MVP – Making Product Roadmaps Useful

In the first article of our series for MVPs, we briefly mentioned that product roadmaps are a useful tool when talking to stakeholders. In this article, we want to take a deeper look at product roadmaps, the problems they can solve, the techniques for creating them, and the mistakes to avoid and think critically about their use.

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a plan used to guide the development of an MVP and also the full product to be built. It typically includes goals, timelines, and tasks that need to be completed to successfully launch and grow the product. A product roadmap helps everyone stay on track with their goals and ensures that everyone is working toward them. It also helps teams collaborate to achieve their goals faster and better.For example, by using techniques such as PI planning in larger-scale setups such as SAFe or LeSS. They are essential for any organization because, without a roadmap, it is impossible to create an MVP or measure success along the way. It also makes it easier for everyone involved to know what tasks need to be done to reach the end goal of launching an MVP. Without a proper product roadmap, teams may not have enough structure or guidance when trying to create an MVP.

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Develop a product roadmap

In general, there are three techniques for coming up with a product roadmap together:  

  1. Brainstorming – this is where you get ideas from other people about what should be included in the product roadmap; 
  2. Planning sessions – these meetings help everyone decide on the goals, timelines, and tasks that need to be completed for the product;
  3. Mock-ups or wireframing to create an outline of what your product will look like before it’s built.
visual project planning on a big whiteboard

Types of roadmaps

Product roadmaps can be designed in many different ways to serve different purposes, but they generally fall into three different types:

Goal-Based Roadmaps

Roadmaps with a specific metric or goal that a product is trying to achieve at each stage of its development are goal-based roadmaps. Setting goals for each product release before considering product features ensures that product development efforts align with their respective goals.

Goals may vary at each stage of product development. They might include: making registration easier, improving engagement, increasing revenue by a certain amount, or retaining users. Product managers must select and develop an appropriate goal for each product release.

Feature-based roadmaps

Feature-based roadmaps focus on the output of features rather than the outcome of those features. With feature-based roadmaps, you may not know why those features are there, but you do know their likely release dates.

Audience-Based Roadmaps

The format of your roadmaps depends on who will see them. For example, product engineers will have roadmaps with more technical details than executives or investors will want to see. 

One way to keep these roadmaps in line is to use the now-next-later product roadmap template, although this template doesn’t negate the need for other roadmaps depending on the audience.

Outcome vs Output

As many organizations begin to work with OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), it is important to understand the difference between output and outcome, even when working with product roadmaps. Output and outcome are two terms often used interchangeably but have different meanings.

  • Output is the product of a process, task, or action, while the outcome is the result of the same process, task, or action.
  • Outputs focus on what was created to achieve a goal, while outcomes refer to what was achieved as a result of that output.
  • Outputs can be measured by tangible results, such as the number of products produced, while outcomes measure how successful those outputs were in achieving their intended purpose.
  • Both outputs and outcomes are important metrics for evaluating performance and progress toward goals.

Why outcome-centricity matters?

A product roadmap should be outcome-centric to ensure that the development of an MVP is headed in the right direction. Outcome-centricity means focusing on the results and impact of every decision made on the product roadmap, not just on what needs to be done. In this way, developers can proactively plan for potential risks and ensure they achieve their desired outcomes.

Outcome-based roadmaps enable teams to understand better how their efforts will translate into business value and tangible results. Teams can work together toward a common goal by setting measurable objectives and defining criteria for success. They can also identify areas where additional resources or actions may be required to achieve desired results and take corrective action as needed.

Regular reviews – rinse and repeat

In addition, outcome-based product roadmaps enable teams to measure progress against goals, track results over time, identify areas for improvement, and know when milestones have been achieved. By regularly reviewing roadmaps and assessing progress against goals, teams can stay focused on the big picture and ensure their efforts produce the desired results.

Product roadmaps should also focus on output rather than effort – that is, on producing quality products that promptly meet customer needs. Output-focused roadmaps help prevent “feature creep” (the tendency to add unnecessary features) by encouraging teams to prioritize activities based on customer value rather than perceived importance or popularity. Outcome-oriented product roadmaps also help teams focus on delivering value with each iteration rather than getting bogged down in details and technicalities.

Overall, output-focused product roadmaps enable teams to stay focused on their goals while ensuring that every decision they make contributes to achieving those goals. Outcome-driven product roadmaps put the customer first by ensuring that activities are prioritized based on customer value rather than personal preferences or opinions, helping teams focus on delivering high-quality products that meet customer needs on time.

Mistakes to avoid

When working with product roadmaps, there are things that product managers need to consider regularly to make them useful. Common mistakes are:

  • The roadmap is just a list of features
  • The roadmap is a static document and does not consider user feedback.
  • The roadmap document exists in multiple versions throughout the company – and no one (not even you) knows which one is current.
  • The roadmap is too detailed and lacks strategy.
  • The roadmap’s themes and epics don’t provide the right value.
  • The roadmap is unrealistic.

Product roadmaps in digital health technologies

As in other industries, working with product roadmaps can be used to develop a digital health product to structure, plan, and iterate product development. A successful digital health product roadmap should consider user and stakeholder needs, regulatory and compliance requirements, technological advances, and overall trends in the healthcare industry.

In addition, usability, scalability, and security must be considered when planning the roadmap. Startups and mid-sized companies can also consider using a goal-based product roadmap to highlight when they want to enter the regulated device space and how long they want to get user feedback before doing so.

An important step in the process of building a quality healthcare product is to ensure thorough quality testing that includes the users. Even when we think we have a perfect solution, user testing can point us in the direction of aspects and specific features that can be improved, or show us some imperfections and errors we might have overlooked.

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