MaRS Library Using your tech product roadmap effectively
Effective use of your product roadmap in tech product development can help you achieve several key goals. These goals include:
Acquiring new sales
A product roadmap provides prospects with confidence in your direction, and ensures them that your product will satisfy their future needs.
Bringing in new investors
Investors in new ventures are buying a vision. A product roadmap outlines a specific path that your product will take in delivering that vision. If investors buy into the vision, they will buy into the company.
Focusing your team
As your company grows, different departments will be involved in executing different elements of product delivery (for example, marketing, distribution, development). A product roadmap keeps everyone aligned by defining a common vision for the company’s direction.
Maximizing the effectiveness of your tech product roadmap
The following best practices will maximize the effectiveness of your product roadmap and minimize unintended consequences.
Keep it up to date
Update your product roadmap at least once per quarter. Ensure that stakeholders understand its changing nature. This provides greater flexibility in expectations, and accounts for the rapid rate of change.
Create internal and external roadmaps
If your salesperson insists on showing a product roadmap to customers and prospects, create two roadmaps: one for internal use and one for customers.
The external (customer) roadmap should only include major items that are unlikely to change. Limit less certain items to the internal roadmap.
This might be wishful thinking, but avoid including dates on your product roadmap. Consider using a themed roadmap (for more details, read the article, Introduction to product roadmaps). If this is not realistic, use quarters instead of specific dates. This will allow room to adjust priorities as your business changes.
Exclude roadmap from contracts
Never include your product roadmap with a signed customer contract. This will tie you to that roadmap and its associated timeframe, regardless of the changes in your business.
Change is inevitable, and your stakeholders must understand this fact in context of the roadmap. When presenting a product roadmap to stakeholders, reiterate the message that this is the roadmap today, and that it may change in the future.
Consequences of ineffective use of your product roadmap
Dates become promises
A product roadmap tends to be interpreted as the law. When people are provided release dates without the proper caveats, they might assume that nothing will change along the way and that given dates are definitive.
The nature of business is that things change. Whether it involves new technologies, new customers or new business models, change is the only predictable part of business. As a result, your startup’s product roadmap may look completely different within the space of one quarter. Relying on a static roadmap can cause confusion and loss of confidence among stakeholders.
Competitors discover your roadmap
A product roadmap outlines your company’s direction. This is valuable information to your competitors.
Note: For more details on product roadmaps, refer to the other four articles in this series:
- Introduction to product roadmaps
- Inputs to product roadmaps
- Validating inputs to product roadmaps
- Prioritizing your product roadmap
Johnson, S. (2004). Product Roadmaps. Retrieved June 23, 2010, from http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/2/2/0312sj
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