The software idea and the resources for its implementation are a sound basis for a startup. However, even the most promising project is doomed to failure without proper planning. So the first thing to do is to think through the actions of each team member and determine how to reach the intended goal with minimal effort. Keeping everything in mind is quite challenging; a better approach is to visualize your strategy with a product roadmap.
Some skip this step or do it themselves, which can result in failure. Hiring a qualified project manager (PM) who will save you time and money is much more reasonable. PMs are responsible for the roadmap. They’re the ones who create and manage the product plan, making changes to it as needed, monitoring its implementation, and performing other related activities. For the experienced PM, the roadmap is a tactical tool to achieve strategic goals.
Let’s discuss in detail why you need a roadmap for software development and how to use it correctly. In our article, we’ll share valuable insights with you and provide a few product roadmap templates and examples.
Let’s start with the fair question: what is a product roadmap? You may know the answer, but we’d still like to clarify the concept to make sure we’re on the same page.
A roadmap illustrates the sequence of tasks a team must complete to strike a set goal, whether releasing a product or achieving specific metrics. In the IT area, the roadmap usually deals with software development.
Product roadmap example
The roadmap is the PM’s primary document; its purpose is to describe the planned activities to the team members and external stakeholders, such as clients, partners, and investors. Also, the roadmap conveys the product idea and vision and visualizes the progress of the tasks.
Creating a product roadmap is just the initial step of an IT project. Our team offers a turnkey service that includes all stages of software product development.BTW
Creating a product roadmap is just the initial step of an IT project. Our team offers a turnkey service that includes all stages of software product development.
By using the roadmap, different departments can work as a team with much greater efficiency.
Indeed, you can—but why should you?
Imagine that you, as a business owner, are planning to launch a new product, let’s say a website. As you understand, its development takes a lot of time and requires significant investments. So that the money isn’t wasted, it’s better to accompany the creation process with marketing activities. However, when should you start promoting a product that still exists as an idea? How should you allocate responsibilities and prioritize tasks? It is here that a roadmap will step in to help.
This document allows each participant to see the product development stage and understand who is doing what at a particular time.
To develop a product roadmap strategy, you need to know what such a plan consists of:
To draw up a roadmap, you need to get a lot of insight from a variety of project participants—including both the client and the production team. Only you, as a client, know your product’s goal. Only development experts can turn these goals into concrete features. And only marketers understand the specifics of promotion campaigns. The list of specialists able to provide you with the necessary data goes on.
However, the key player in the process is the project manager (PM). Without the PM’s assistance, you’ll have to work on the plan on your own, which isn’t so easy to do, especially without proper experience. Even ready-made product roadmap templates won’t make the task less challenging.
We propose to discuss the PM’s role in more detail.
PMs manage the project, coordinate the work of all parties involved, and serve as a link between the client and the contractor. Their responsibilities include task prioritization, activity planning, and internal and external communications. The creation and management of roadmaps are also among their duties.
Let’s assume you’ve refused PM services and decided to do roadmapping yourself. To get started, you must find someone to contact to receive all the required information. And your problems won’t end after it happens: now you have to spend a lot of effort organizing and structuring this data into a working plan. The project manager will get the job done faster and better, if only because it’s within his area of expertise. You, in turn, can use the saved time to deal with more high-value business activities. Clearly, it’s a win-win situation.
In addition, it’s not enough to develop a product roadmap strategy; you then need to manage your plan and make adjustments to it if necessary. It would be better if the PM takes care of this matter too. Не should also inform the relevant participants about changed conditions, whether it’s a postponed deadline or the need to allocate more resources to solve specific problems.
Roadmaps can be classified in different ways. Let’s take a look at the main ones.
The roadmap type largely depends on the audience it’s aimed at. After all, a presentation for external stockholders is one thing, and a document designed to help developers create a software product on time is another. In the first case, the roadmap contains no specific internal data and roughly indicates the timelines. In the second case, things are pretty different: the production team needs to understand the internal processes related to the product implementation.
However, let’s be more specific and give some product roadmap examples, taking into account the target audience they focus on:
Sometimes the PM creates a general product plan that combines the above audiences. Unfortunately, there is a risk of the final presentation being too cumbersome and unwieldy. A more reasonable option is a separate document for each target group.
The second method of classification is partly related to the previous one. While targeting a specific audience to some extent, it also offers a slightly different approach to structuring, prioritizing, and planning future initiatives. The main focus is on the roadmap’s goal and objectives.
Strict timing isn’t always needed for successful roadmapping. Some product roadmap examples do just fine without exact deadlines.
In general, we can distinguish the following categories in this section:
And finally, roadmaps are classified depending on the chosen method of software development.
The waterfall roadmap is usually focused on business goals and deals with financial metrics. Agile projects work with customer needs and take into account such metrics as user satisfaction and growth.
An agile approach is especially popular in IT; its main advantage is the ability to remain flexible, adapt to new circumstances, and timely implement the latest technologies that constantly appear. It’s part of the SDLC philosophy that we, the NIX team, also follow, as we consider it the best way to work with software products.
To better understand what roadmaps are and how they actually look, explore a few interesting and illustrative examples we provide below.
One of the most popular product roadmap templates in the IT project area is a document that helps the PM prioritize features and plan their release sequence. Such a roadmap is scheduled by date and takes into account the available resources and the requirements set.
Here is a great example of the external roadmap. Created by Facebook a few years ago, it announces the company’s plans for the next decade.
As we’ve already mentioned, the external roadmap offers no exact dates—its purpose is to illustrate what products and in what order the company intends to release in the coming years.
Sometimes a concise plan with simple task prioritization demonstrated in the first example isn’t enough. If that’s the case, we use a product roadmap template detailing each development stage.
Typically, such roadmaps are aimed at an external audience unfamiliar with the project specifics. The purpose is to visualize how our team plans to achieve product goals.
The combined approach in roadmapping is rarely used because it can be somewhat confusing: too much information to process. However, such a plan is exactly what you need in some cases.
The example below shows how this roadmap helps coordinate web, mobile, and marketing teams.
We’re going to describe a general approach to roadmap creation. It can be adapted and changed depending on the goals of your project, target audience, and other essential factors.
It all starts with a discussion of your long-term goal. Of course, you know better what you want to get in the end, but we, on our part, are ready to help you translate your business goals into software language.
With a clear product vision, we can move on to more specific planning steps.
Our experts, assisted by the Project Manager, divide the final goal into achievable stages of software development. Next, we compile a list of features needed to achieve your goal and prioritize them. We link features to specific stages and add timelines to them if necessary. Sometimes timeframes are better left flexible.
In addition, we need to choose metrics to control the planned development steps and track their successful implementation.
The product roadmap foundation is put up, and the PM can proceed with developing a detailed action plan. But first, it’s crucial to determine the audiences it’ll target.
Ideally, each team needs its own plan: say, developers should be more comfortable with a roadmap based on feature prioritization, and marketers have to know when a working version of the product will be released so they can start a promotional campaign in time.
A roadmap is a flexible tool that can and should be changed during project execution. It is vital to respond to new conditions and update your plan accordingly.
A prime example is Facebook, which was forced by the pandemic to alter its plans. The company had no choice but to take a closer look at Facebook Messenger and Facebook Live broadcasts and invest a lot of effort in these features, as demand for them increased significantly due to the quarantine.
The Project Manager ensures that the roadmap remains up to date and that all parties involved in the development process are aware of any changes made to the plan.
One of the easiest ways to create a roadmap is to use spreadsheets like Excel. However, they have their drawbacks, mainly the inability to visualize the strategy in a proper way. Much better results can be achieved using special programs and ready-made templates:
As you can see now, you shouldn’t underestimate roadmaps and the help of the PM in their creation and management. You and your business will benefit significantly if you strategize your project and turn it into a clear action plan. And our NIX team would be happy to become your technical partner and help you bring your idea to life.
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