5 Tips To Help You Improve Your Road Map Planning
June 12, 2018
June 12, 2018
A Product Manager should be spending a good portion of their time tweaking their product roadmap and reviewing new incoming ideas, features and taking into account changes in their environment that could impact road map planning. For a product based business, the road map planning is as important as the overall business plan as a great decision can drive growth while a poor decision on what features make it to the roadmap can slow customer adoption and cost the business money.
Here are 5 tips to keep in mind as you work on road map planning:
1. Paint the product picture: A product manager needs to be able to show their team, investors and all stakeholders how the product gets from A to Z over the course of time. This means your road map planning needs to start with your end state and back into your current state describing how you accomplish the features and objectives over the next few years. Product managers need to be able to tell the story of their product growth and communicate the vision and strategy to make the company the best product available in the industry. A visual product plan that shows how each year additional critical features are delivered can help set the table to create confidence in the long term view of the product.
2. Boil it down: Many product managers, myself included at times, can get too wordy when describing features. Your road map planning is not the time to describe in the weeds the changes you are making. This is a high level document to communicate the objectives and critical features you will implement. Keep your descriptions at a high level and be brief in your feature definitions. Your product roadmap needs to communicate what your plans are but does not have to describe specifically each requirement of each feature you place on your roadmap. Be brief to keep a clean and easy to understand vision.
3. Watch your dates: The road map planning is about creating a path forward for your business and product team. The product roadmap is not a project plan nor should be it be viewed as an agreement to deliver features in a specific time period. Avoid committing to specific dates in your product roadmap because you need the flexibility in bumping features to the future or pulling them in sooner based on your frequent revisits to your product planning. You may think product feature ABC will be a game changer and have it on your product plan to start work in 3 months but that is until you hear about feature 123 which based on your user research will increase conversion and user adoption and now you need to bump out the other feature to make room. Road map planning is not locked down and is always subject to change so avoid putting specific deliverable dates.
4. Validate your road map: Product managers do not need to be an island when it comes to the product planning sessions. Meet with your teams, your customers and stakeholders to validate your road map and ensure that it is delivering the key features at the right times and in the right order. The role of PM is that of a coordinator and decision maker of the path forward but to be done the right way requires buy in from those that will be working on developing and supporting the product, the customers using the product and your investors and other stakeholders that have interests in the product success.
5. Review often: It is always easier to course correct the earlier you make the wrong turn then when you are too far down the road. It will cost you less time, money and energy to correct bad decisions as soon as you can so a road map planning is not a one and done activity where you do it and revisit once a year. You should be reviewing your product plan once a week or more often based on how many users you have and the amount of feedback you get. You should be looking at competition to see what they are building and ensure you are covered from that angle. Make product planning a standing part of your schedule to ensure you build the best possible product.
The first step to building a great product is making a product roadmap that helps define your long term vision and the large chunks of work to get there. Once you have defined this vision, put the effort into your road map planning to maintain it and make adjustments as needed to ensure you are laser focused on your business success.