“Competition is fierce” is an understatement in the business world. Especially so in the software product development arena. As of the third quarter of 2019, 2.47 million Android apps and 1.8 million apps for iOS were available to the over three billion global smartphone users. Even more discouraging, Gartner estimates that less than 0.01 percent of all consumer mobile apps were successful in 2018. How can you avoid common pitfalls and give your software product the biggest chance of success?
By developing an effective product roadmap.
What is a Product Roadmap?
Think about a literal roadmap or electronic version. It reveals your vision, where you want to end up compared to where you are right now. It tells you how much progress you are making. You can zoom out and check your progress by seeing a very broad view of your journey, or zoom in to look at very specific turns and landmarks. You can outline your priorities, such as restaurants or attractions you want to stop at along the way. Similarly, a software roadmap reveals four key elements:
For software teams, a roadmap is a key piece of communication that facilitates collaboration. It links the what, the how and the why of a product with the organization’s long-term goals. Just as a literal roadmap may take you on a detour, your product roadmap is also a dynamic document. As teams work together, launch products, collect user feedback and observe changes in the competition, the roadmap will evolve too. From stakeholders and consumers to developers and design teams, a product roadmap ensures everyone is working toward a common goal and is on the same page.
Why is a Roadmap Critical?
A roadmap is not one of those optional steps in strategic planning. It’s critical to the development of your software product. Roadmaps serve various objectives, depending on the audience they are intended for. Consider how a product roadmap can help meet three critical objectives.
- Explain customer value. The biggest success factor for software is customer value. If your product does not bring value, it’s dead on arrival. A roadmap prioritizes customer value, outlining deliverables, release dates, updates and other critical milestones to achieving customer satisfaction. It provides a critical outline, connecting your development team with the end user.
- Support the organization’s mission. A roadmap shows how a particular product relates to the company’s strategic vision and goals. This function is critical to executive and stakeholder buy-in. A roadmap designed for this high-level audience will leave out much of the detailed data meant for designers, developers. Instead, it will focus on strategic concepts, such as market penetration and position, competitive edge, growth projections and progress, as well as how the product aligns with the organization’s vision.
- Communicate with sales. Communication between developers and sales is vital to the launch and sustainability of a product. A roadmap focused on the needs of your sales team will include user pain points and how those challenges are met. Creating a direct line of communication about new and upcoming features will help stimulate sales conversations and help both teams be more effective.
Regardless of the type of product roadmap you are developing, transparency is key. While the focus on the roadmap may differ depending on your audience, it’s important for each group to understand the key factors at play for the other groups. For example, your development team may not be as concerned with the business alignment and revenue goals as an executive team. However, they should understand what’s at stake. This knowledge will add weight to their short-term goals, such as deadlines and customer requirements.
How to Develop Your Roadmap
Think back to the literal mapping system in our opening illustration. If your map showed you every road along your route with the same level of intensity, would it be easy to identify your route? No. Similarly, ensure your roadmap is easy to understand. Avoid providing too much data that will make it difficult, or even intimidating to read. Conversely, leaving out critical details will make your audience miss the point.
Start by looking at the big picture. What are your long-term goals, vision, growth projections and market indicators? Determine where your company is heading and where it makes the most sense to spend your development time and money. Next, zoom in on your product strategy, identifying how it fits into the big picture analysis. What problems will your product solve? What differentiates it from competitors? What is your budget? What timeline is reasonable?
Lastly, outline the specific project plan, including deadlines, milestones, as well as roles and responsibilities. You will also want to include a risk management component to your roadmap. What are possible challenges and how do we overcome them? Remember that a roadmap is not a static object. As the market shifts and consumer preferences change, modify your roadmap to reflect how your product needs to adapt.
Give your product the best chance to succeed with a product roadmap.
Amoeboids Technologies is a top vendor on the Atlassian Marketplace & we are about to release a new app – Roadmap portal for JSD.