Companies normally build products to solve important user needs or problems. But how do you figure out what to build first and what needs or problems require immediate attention? Creating and maintaining a product roadmap is usually difficult, as you do not always have the time, resources, or desire to build everything, and realistically, you seldom will.
While there is no secret formula, playbook, or “one size fits all” approach to creating a killer product roadmap, in this article, we will discuss a few tactics you can use to help create a prioritized product roadmap.
A scoring model is an effective tool for quantifying your rationale and getting stakeholder buy-in.
What makes an effective product roadmap?
A company’s product roadmap should define the product’s journey over time and highlight important milestones. A good product roadmap tells a story about where your product(s) came from and where it is headed in a way that helps your team, stakeholders, and your customers, understand what you are up to.
If you already have a product but do not have a compelling product vision of “where are you going’, now is not the right time to begin prioritizing items on your roadmap. To maintain focus and organizational alignment, you and your team should first establish and internalize a clear product vision.
This vision is the guiding force for every product decision, and your product roadmap is the “map” to help you reach that vision.
Prioritization of features
To develop a sound product roadmap, you must highlight the purpose behind prioritizing a product feature. There are generally two approaches to this:
- You prioritize features and functionalities that you, your team, or your stakeholders think would be a good idea — hoping it works out.
- You start by analyzing which features have the highest engagement and which do not get used as much. Next, you identify which steps in your workflow cause the biggest drop-offs — where users are getting stuck. Lastly, you seek to understand your users’ needs, wants, and thoughts.
Improving the chances of a product’s success
Your product will have a higher probability of success if the approach you take, takes into account what the market needs are, and if you focus on fixing areas where your product has the biggest leaks or weaknesses.
Only then you will have a chance of creating things people want. However, many companies still operate using the first approach — making decisions based on personal opinions, rather than data-informed, externally validated hypotheses.
So how do you ensure that your product roadmap includes prioritized features and functionalities that customers want and love?
You need a process for developing ideas, one that helps you prioritize the ones worth focusing on while getting buy-in from key stakeholders.
Begin by using a data-informed approach to gather actionable insight. There are a couple of ways you can do this:
- Surveys — Get user feedback for specific tasks or actions. Find out what is stopping them from performing an action by asking them.
- Product analytics — Uncover the specific steps in your product workflow where users are getting stuck and dropping off instead of taking the intended action you want from them.
- Mouse tracking analysis — Record what people do with their mouse. This can give you insights into where users are focusing within the product.
- Analyze help tickets and emails — Review your support tickets to find out what people are asking for help on. A customer’s frustration and confusion can give you a good insight into things that need fixing.
- User testing — Observe users as they interact with your product, capturing their thought process and reaction to your product.
Analyze the results of your research and make a list of all the steps and places where users are getting stuck or frustrated, identify where user behavior is not as expected, and where you see things that need improvement.
Congrats! You have identified a list of product issues and feature ideas. Now you need to figure out which ones are worth working on and which ones are not.
A simple way to do this is by plotting these potential opportunities on a graph, where the y-axis represents the value that each initiative delivers to your company (low to high), and the x-axis represents how much time, money, and effort (low to high) said initiatives will take to develop and implement.
So, you have plotted the initiatives identified through your data-driven approach. Now it’s time to prioritize the highest value/impact items and figure out which ones you can say ‘no’ to. The first step is to overlay a quadrant grid on the graph.
With the grid in place, it is easy to visualize the ‘low-hanging fruit’ type of initiatives that are easy to start with. These are the ideas placed in the upper-left side of the graph which provides high business value and requires low effort. The initiatives that fall into the upper-right side of the graph also have a big impact on business value. But, these are more complex and require more effort to deliver. These items are important but should be tackled after the ones from the first quadrant ie the upper left side of the graph.
Items in the lower-left quadrant may be able to deliver quick ‘wins’. But since the business value is low, careful consideration needs to take place to determine if they are worth pursuing at this time. Initiatives that are high-effort and low-value should not be considered at all.
Score and rank your product features/functionalities
Now that you have a focused list of initiatives worth tackling, the next step is to ‘score and rank’ them to prioritize the order in which your company will accomplish them. A simple way this can be done is by categorizing benefits that your organization will ‘realize’ and the costs it will take to implement them, ranking each factor on a scale from 1–5 (with 1 being low benefit/cost and 5 being high benefit/cost) for each of the initiatives.
In addition to a scoring model, you must also factor in your competitors, market, and customers into your consideration when prioritizing features and initiatives. A scoring model is an effective tool for quantifying your rationale and getting stakeholder buy-in.
With ranking is complete, you can organize and prioritize the initiatives and features identified, in your product roadmap, and get stakeholder buy-in to start executing the roadmap.
Walking your stakeholders through the process used to create your prioritized roadmap and demonstrating the structured evaluation process is an effective way to convince them on the right path forward. The combination of data-centric customer evidence, tying product priorities to the company’s strategic business goals, being transparent with your stakeholders, and addressing concerns and objections proactively is a sure-fire way of getting alignment for your product roadmap.
Are you ready to build now?
Author — Pritom Paul, DLT Labs™
About the Author: Pritom is an experienced professional who has worked on delivering global enterprise products, FinTech transformations, and innovative blockchain solutions. He enjoys staying abreast of current technological advancements and likes helping clients solve challenging problems. He is a Toronto Raptors fan and a classic car enthusiast.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published on the DLT Labs Blog page: