months or years in advance, you should regularly review and adjust your roadmap with the whole team. The frequency of these updates depends on how young your product is and how stable your market is. For example, if you’re a new company, you need to revisit your roadmap at least once a month. If your product is several years old, you might only need to do this quarterly.

In addition, you should take into account evolving market opportunities and customer feedback that may trigger some changes in your strategy as well.

 5. Tailor your roadmap to everyone

The benefits of engaging various stakeholders, customers and internal teams for developing your roadmap are now obvious to you. However, there is a nuance. Each of these people has their own interests that should be considered.

For instance, executives may want to see all of the easy-to-measure KPIs, revenue and growth, whereas marketers will take a greater interest in the comparison of the product with competitors. Salespersons’ attention will gear to the release dates and product strengths that will set it apart from the others. Keep this in mind and tailor your roadmap depending on who you present it to.

Although all of the above sounds obvious and seems simple, things are always a bit more complicated in practice. You will definitely face certain challenges and eventually come up with your own formula of building an actionable roadmap. To make this process much simpler, use these principles as a basis and complete the list with your own ones that will work specifically for you. In this way, you’ll get a clear visual representation of your company’s growth and an easy-to-understand guide on how to get there.

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Andrey is an MBA with 20-year experience in business development and commercial operations. He’s successfully facilitated the launches of numerous business projects and led the commercial team with FMCG project to 2nd place on the national market. Strategic management is his great passion. Currently, he leads a strategic-planning project Roadmap Planner at KeepSolid.

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