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The Product Vision is the “Why”, the Strategy is the “What” and the Roadmap is the “How”. How should the team proceed? How do they determine which feature to build first? How does the chosen task contribute to the Product Vision?
These questions are all answered by the Product Roadmap making it a vital part of the Product Management process. Product Managers, here are some tips on building and then prioritizing your product roadmap.
A Product Roadmap is a communication tool. Much like an actual map, it lets the team know in what direction they should be moving in order to implement the product strategy and keeps them on track to actualise the vision. Without it, the Product team and the company as a whole will struggle with direction and this will be reflected in their output.
The Product Manager creates the roadmap to lay out the Company’s high-level goals and initiatives, show the efforts required to achieve them, and visualize a timeline for implementing all of the work.
The challenge in building a Product Roadmap is that Product Managers are human. Do you focus on big, high-impact features or multiple little ones? Should you create features that draw in new customers or satisfy existing customers? There’s no formula and no magic with which they determine what to build first or next. It all boils down to intuition and expertise.
Something to keep in mind as you set out to build the product roadmap is that any product roadmap must be clear and simple to understand. This is important as it helps a product manager guide all the teams throughout the development process, keeping them aligned with customer needs and business objectives.
So, a product roadmap is useful and applicable when it is built to meet the following requirements:
Sometimes, as the Product Manager, you might have to build multiple roadmaps of different types to present the information to internal and external stakeholders. Remember though, it’s not a personal project. As the PM you can take the first stab at it but you should open it up to the rest of the team. Allow the people who’ll actually be working on the product to make suggestions and treat any input seriously.
The details and context may vary, but all product roadmaps should include a few key elements. Here is a quick overview of the main components you should consider adding:
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Prioritizing your Roadmap means arranging the tasks in order of well…priority. It’s not enough to point out the things that need to be done, the order and timing in which they’re done can also make or break the product. Product Managers need to be on top of affairs, ensuring that they’re flexible and doing what works best for the product in response to market demands and all other internal and external factors at any given time.
Your product roadmap should define your product’s journey over time and highlight important milestones throughout that journey. A good product roadmap tells a story about where your product came from and where it’s headed in a way that helps your team, stakeholders, and in some cases, your customers, understand what you’re up to.
To prioritize the product roadmap, consider what stage of the life cycle stage your product is in. A successful product is constantly moving. First, it’s moving towards its launch, then to reach product-market fit, and finally to sustain growth. At each one of these stages, your product roadmap should tell a convincing story about the likely development of your product and the route you’re taking to create the desired value for the users and business.
To get the prioritization right, first determine how you can meet the user and business goals stated in your product strategy. What is the best way to achieve them? How can you break them down into smaller, intermediate goals? Arrange the newly created goals so that each one is a logical progression, a further step towards the overall user and business goals, considering any dependencies between the goals.
For a brand-new product, this might mean that you start with user acquisition followed by activation, retention, and finally revenue generation, depending on your product’s underlying business model.
Lenny Rachitsky, former Airbnb product lead recommends that you should prioritize based on three factors (i) expected impact (ii) Resources necessary and (iii) Risk. Ensure that your roadmap is building towards something and not just a bunch of good ideas, and then convert the list of ideas into something like a Gantt chart to see what’s doable.
Fortunately, there’s nothing new under the sun. There are established, commonly used frameworks that can be applied to prioritization. These include:
Ultimately, the best method of prioritization is the one that works for you. Whether it’s one of the aforementioned, a modification, an amalgamation, whatever. Your product, your team, your rules.
The Product Roadmap is often publicized as being one of the more difficult tasks of a Product Manager. Products are different, the market changes, and circumstances change. As the Product Manager, just do the things within your control –keep the key principles of product vision, customer mindset, impact and risk measurement in mind as you plan your product roadmap and your work is done.
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