Proper examination and management of the current state of your business and its relation to the market is equally important as is the comprehensive approach to your future endeavors. These factors are essential parts of a functioning enterprise. As business does not exist without continuous demand and offer systems, entrepreneurs must constantly think ahead in order to succeed.

The Roadmap Planning Process (RMP) in Product Management

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Creating product roadmaps enables focused progress towards long-term objectives of your business. In this article, we will address what are product roadmaps and their position in business management. Moreover, we will present their key properties and discuss how they are built. Lastly, we will enlist some beneficial tools for the process in order to optimize your current and future entrepreneurial endeavors. This will be done through sections 1) What are Product Roadmaps; 2) Product Roadmap Planning Process and 3) Useful Tools for Product Roadmapping.

WHAT ARE PRODUCT ROADMAPS

Product management, as well as business management, is a live organism dependent on the climate of the market – which includes its ever changing processes and tendencies, as well as the customers as its building block. Although it takes significant effort to achieve it, in order to operate successfully in long sales cycles (from several months to several years) and build a solid and perpetually valuable enterprise, entrepreneurs must create overall company strategies. In other words, all endeavours and processes that are undertaken must serve a well-defined set of intentions and objectives. However, stating them is not enough for proper functioning. Entrepreneurs must also define ways in which these goals will be achieved and set their approximate deadlines.

Various types of business related roadmaps emerged as a tool to meet the above-mentioned ends:

  • market-oriented,
  • technology-oriented,
  • objective-oriented, and
  • product-oriented roadmaps.

All types of roadmaps are hence tools used by entrepreneurs so as to present analytical data collected through thorough examination of all of the internal and external properties which correlate in business affairs. These presentations of current state information are then used for building a proposed plan of future action regarding the specific areas that they are built for.

Product roadmaps thus integrate factors such as market tendencies and segmentation of customers according to their needs and preferences as well as proposed technology development in relation to future features and releases regarding particular products or product lines. With this information, collected through collaboration with diverse departments of the organization as well as customers, evaluators and partners, product management teams and managers create a product pathway that seems most plausible and profitable at the time of its making.

One of the most important things to accentuate when talking about product roadmaps (and roadmaps in general) is that these presentations of intended future endeavors are not commitments firmly incorporated into company’s strategy. The market and all of its properties constantly change and following through a roadmap regardless of these changes would probably result in failure at the least. This is why roadmaps are regarded more of an annex to product management strategies and are revised according to the changes in the market which they are a part of.

Product roadmaps can be extremely beneficial for business operating in numerous ways. Customers want to know where the products they are using are headed so that they can incorporate this proposed progress into their strategies. Investors find well constructed product roadmaps not only a comprehensive vision of what your company is oriented towards for the future but also as a result and test of competence in proper attribution and evaluation of the current properties of the market – hence, product roadmaps build trust and confidence in your capabilities. Moreover, product roadmaps which are done collaboratively within different departments of your company and, more importantly, presented to your employees, bring understanding of importance and end goals of the entirety of work which is being undertaken in the enterprise and this increases effectiveness and productivity of your workforce. Further on, product roadmaps show a tendency of short-term mistakes reduction – when all involved in your enterprise know where they are heading and why, misunderstandings are less likely to happen. Additionally, some potential issues can be dealt with in the course of product roadmap creation by the employment of pure reason and logic.

PRODUCT ROADMAP PLANNING

It is always less time and effort consuming to do things superficially, but actual benefits of all of your endeavors depend on the thoroughness of your approach. Creating a product roadmap without insightful examination of the market, customers and technology has no purpose. Creating an insightful product roadmap still has little purpose if it is not incorporated into and aligned with the overall strategies of your business. You have to look at your enterprise as a constellation of different inter-dependent elements whose correlation brings balance to your entity. Moreover, each of these elements is another constellation of microelements that are its building blocks. This means that you must attend to all of these elements simultaneously in order to perpetually generate revenue. It sounds like too much work (and it is a lot of work) but things kind of fall into their place if the work is being done conscientiously.

Product roadmaps integrate several key elements:

  • Market segments;
  • Business problems;
  • Product requirements;
  • Technology;
  • Time.

The correlation of these elements is essential for proper product roadmap creation. In order to address business problems that emerge from the market and customer tendencies, you have to examine product requirements that must be dealt with in the future according to the accessibility and development of technology. These endeavors are all dependent on the approximate release and delivery schedules that are decided upon after information analysis.

STRATEGIC ROADMAP PLANNING PROCESS

The strategic roadmap planning process consists of the following parts described below.

Audience Segmentation

Your targeted customers vary according to a myriad of properties and preferences. It is important to segment them in relation to the product that is being road mapped so you can address the process properly – ideas on new features and releases will follow the behavioral patterns of these segmented customers.

Finance, Market and Competition Examination

It is essential to define value and revenue possibilities of your proposed product plans in reference to their expenditures. In order to do so, you must examine financial performances of the current product on the market as well as overall business performance (current and estimated for the future). Moreover, you must examine the market. Its changing tendencies will bring insights for future product releases. Additionally, you should focus on areas of the market that have lesser amounts of competition because that way your future releases have bigger chances of productivity. It is more difficult to envision optimal product progress when you have to anticipate product strategies of a large amount of competition – in other words, differentiation is one of the essentials of successful management and placement on the market. Chances to produce something differentiated in the future increase with a smaller amount of competition who are trying to do the same.

Technology Insights

Your product roadmaps are completely dependent on the technology development because you cannot place a product on the market without incorporating new features in it. Consult your technical support teams and developers in order to gain actual insights on the possibilities for realization of projects regarding product enhancements in defined time intervals.

Alignment of Product Strategy with the Overall Business Strategy

Once you have collected sufficient information that will help build a functional product roadmap you must analyze your vision with the overall business strategy of you enterprise. This means that, even though you might not completely (or at all) follow through the process you intend on constructing, you must ensure it aligns with the goals and objectives you have set for your company in the long run. Only by doing so, your product roadmap has a purpose.

Steps of Product Roadmap Creation

Step 1: Gather Information

As discussed in the previous section.

Step 2: Organize

All of the information which you have gathered started to form separate ideas on where your product roadmap is going but now it is time to structuralize it comprehensively. Incorporate all of the intended features and properties into a chronological scheme consisting of:

Time Span

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 3 years

Time Span Breakdown

  • Monthly
  • Quarterly
  • Annually

Releases

  • Define themes of proposed releases, enlist features that will be decisive for marketing endeavors and place them in time intervals.

Step 3: Design

Use tools to prioritize, communicate and track constituents of your product roadmap such as

  • Excel
  • Power Point
  • Accept
  • Feature Plan

Step 4: Internal Use

Due to the fact that product roadmaps include a wide variety of competitive material, you do not want it to be seen in its entirety by the customer and especially, the competition. Version of your product roadmap which is intended for internal use (within your company, confidential evaluators and possibly partners) should be more detailed, including all features and project ideas as well as means of their achievement, precise data on technology incorporation and all of the temporal intervals of your plan. Your internal use of roadmaps will be under the engineering department as they are the one developing the features incorporated in it.

Step 5: External Delivery

On the other hand, product roadmaps which will be presented to customers, investors and general public, should be revised so as not to say exactly what your intentions are but rather provide a (more vague) idea of your proposed processes and endeavors which might be undertaken in the future. You must focus on achieving the effect of a detailed roadmap without actually giving out to much of the information – especially when referring to long sales cycles because there is a greater risk that the competition will use your ideas and override your efforts. The external version of product roadmaps will be managed by marketing and sales departments as they are the representative force of your enterprise. Make sure it is clearly stated that your document contains forward-looking statements based on current predictions, assumptions and forecasts which involves risks and uncertainties and as such may differ from it in actual realization. This way you are clearly stating that the document is not obligatory in any way.

Problems of Product Roadmaps

In addition to the above mentioned competition-based external issues, product roadmaps encounter some difficulties in two internal spheres which should be monitored and properly addressed:

  • Sales Channel: Sales channels show a tendency of product roadmap misuse by using them as commitment towards the interested parties (customers, investors) and present features as futures contracts. Moreover, these futures are addressed towards wrong market segments and used in desperate situations. If such patterns are noticed, try to reinstate the objectives and goals of your company to the individuals or teams that are responsible. Also, reinstate the purpose of product roadmap and accentuate ways in which it is to be used. If they continue to fail to properly manage their tasks, maybe it is time to re-evaluate your workforce.
  • Product Development: Issues that arise within the product development sphere are those related to the unpredictability of dates, releases and deliveries of content because it is dependent on the technology and not the market. The development cycles tend to prolong and as such bear the risk of ‘showing up too late’. However, aside from ensuring the optimal productivity of your employees, there is not much that can be done with time management – sometimes things take more time than predicted.

USEFUL TOOLS FOR PRODUCT ROADMAPPING

Bellow are enlisted some immensely helpful tools with reference to roadmap planning processes including investment allocation, market and technology trends as well as the alignment of focus within your company.

3 Horizons Model

The 3 Horizons Model allows you to divide your product roadmap into three horizons through which you can structure it by time and uncertainty. This is done primarily through extending and defending your current business state and following up with the creation of viable options for the future. Once you have incorporated the information, rate your current roadmap investments, define future investments and match them with actual ideas in your roadmap.

Technology Trend Capitalization

By using the Technology Trend Capitalization, you will be able to envision current and future market tendencies and discuss implications that they will have on your product roadmap. The tool will help identify trends that are relevant for your enterprise as well as analyze their influences, opportunities and risks.

Product Canvas

In order for your company to share a comprehensive goal regarding the product roadmap, use Product Canvas to present key facts on future product releases, as well as important marketing messages and drivers. The objective is to ensure alignment of focus and understanding within your organization.

Technology Theme Investments

This tool provides valuable insights into increased investment requirements and ways in which they can be reduced. It can be extremely beneficial for optimal resource allocation in the product roadmap processes.

Pictures of the Future

Pictures of the Future is a tool that extrapolates a logical pathway from current to possible future business scenarios and allows alignment of short-term activities with long-term visions.

Market/Technology Alignment

Presentation of content must be synchronized with technological opportunities. This tool can ensure that your marketing and development management is leveraged properly.

Kano Model

The Kano Model investigates customer needs with reference to expected satisfaction rates through different preferential variables. It can be useful for defining qualities that will positively position your products on the market.

Compact QDF

The Compact QFD tool serves as a differentiation tool by leveraging quality preferences concerning your competition. It allows you to prioritize your roadmap according to the competitive landscape and reason why certain features work well in the market.

Technology S-curve

The S-curve presents possible ‘dead ends’ of a technology and thus provide valuable insights on failure prevention and proper investment allocation.

Creating a comprehensive product roadmap will ensure that your company advances towards its goals in the changing market. The fact that product roadmaps are not obligations but rather intentions, they can serve as a great filter for ideas and projects because they are based on the actual state in which the market and your business are. They provide valuable information that can reduce mistakes and enhance the potential profitability of your endeavors as well as serve as a marketing tool for your customers and associates. By implementing above mentioned advices, you can create a document that will optimize your product management strategies as well as align them with your overall business.

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