As a product manager, you need a clear strategy to drive your product forward. Without a solid plan, you'll struggle and make little progress.
The burden of coming up with the right strategy falls on your shoulders. Your job is to oversee every element and shepherd your product through execution. But what does that mean, exactly? And how do you go about it?
This post will walk you through the basics of driving your product strategy. We'll cover everything from understanding your customer needs to setting goals and tracking progress.
But first, we'll start by covering the foundation of a product strategy: the product roadmap. Then, we'll talk about what it is, why it's important, and how it plays a critical role in the success of your product plan. So read on for tips and advice that will help you take your product to the next level.
What is a Product Roadmap?
A Product Roadmap is a presentation of strategic product information used by cross-functional teams to plan and prioritize work. It's typically updated at least once per quarter or when there are significant changes in the market environment or company strategy.
It's essential for product managers and all the other team members (customer support, development, operations, etc.) who want to know what they're working on and how it contributes to achieving business objectives.
Product Roadmaps are valuable tools to create and communicate your strategic product plan. They act as an implementation schedule with detailed descriptions about what is planned, how it will be delivered or released over time (for example, annually), who the target audience/user-base might include, etc.
Tips for effective product roadmap management
The product roadmap is one of the most important tools in the product manager's toolkit. It helps everyone on your cross-functional team stay organized and move towards your common goal. It also keeps you focused on building value for your customers, stakeholders, and market.
But the benefits don't stop there. In addition to the others listed, product roadmaps provide a strategy for how to achieve your objectives.
But what technique should you use to create a practical, valuable and agile product roadmap? To ensure you're getting the most out of yours, here are five tips on creating a roadmap that will work for your Agile team.
1 | Keep it simple
A good roadmap is practical yet structured, diverse yet focused, and detailed but not overwhelming. The more detail you pack into your roadmap, the less flexibility you'll have to make changes when they inevitably occur. Conversely, if you leave out key details to keep things simple, your plan will probably become obsolete before you even get started.
The best thing is to find a happy medium between complexity and simplicity by focusing on the high-level direction of where your product needs to go. Don't drown yourself in too many details or requirements.
2 | Use it to answer the "W" questions first
Before you begin mapping out your roadmap, you need to ask yourself some important questions about what you are trying to accomplish with your product and why:
- What dependencies does this product have across the portfolio?
- Who will benefit the most from this product?
- When will we develop this product?
- Where do we see this product going in the future?
- Finally, why should we invest in developing this product (i.e., is there a return on investment)?
These questions represent the "W" questions of Agile development- they're big picture, and they can be tough to tackle all at once when you're used to focusing on the day-to-day activities of managing a product development project. However, by answering them first, you ensure that the overall picture is clear and everyone on your team understands their role in achieving the big picture vision (and how it will be executed step by step).
3 | Include all relevant stakeholders
While this may seem like an obvious piece of advice, many product managers fail to bring transparency to the organization–resulting in products getting built and launched before people can get on board with the process.
If your roadmap only includes team members whose work directly impacts its execution, you fail to have the people who (ideally) need to be more invested.
Incorporate all the relevant stakeholders, including sales, marketing, support, documentation, etc. They all need to be aware of how each step towards your end goal will impact them and what role they play in getting there.
4 | Know when you'll share it and with whom
Who do you think needs to know about your product roadmap? Everyone?
While that would ensure that everyone on your team felt included in the process, don't go overboard. Instead, figure out which members of your team, especially external team members, need to know about your roadmap to be successful.
Once you've decided which stakeholders are critical, figure out what they should have access to. For example, suppose you as the product manager, get buried under work on a daily basis and need timely feedback from key stakeholders to maintain the timeline. In that case, you need to provide product owners and project managers access to their respective product lines as a contributor so that they can update everyone on any changes in delivery dates.
5 | Learn and make adjustments
As with any good agile process, you need to be open to new ideas and willing to course-correct if things aren't working as effectively as planned. Keep in mind that you might have to go through several iterations of your roadmap before it's perfect (and then some).
Every step of the way, we recommend checking in with all relevant stakeholders about what they think is working and what they would like to see changed. But, don't let one person's opinions influence how you create your roadmap—unless you know without any doubt that you should.
Don't be hesitant to change the way you execute your product roadmap. Maybe it's not working well, or a new idea comes along that seems like a much better option. Keep learning from each step and make adjustments as necessary until you find a process that fits your team perfectly.
How to create a product roadmap
Creating a product roadmap can be a daunting task. Here are a few tips to help you create one that will enable the success of your organization:
- Identify your key priorities.
What features will make customers want and need more of your product?
- Prioritize your roadmap based on what is most important to your customers.
What features will have the most significant impact on their experience?
- Make sure your roadmap is flexible.
Things can always change, so make sure you leave room for adjustments.
- Communicate with your team and stakeholders.
Make sure everyone is aware of your roadmap and what it means for the future of the product.
- Take feedback into account.
Your customers are a valuable source of feedback, so make sure you listen to what they have to say.
Drive your product strategy with Gocious
Gocious PRM is a Product Roadmap Management system built specifically for organizations that develop and/or manufacture complex physical goods. Our platform helps Product Managers drive their strategic planning process from a single source of truth into a product management executive dashboard.
Using Gocious PRM, our clients can now align product strategy with their business objectives and customer needs faster.
Want to learn more? Click to schedule a demo and see how you can leverage Gocious PRM on your journey towards a more flexible and agile product team.