MaRS Library Validating inputs to product roadmaps
As outlined in the article Product roadmap inputs, timeframes and your product strategy, you will collect many different inputs of what should be added to your product over time. They will primarily come from your market, which includes customers, prospects, competitors and your target market.
Validate each input to your tech product roadmap
It is important to validate each input to ensure that they make sense to your product roadmap.
This validation process also serves to remove ideas that will not improve your product (such as a customer input that makes no sense for your offering as a whole, and only applies to their unique organization).
To validate each input, ask the following questions.
Will this increase our company revenue?
If you are considering the addition of a new feature to your product, determine whether it will be profitable to do so.
The new feature should enable you to either earn more revenue from each product sale or expand your share of the market to gain new customers.
This does not need to involve complicated or in-depth calculations; estimate how many customers this feature may apply to and any new or incremental revenue that may result.
If a feature does not have strong revenue projections, it does not mean that you should eliminate it. However, it should be strong in other areas, such as strategy or competition (see below).
Revenue is important, but it should be pursued strategically. A revenue-driven organization that places too much emphasis on achieving individual sales opportunities does so at the expense of the overall market’s needs and product innovation.
Will this input help us to achieve our product strategy?
Your product strategy determines your product’s general direction. It describes your target customers and the problems you will solve for them. This strategy may not be a direct request from customers, but may arise from understanding their problems.
Inputs that help you to achieve your product strategy form the tactical steps you take toward your overall product vision. These inputs are important, and should be considered as vital as revenue-based inputs.
Will this solve a problem for our market or a particular customer?
Every business wants to deliver on customers’ requests. However, in most cases, a single customer does not constitute a market.
Ensure that the feature you add to your product roadmap will serve the needs of many customers. By speaking to customers often, you can identify trends across customer groups.
The future viability of your product depends upon your product’s ability to serve a need in the market. Overly customized product features will place the product in too small of a niche and reduce its appeal to the larger audience.
Ensure that you are building for the entire applicable market to reduce this risk.
Companies that focus exclusively on meeting the demands of current customers often fail to allocate appropriate resources to developing breakthrough products that appeal to non-customers and expand market share.
Will this input help us to compete?
Many companies add product features offered by their competitors just to keep up with the competition. While it is important to monitor what competitors are doing, ensure that you validate those ideas like any other.
Ensure that your market has expressed that problem, and that you can identify more than one customer with that need.
Determine if you are losing customers or revenue because you do not have those features.
Duplicating features may result in providing something that customers won’t use. Add features that are important to your market, not just because your competitors offer it.
Note: The importance of each of these questions will depend on the priorities your business has identified for the product roadmap. For more details, read the article, Prioritizing your product roadmap.
Other articles in this series include:
Stull, C., Myers, P. and Scott, D.M. (2008). Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities that Lead to Business Breakthroughs. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.