A good idea doesn’t guarantee a “winning product.” It takes a tremendous amount of brainstorming, allocation of resources, finalization of timelines, and a lot more before a concept is materialized and delivered within the deadline. However, all this is greatly dependant on the product roadmap.
WHAT IS A PRODUCT ROADMAP?
A product roadmap provides an overview of the “big picture” and answers some of the most important questions:
- What are the business goals of the product?
- What kind of team is required for the project?
- What software and technologies should be employed in the product development?
There are two main objectives of a product roadmap, which are:
- To identify a forward-looking go-to-market plan and all the possible risks and obstacles.
- To open a dialogue between various stakeholders- investors, manufacturers, designers, etc. to weigh in on the strategy and help in making appropriate changes before the actual work is started.
Most products meet failure because of weak or poorly structured roadmaps. However, it’s easy to tell if a roadmap is a winner or not by its essential elements:
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”
Perfect roadmaps don’t exist, at least not when they are created. Seasoned product managers know that a product guideline goes through many alterations till completion. The reason is simple – you can’t predict the future. Problems, hurdles, a difference of opinions between stakeholders, etc. are natural. So, an ideal roadmap must be flexible. It should have room for adjustments. Otherwise, making changes when you are in too deep can become a nightmare.
The following are the two main variables that you need to be careful about regarding project flexibility:
Time – A product’s release date may change by a few days to a few months. So, the roadmap must be divided into a series of “current,” “near term,” and “future” goals. This makes it easier to adjust to the changes as instead of sliding every single task on the timeline you need to focus on a particular “time horizon” only.
Scope – Many times, project delivery according to the deadline can’t be compromised with. So, when trouble stirs up, you may need to bring in additional resources and put in more hours. However, unless there is flexibility in the scope, it can’t be done without increasing stress.
To maintain scope flexibility, a product roadmap must not be created with set minute details that direct exactly how a feature must be delivered. For instance, instead of aiming at “Twitter Connect” by the fourth quarter, you can put it down as “Social Media Integration.” It leaves enough room for the adjustments. Besides, if by Q4 the stakeholders decide that they prefer Facebook instead of Twitter, you won’t have to worry too much.
For a mature product, a goal-oriented roadmap is a correct format to choose when the market is dynamic. However, when the market is stabilized, focus on the features can benefit the product in the long run. In case the product hasn’t matured yet, then the orientation should essentially be towards the goals, the degree of which is again dependant on the market conditions.
ORGANIZATION THROUGH SIMPLICITY
A blueprint with tons of labels and micro-deadlines can easily bring chaos in the making of the product. Now, one might argue that product development is a complicated process with some moving parts. However, this necessarily doesn’t mean that it should have a complicated guideline as well.
The roadmap of even the most complicated product can be simplified. The more complex the product is, the simpler it’s roadmap must be. This is because too many complications will hinder the growth and increase the risk of discrepancies and errors.
In conclusion, a product roadmap should be created using the venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki’s “10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint” which says that an ideal PowerPoint presentation should have no more than ten slides, last for 20 minutes tops and uses a font size of 30 points or more. So, if one has to make a presentation of a product roadmap, it should satisfy Kawasaki’s rule.
A great deal of time and energy can be saved by giving due attention to the creation of a roadmap first because that lays the foundation for the actual product development. So, if the building blocks are positioned correctly, the rest of the process is likely to work out without a hitch.