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How to Create an Effective Product Roadmap

How to Create an Effective Product Roadmap

9 minutes

November 13, 2021

To be competitive your products and services need to continually evolve. Use the SmartSuite work management platform to evaluate the market, track customer needs, and create a plan to develop the perfect solutions to meet demands.

What is product roadmapping?

Creating product roadmaps allow your organization to think strategically about your go-to-market plan, mapping out a path that allows you to create new product offerings that address the most pressing market needs. With a good roadmap teams are grounded, knowing what is needed to create an environment that optimizes the company’s chance of successfully meeting business goals.

This product roadmap (often referred to as a product plan) should address more than just the features and functions of a product. It should document and evaluate the needs of customers, the impact of new products on internal company systems and processes - what additional fulfillment needs will the organization have? Do you need additional support staff? - to ensure that everything is considered holistically and that there are no gaps that could impact the evolution of your product and the organization as a whole.

Are there different types of roadmaps?

There are as many ways to approach product roadmaps as there are products. In an ideal world a comprehensive roadmap is expansive and covers all of the organizational impacts the product and its launch could have. It is useful, however, to create individual “sub-roadmaps” that highlight individual aspects of a plan. These areas include:

  • Agile. An agile roadmap is all about organizing features into “stories” and “epics” (collections of stories) that prioritize individual features, functions or services that can be easily digested by the team members responsible for developing the product. A good Agile roadmap helps you visualize how small parts of a product come together in sequence to achieve a final output.
  • Strategic. Strategic roadmaps address the big business questions related to how the organization will meet its financial goals, how the organization needs to evolve to move in the right direction, and what continued product development’s role is in the process.
  • Release (Release Plan). More tactical, a release plan helps you plan for the introduction of a new product or set of features into the market. These plans consider sales and marketing approach, deployment-related activities, and the myriad activities that commonly accompany a launch (think about Webinars, social media marketing, focused sales campaigns and promotions) - whatever is needed to set your product up for success.
  • Feature. A feature roadmap documents the development of a product over several iterations, highlighting the incremental functions that will be added to more completely address customer needs or expand the product’s reach. These plans give you an in-depth look at where a product is going and how it will continually evolve.
  • Technology. For software and other highly-technical products, a technology roadmap explores how the product will adopt new advances in relevant technologies to insure that it remains viable in the future. Adjustments to system internals, scalability and resilience, and performance are all areas that are commonly documented in these plans.

Why is a product roadmap important?

Like the old adage “plan the work, then work the plan,'“ a product roadmap is important because it creates a framework for product development, allowing you to map out the steps that are required to achieve success in the market. There are a great many aspects to this, but some of the key benefits include the following:

  • Clarity. The roadmap gives development teams clarity, with explicit expectations, requirements and goals. Teams can plan their work, and with priorities defined and a timeline established everyone can ensure they’ve got a well-considered plan to get things done.
  • Transparency. A well-composed roadmap informs both the organization - so it can effectively carry out the plan - as well as customers, setting their expectations. Sales teams know when new functionality is coming so that they can reassure customers that their needs will be met, customer service and support can plan for upgrades - everyone can be better prepared because they have the information they need.
  • Accountability. With plans documented and all teams on board, the roadmap holds everyone accountable for their part in the process. Feature expectations are set, quality goals are already established, and timelines are clearly outlined so that management understands how the team and product are performing.

How do you create a product roadmap?

Creating a comprehensive product roadmap can seem a daunting task - with so many factors to consider it can be difficult to figure out where to start. That’s where SmartSuite’s work management platform can help, from capturing ideas all the way through managing the development and launch process. Use SmartSuite to navigate through the five major phases of roadmap creation:

Step 1: Think about your strategy

Use SmartSuite to capture all of those ideas, organize and prioritize. Use the vote field to take a quick survey across the team, or use star ratings to understand the features you want to focus on. Collaboration is key, and comments can be attached directly to the record that you’re working on. Need some expert advice or help? Just consult the SmartSuite Member Directory to find someone in the organization with the skills or background that is the perfect fit.

Step 2: Research, collect data and talk to potential customers

You can’t design great products in a vacuum - you need to do your homework and research competition, collect data that can point you in the right direction, and talk to potential users of your product to bounce around ideas. Document everything, and visualize the results with powerful views and dashboards in SmartSuite. Which competitors rank the highest, or where do they have a gap in capability that customers need? See it in a glance with SmartSuite.

Step 3: Start documenting

With everything collected you can start assembling documentation. The SmartDoc field serves as an embedded rich-text editor that has all of the document formatting capabilities that you’re used to. Create records for requirements, epics and user stories to start forming a software development approach. Create schedules and timelines to keep everything on track. Managers can roll-up information, consolidating their view to ensure that developing is holding to its schedule.

Step 4: Create sub-plans for key stakeholders and processes

As things come together you can document all of the things that need to happen when your product launches - marketing plans, release events, online training - anything that your product and team need to make a big impact in the market. Everything in SmartSuite can be tied together, allowing individual teammates to see how their tasks are related to others, and eliminating duplicated work and data.

Step 5: Be transparent and accountable - share your roadmap!

With SmartSuite its easy to be transparent, as you can allow teams to share data, provide read-only views to plans and schedules, or even publish specific information to an external audience with shared forms. Dashboard views allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of the operation, tracking metrics that show how successful your new product is. Everyone can be transparent, accountable - and proud of their successful products!

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Recommended Templates (live interactive demo):

Product Roadmap
Project Management