In the fast-paced landscape of product development, having a clear strategic vision is critical for paving the path toward success. As Lee Bolman famously said, “A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.”
In 2023, this wisdom resonates more than ever, as businesses strive to navigate the ever-evolving market and deliver innovative products that captivate customers. Creating a product roadmap is one of the pillars in the foundation of your project success, so let’s find out how to create it step-by-step.
What is a Product Roadmap?
Before getting started with a product roadmap development, let’s find out what exactly it is. As the name suggests, it is a documented strategy that outlines the product development direction. To put it simply, this is a step-by-step path the project should follow to achieve its goals. It helps the team to prioritize initiatives, allocate resources, and make informed decisions throughout the product development process.
A product roadmap in Agile is one of the main deliverables of the product discovery stage, since in addition to providing a clear and cohesive plan for the product’s future, it also helps avoid costly pitfalls. Still, these aren’t all the benefits of building a product roadmap.
- Aligned vision. A roadmap brings clarity and shared understanding among all stakeholders. It ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding the product’s direction, features, and expected timeline.
- Prioritizing initiatives. A product roadmap template helps the team to prioritize features, enhancements, and other initiatives based on user needs, market trends, and business objectives.
- Planning for success. Developing a product roadmap allows for researching the market, validating the ideas in advance, choosing the right directions, setting realistic goals, and establishing milestones.
How to Create a Product Roadmap Step-by-Step
Now, let’s find out how to develop a product roadmap to position your future project for long-term success.
Start with market analysis
Researching the market is a critical step in creating an Agile product roadmap. Since Agile development methodology promotes the identification and mitigation of risks before they arise, getting an insight into the target market provides an opportunity to address possible issues proactively. So, the first step of roadmap product development involves collecting business and market data, using time-tested economic research methodologies. Let’s take a detailed look at each of them.
- PEST Analysis. PEST stands for Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural, and Technological factors that may have an impact on your project development. While these insights will not be reflected in a product roadmap directly, analyzing them helps shape a general vision of the environment the future project will operate in.
- SWOT Analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, which should also be analyzed by analogy with the PEST methodology. By evaluating these areas, a product roadmap planning can be tailored to take advantage of strengths, fortify weaknesses, capture opportunities, and mitigate threats.
- Five Forces Analysis. Five Forces Analysis looks at five factors that impact the industry and competition: supplier power, buyer power, competitive rivalry, the threat of substitution, and the threat of new entry. Through this methodology, you will be able to develop a product roadmap with an understanding of competition and market forces, which can help to identify opportunities and challenges.
- Competitors analysis. The main goal of analyzing the competition is to discover how they solve the main pain point of the target audience. By analyzing winning and weak ideas, tactics, and solutions direct and indirect competitors follow, you can identify areas for improvement, which will inform your product roadmap and help your future solution stand out as well.
- Target audience research. This is one of the most important research methodologies you can ever leverage, since it ensures that the future product will be custom-matched to the users’ needs. In addition to defining these needs and developing the corresponding features, target audience research is also essential for feature prioritization.
Proceed with business analysis
The next step of strategic product roadmap development after market research is typically business analysis. While the market research gives a broad picture of the environment the future startup will operate in, the goal of business analysis is to examine it in more detail to inform the product roadmap. This stage involves four steps.
- Elicitation. Elicitation is the first step of business analysis that involves gathering and defining user requirements in more detail. That’s why at this step, such methods as focus group interviews and user observations are usually used, ensuring that a digital product roadmap will be based on first-hand insights from relevant stakeholders.
- Analysis and Documentation. After the requirements are gathered, you have to break them down and organize them into a usable format. Analysis and documentation include tasks such as creating user stories, use cases, and functional requirements. The goal of this step is to make sure that the product plan roadmap is informed by a clear understanding of the users’ needs.
- Validation. The next step of business analysis is validating gathered and documented requirements. This stage involves making sure that the requirements are aligned with the business goals and are feasible to implement.
- Requirements Management. Once the requirements are validated, the final stage is requirements management. This stage involves tracking changes to requirements, communicating them to stakeholders, and making the necessary changes to the product roadmap accordingly.
Define the product vision and identify the project goals
The next step of product roadmap development after business analysis is to define the product vision and identify project goals. This step sets the overall direction and objectives for the product roadmap, providing a clear vision for the team to work towards.
But how can you develop it? First, let’s pay attention to the product visions renowned software companies have.
- Zoom: “Our mission at Zoom is to make video communications frictionless.”
- Slack: “To make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.”
- Trello: “To create the ultimate hub and solutions for teamwork by providing an intuitive and visual platform that gives users the ability to organize anything together.”
So, the product vision of Zoom focuses on the main pain point of the customer—the inconvenient video conferencing experience. Slack focuses on the main value proposition—making the working routine easier. Trello, in turn, focused on “what” and “how” in its product vision statement. While all these approaches have the right to exist, we, at Litslink, suggest following the next formula for developing your product vision:
Our product vision is to create [your product] by [how do you plan to do it] for [your target customers] to solve [their main pain point] and help them [get the main value your product delivers].
After you have come up with your project vision, it’s time to define and set the project goals which are crucial elements of a software product roadmap. So, at this stage, you have to define specific objectives that will support your vision and make sure they are measurable. For example, “increase user engagement by 20% within the next six months” is a specific and measurable goal. At the same time, all the goals you define at this stage will be united by the main one – creating a Minimum Viable Product for your startup.
Prioritize the features of a Minimum Viable Product
Depending on the goals set at the previous stage of creating a product roadmap, you have to define and prioritize the features that correspond to each of the goals. Since the main goal of creating an MVP is to provide users with a demo version of the product and discover customer feedback, you have to focus on building the most valuable and impactful features first, while avoiding the waste of resources on features of lower priority.
So, suppose you would like to build a fitness application like Nike Training Club. To make your application usable for early adopters, you have to develop the next features first:
- User profile creation
- User onboarding
- Exercise demonstrations
- Progress tracking
These core features should be reflected in your roadmap for product development, along with the timelines for each of them. Later on, after your MVP will be created, and you will receive positive feedback from users, you will be able to move to the next goals, for instance, like in a previous example with user engagement. In that case, the features you have to prioritize may include some personalization, customizability, gamification, and social media integration.
Decide on technologies and estimate the necessary resources
Deciding on technologies and estimating resources is the last preparatory step in a product development roadmap creation. Based on the requirements, you should decide on the appropriate technology stack for the project, considering the strengths and limitations of different programming languages, frameworks, and tools. That’s why at this step, partnering with a software development vendor would be the right tactic. Professional developers would be able to help you choose the right tech stack depending on your project specifics.
In addition to technology choice, you also have to estimate the development effort required to build the MVP. To come up with a clear and accurate estimate, your software development vendor will break down each of the features into smaller tasks, evaluating the time and development resources necessary to cope with each of them. At this stage, you will also have to decide on a software development team structure.
Create a product roadmap
Now, after you know how to build a product roadmap, let’s do it practically. After you have decided on the technologies, necessary resources, and timelines for each milestone, you can use a roadmap planning tool for better visualization and collaborative work. Some of the best product roadmap tools are Trello, Asana, JIRA, and Miro.
Also, keep in mind that developing a product roadmap isn’t a one-time task. This is a living and dynamic document that can and should be changed, revised, and updated as the product development process evolves or external factors change, so reviewing it regularly is one of the product roadmap best practices.
Product Roadmap Free Template
Now, let’s take a look at the product roadmap example, supposing that we are about to build a custom fitness app. At Litslink, we have already created a fitness nutrition monitoring application, and now, would be glad to share our product roadmap template with you.
Product vision and goals:
Develop a user-friendly and personalized fitness application for home workouts that caters to users of all fitness levels.
|Key Features or Initiatives
|Milestones or Deliverables
|Performance Metrics or Key Performance Indicators to Measure Success
|Q1 – Discovery and Planning
|Q2 – MVP Development
|Q3 – User Engagement and Community Building
|Q4 – Monetization and Growth
Building a successful software product requires careful planning, thorough research, and strategic decision-making. Creating a product roadmap is one of the best practices to position a tech product for long-term success.
At Litslink, we understand the challenges that businesses face when it comes to product development. That’s why we offer a comprehensive suite of software development services to help you navigate the product development journey with ease. Our in-house tech and business experts would be glad to help you navigate the market, discover winning opportunities and mitigate risks with competent business analysis, and build a full-fledged product roadmap with a sustainable business strategy in mind.
Contact us today to create a comprehensive product roadmap that will guide your journey to success!