A product development roadmap is a tool to help you explain your ideas for a new or enhanced offering to others. The ensuing dialogue roadmaps encourage may help ensure that you have the right product for the market.
Products and services “mature" over time. When you first considered starting your business, you had a product or service idea—a machine, app, enterprise software, service offering, etc. You turned the idea into a prototype, then maybe a minimum viable product, version 1, version 2 and so on.
Now you might be on version 4.3 and thinking ahead to future enhancements or a new product based on customer comments and competitive factors. That's where a product development roadmap can come in.
A product development roadmap shows pictorially how your product will be developed or enhanced over time. The key information to include are:
- product and / or service features
- staff / people involved in implementation
Of course, there is much detail behind this summary view, with each department having its specific metrics. Knowing what products or features will be available for sale and when, you can align your product offering with your marketing and sales efforts.
A product development roadmap also provides the necessary financial, cash flow and timing information needed for your budgeting and financial forecasts. Often companies need funding to make major product enhancements or develop new products. You can share this roadmap with investors or bankers to explain the product or service's benefits and why you need their money now.
It can also help you negotiate with the development team on technical requirements, quality assurance and due dates.
Concurrently, product development roadmaps require you to update your market analysis. When you know the cost and timing of your product or service, you can assess whether or not there is sufficient sales potential to earn a return on investment.
Formats, Templates and Multiple Versions
An internet search for “product development roadmap" will provide many formats and templates for displaying this info. Some sites also offer databases so if multiple team members are involved in the product development, they can share common files. (This might be especially useful if you have outsourced your product development.)
You may have four different versions of your product development roadmap, all based on the same facts, depending on who it will be shared with:
- Potential investors: Emphasizes the fit with company mission and vision; provides overview of features, timing and cost; and notes the potential rewards.
- Product developers: Emphasizes features, milestones and deadlines. This version will be more detailed with shorter time spans between events.
- Sales team: Emphasizes how it will help them sell more by focusing on features and customer benefits; indicates when it might be available so they know when to start pre-selling.
- Customers and potential customers: Emphasizes product features and benefits.
When to Update and Prioritizing the Work
Not so long ago, a product life cycle was typically several years long, so product development roadmaps could have two or three-year time horizons without frequent changes.
Now, product life cycles are much shorter. Therefore, I suggest you look at your product development roadmap at least every six months. (If you have an IT-related business, maybe every three months isn't often enough.)
If nothing has changed, continue with its implementation. If changes are needed due to market conditions, competition, customer reviews and feedback or other reasons, then you can revise and implement.
As the company leader, the final decisions are yours. You can prioritize what gets done. In reaching your decisions, you might take into consideration (1) the overall company plan and vision; (2) customer, market and competitor requirements and factors; (3) the skills and expertise available to implement new or enhanced products; and (4) funding availability.
A product development roadmap can be an effective tool for sharing your new (or enhanced) product or service ideas. It can help with aligning the internal functions of your development, marketing and sales teams to achieve the best results for the company.
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