Key ingredients to build a product road map

Why do we need a good product road map strategy? And what are the ingredients that is required to create a proper road map? In today s’ competitive environment new products are introduced to the market every day. We can’t sit back and relax. Product managers, sales and marketing team, other interested parties in the company should work together to meet the customer demands. In this article I am trying to find out what are the key ingredients to create an effective product road map.

So who creates the road map? Ideally the Product managers need to build the road map at least 3 to 6 months ahead. Make sure that this road map is shared among all the stakeholders and better if you can display it to the whole company. They need to visualize the new features before the customers do. Also these features need to be useful to the end users. If you include any new feature in your road-map that is not usable or in other words does not bring value to the end users then it is waste of time and money. So PMs need to be carefully plan the road map. Most importantly they need to visit the road-map at least twice a week. Alter it according to the changing market needs, because we all know that the market is changing all the time.

The only thing that must be constant in the product roadmap is the release dates, because if you would define a new feature today, it may not be useful in one or two months’ time. That is the main reason that you need to constantly update the road map for your products. In the mean time you also need to keep all the stake holders informed. Specially the marketing and the support team.

You may raise a question what will happen if the developers have started to implement new feature and you suddenly find out that particular feature doesn’t bring much value to the target audiences. So what would you do? If you are running agile then it is a matter of canceling the current sprint and re-plan it or it could be removing few user stories from the sprint. That depends on the number of story points allocated to the particular feature. If the same scenario has occurred within a waterfall model project, then you need to handle these under change control boards.

The next question, what if you would find out an already implemented feature is no longer required by the client? Do you simply discontinue the feature in your product. An alternate approach would be leaving the feature intact, but hidden from the end users by using some configuration settings. Reason behind this approach is you don’t know the next new customer may request this as a feature to buy the product.

One thing that need to be agreed here is all the time when preparing the road map Product Managers, Project Managers, Sales and Marketing should be on the same page. Sales and marketing must have a good idea about when the new features will be released and what is the value proportion it will bring to the end users. You don’t want to be in a position where the Sales and Marketing team defining the targets without knowing anything about your plans. In fact your plan or the road map should be clearly communicated to them. If the sales and marketing is planning without knowing the impact of development and implementation then there is a big problem, that the top management need to address immediately. Bottom line is everyone should move in the same direction.

Lastly you need to have a clear understanding of availability of the resources. This is a big problem if the resources are shared with other implementation or support work. For instance assume that the product team is working on a implementation work for some client then you need to be aware of the progress and before setting dates. Also availability of hardware and software resources should be analyzed properly when planning the road-map. For example if you have plan a product release by three months’ time and the required platform will be available only within 4 months’ time, then you need to plan the release dates according to the availability of the platform.

To summarize what is mentioned above, following are the key points

  • Creating the product road-map no more than 6 months ahead.
  • The road map should be communicated to stake holders and should be visible to the company.
  • Visit the road map at least twice a week and do the changes according the market demands.
  • Communicate the changes to interested parties.
  • Make sure that all the stake holders are in the same page.
  • Need to constantly analyze the availability of the resources.

These are the key ingredients to build a proper road map for your products.

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