For tech startups, there is huge pressure to innovate faster and get to market quicker. Good execution doesn’t just happen–it requires planning and organization. Meet the product roadmap, a document designed to help startups get their product to market while making sure that each release aligns with the company’s overall business goals and vision.
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is a visual, strategic document outlining the steps and actions required to achieve a company’s high-level goals. Ideally, it orients cross-functional elements of the business toward one shared, “big picture” goal.
A product roadmap is useful for both internal stakeholders (employees) and external stakeholders (investors). For internal stakeholders, a product roadmap can act as a North Star, helping to keep the team on the same page as far as the overall business goal while providing a high-level timeline to keep everyone accountable. For external stakeholders, the aim of a product roadmap should be to illustrate the company’s big picture goals and provide concrete steps to reach those milestones, which can be persuasive when soliciting investment.
Building your product roadmap
It’s not uncommon to have two versions of your product roadmap depending on your audience, with the internal roadmap being more granular than the external version. Regardless of who the audience of the roadmap is, these are the basic elements that should always be included.
1. Product vision and strategy
Product vision and strategy go hand-in-hand and are the “why” of what you aim to build. A product vision should illustrate what you want your product to be by the end of the planning period. A product vision can change over time, but it’s a good place to begin to kickstart further planning. Product strategy should explain how the product supports the business and how it aligns with the product vision. Your product vision and strategy should detail who your customer is, what they’re looking for, and how you plan to go to market with your product. These two elements, product vision and product strategy, are key to creating the rest of the product roadmap and serve as your jumping-off point.
Once you have established your product vision and strategy, you can begin to brainstorm ideas that will help you reach your goals, whether that be securing certain partnerships, releasing new features, or increasing conversions. This will entail tapping into your own product knowledge as well as talking with each team and current customers. The sales and customer service teams likely have ample customer feedback, which can offer invaluable insight into what kinds of features customers are looking for as well as pain points that could be improved upon. If possible, solicit feedback directly from current users to gain first-hand insight into what they’re looking for.
3. Choose your highlights
Once you’ve brainstormed different ideas and gotten feedback from your team and customers, you must select which product releases and features you want to include in the product roadmap. The feedback you received can help guide decision-making on what developments should take priority and how to best optimize product releases.
For the highlights you choose, you should be able to provide concrete examples of how these ideas support the overall goal of the business. They should also have requirements that are realistic and achievable based on your current resources and team capacity.
4. Nail down requirements
Requirements are the things that must happen to get to each milestone on the product roadmap. Determining what these requirements are will necessitate communicating with your respective teams.
5. Set a timeline
Once you have your planned product releases sorted, you can begin to set the timing for product or features releases. Be sure to be mindful of your development capacity when determining these. While it can be tempting to put forth an aggressive release schedule, it’s important to be realistic and leave some wiggle room for innovation. A roadmap is meant to provide guidance, it’s not supposed to be rigid. For many companies, this looks like setting monthly or quarterly initiatives, rather than hard deadlines.
The information presented here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be, nor should it be construed or used as, comprehensive offering documentation for any security, investment, tax or legal advice, a recommendation, or an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, an interest, directly or indirectly, in any company. Investing in both early-stage and later-stage companies carries a high degree of risk. A loss of an investor’s entire investment is possible, and no profit may be realized. Investors should be aware that these types of investments are illiquid and should anticipate holding until an exit occurs.