Why mapping out your journey increases your chances of success
The entrepreneur, who founded PayPal and Tesla among other firms, has laid out detailed plans for his SpaceX venture concerned with the colonization of Mars. He aims to get the first humans there by just 2025. His product roadmap not only demonstrates his ambition but makes it more likely he’ll achieve it.
Why? Because a product roadmap outlines your goals in a way that makes them easier to reach.
Maybe you’re a business owner with ambitions to expand your operations, or a marketing professional looking to define your product strategy for the future. Either way, building your product roadmap will give you a clear picture of the path ahead, enabling you to plan your resources accordingly.
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is a visual plan that outlines the big picture of what needs to be done and, at a glance, can answer three key questions:
- What needs doing?
- Why does it need doing?
- How does it tie into our overall objectives?
Creating and sharing a product roadmap will aid your planning process.It ensures that stakeholders in the business are clear and aligned with a common goal.
When everyone understands why tasks must be completed, they tend to get done quicker and better. Sharing your plan will also cut down on unnecessary meetings and provide a point of reference for team members discussing key decisions.
So how do you go about creating a product roadmap? There are four key steps to making your own product roadmap – and one to be done once it’s finished!
Every good product roadmap starts and ends with strategy. Get that part right, and you have the foundations of a roadmap that leads you somewhere meaningful.
Start with the external market. What are the opportunities in your market? Are there any serious threats on the horizon? Who’s doing things well, and what part of their offering could be improved on?
Next, look closely at your customers. What problems do they have, and what solutions can you offer? If there are barriers to solving the problems, that’s ok. Barriers can be overcome and noting these gets you thinking about how to solve them.
2. Start to build your map
Map out how you see your product developing towards your final goal – whether that’s a Mars-bound spaceship or a million Twitter followers. Roadmaps can extend to periods of ten years or more, especially for tech firms with developments planned in their sector.
Plot your current products and/or services on the map and new versions of products and any products in development. Allow your vision some ‘fuzziness’ as you look into the future, as you’ll have greater flexibility over those plans than your immediate ones.
You should also plot the external opportunities on your timeline to give you an idea of the future of your industry. What advancements might you be able to take advantage of?
3. Set measurable objectives
Next, identify some key milestones that will be achieved to reach your desired overall goal. You can give them a specific time-frame, put them after other objectives they’re dependent on, or merely classify them by immediacy – ‘now’, ‘next’, and ‘later’ are common groupings here.
Make sure your objectives act as steps on the roadmap towards your final goal. The line that you just created towards the final end goal is your initiative: the process of making sure your goal is achieved.
4. Define the work
Now you and your team need to know what to do! Break down each objective into the unique tasks required to complete it. You can go to whatever level of detail you need, but be sure that you can still see the big picture – the thread that links each task to its objective and ultimately the end goal.
Team input is key here. Use the expertise of each area – operations, marketing, finance – to evaluate what’s possible and how you’ll do it. Getting buy-in to the plan is key – if they’ve helped create the timeline and plan they’re working to, you’ll see much better results.
5. Share it!
Finally, get the word out there! Even those people not directly involved in making the roadmap should know so that they can understand how they’re contributing. You never know how shareholders might be able to help until you tell them exactly what you’re planning to do.
Encourage everyone involved to take ownership of your product roadmap and you’ll be amazed at the results a unified direction can bring!