Building an MVP Roadmap: A Pragmatic Guide for Startups and Tech Companies

A product roadmap is a strategic blueprint for MVP development, crucial for transitioning from concept to launch. It ensures that every task aligns with business objectives.

Building on the foundation laid out in our previous article, “MVP – Making Product Roadmaps Useful” this guide expands upon those insights. We delve deeper into the practical methodologies, the indispensable steps, and the array of tools that are essential for sculpting an MVP roadmap.

The transformative power of effective roadmapping shows across a spectrum of sectors, with a particular focus on the nuanced challenges of digital health and sports tech, where the go to market is long and evolving product-market fit requires adaptability. These fields demand not only innovation but also precision and flexibility, qualities that a roadmap can instil within a product’s DNA from day one.

The Blueprint for an MVP Roadmap

How to go From Idea to Actionable Product Plan?

What problem are you solving? Who’s feeling the pain? How will your MVP alleviate it? These are the questions to answer before drafting your roadmap. We often guide our clients (think medtech innovators) through this validation phase, ensuring their ideas are grounded in real user needs. For example, a startup aiming to develop a new fitness tracker must first determine if their target users truly seek new health metrics or if they’re simply not using existing devices to their full potential.

Tools of the Trade

Selecting the right tools is critical. For instance, a startup in the wearables space might lean on customer surveys and prototyping software, while a deep tech firm might require advanced simulation platforms. Tools like Google Forms or Survicate for surveys, or Figma for prototyping offer accessible starting points.

We’ll explore which tools fit various stages of the roadmap process, considering the unique demands of projects we’ve encountered, such as embedded software and wearables where performance, compliance, and security is crucial.

Techniques for Roadmap Development

User Story Mapping

User Story Mapping is a visual exercise that helps product teams organize and prioritize user stories. It lays out the journey a user takes through the product, breaking it down into tasks and activities.

It’s particularly useful for startups because it forces consideration of the entire user journey, ensuring the MVP is a coherent product that solves a real problem. Tools like Miro or StoriesOnBoard can facilitate this process. The value pitch here is about creating a product that’s user-centric and business-smart.

Graphic example of User Story Mapping. Schematic representation of a set of post-it cards, arranged in rows and columns with descriptions of what should be written down on them. Beginning from the top row there are the following:
USER
Represents the end user of the product, whose needs and experiences drive the development process.
USER GOAL
The objective or outcome that the user aims to achieve through the tasks and interactions with the product.
ACTIVITY
A group of high-level tasks that collectively achieve a specific aspect of the user goal.
STEPS
The individual actions or smaller tasks within a user activity, detail the process to accomplish it.
NARRATIVE FLOW
The sequence of activities and tasks that collectively tell the story of the user’s journey and experience with the product.
DETAILS
A specific action or function that the user performs using the product.
RELEASE SLICE
Segments of the user story map designated for delivery in specific product releases, focusing on incremental value delivery.

Event Storming

Event Storming is an agile modeling workshop aimed at creating a business process model. It involves domain experts and technical experts placing domain events on a model to explore a system’s behavior. This technique is better suited for larger organizations.

It’s excellent for understanding complex business logic, identifying bottlenecks, and aligning the team on the system’s flow. Tools needed include a large wall or whiteboard and sticky notes. In the context of a startup working on an AI-powered diagnostic tool, Event Storming could help map out the flow of data from patient input to diagnostic output, ensuring all critical events are accounted for.

Example of an Event Storming Diagram. Schematic representation of a set of post-it cards in various colors, linked by arrows pointing in different directions, arranged to represent the flow of data and possible events.
In the center of the diagram, there are three cards of “Domain Events” and from the sides, there are paths leading to them.
On the top left it starts with a “Business rules” card, “constraints” arrow, “command” card, and “triggers” arrow that leads to the first “domain event” card.
On the bottom left, it starts with the “Data” card and goes 2 ways: 
“Derived from” arrow leads to the second “domain event” card.
“Needed by” arrow or “input by” arrow, both leading to the “actor” card, “issues” arrow, “command” card, “triggers” arrow, and first “domain event card”.
On the bottom right it starts with a “business rules” card, “constraints” arrow, “policy” card, “can follow whenever” and “triggers” arrows, leading to a third “domain event” card.
On the top right, it starts with an “External system” card, and a “triggers” arrow that leads to the third “domain event” card.
On top in the middle, there is a “Scheduler” card that with a “triggers” arrow leads to the second “domain event” card.

Prioritization Frameworks

The Kano Model, MoSCoW Method, and Feature Buckets are frameworks that help in feature prioritization. For example:

The Kano Model can help a health tech startup determine which features will delight users versus those that are merely expected.

Example of The Kano Model. It is a diagram of an axis with the chart lines that represent the satisfaction of the users due to different features. 
The horizontal axis is called the “Achievement Axis” and it goes from “Didn’t do it at all” to “Did it very well”
The vertical axis is called the “Satisfaction axis” and goes from “Total dissatisfaction” to “Total satisfaction”
Additionally, an arrow crossing the chart from the top left to the bottom right represents Time.
There are three chart lines marked on the axis:
The “Expected quality” line goes from “didn’t do it” to “did it”, but doesn’t cross the point 0 on “Satisfaction Axis”. It ends with “Musts”, and “Disssatisfiers”.
The “Normal quality” line is rising straight. It is “satisfaction=achievement x time”. It ends with “Wants”, “Satisfiers”
“Exciting quality” line is a positive function, going from “no satisfaction” to “Total satisfaction” increasingly faster along with “Achievement”. It ends with “Delighters”, “Exciters” and “Wows”.

The MoSCoW Method can assist a sports tech company in deciding which features must be developed for the next release (Must-haves) and which can be postponed (Should-haves, Could-haves, Won’t-haves).

“M” stands for “must have”. These are critical requirements that the project needs for success. Without these, the project’s objectives cannot be met.
“S’ stands for “should have”. Important but not vital features. These are often high-value items that aren’t as time-sensitive or critical as “must haves”.
“C” stands for “could have”. Desirable but not necessary features. These are typically lower-cost items that won’t necessarily have a significant impact if left out.
“W” stands for “won’t have this time, but maybe in the future”. Items that are recognised as least critical, lowest payback, or not appropriate at this time.

Feature Buckets can help a startup balance immediate user needs with long-term strategic goals.

Graphic representation of the Feature Buckets. Picture of three buckets filled with features. Two stand side by side and are signed as “customer request” and “customer delight”. The third one is stacked on top of them and signed as “metrics movers”.

Matching Tools to Organizational Needs

For the Bootstrapped Founder

Cost-effective tools like Trello or Asana can be lifesavers for startups on a shoestring budget. We often recommend these for managing the roadmap of early-stage digital health ventures. They provide a visual way to track progress and prioritize tasks without significant investment. For instance, a bootstrapped startup can use Trello to manage user feedback during beta testing of a new wellness app.

For the Product Owner at a Scale-Up

As startups grow, tools like JIRA or Aha! become more appropriate. They offer the scalability needed for expanding product lines, something we’ve seen in our work with sports tech companies. These tools can integrate with other systems, such as continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, which are essential for scaleups looking to automate and streamline their development processes.

For the Corporate Innovator and R&D Manager

Larger entities might opt for comprehensive solutions like Roadmunk or ProductPlan. These tools can handle the complexity of, say, a multinational’s healthcare product line, integrating various departments and workflows. They offer robust analytics and can align with corporate-level strategic goals, which is essential for large-scale innovation projects.

Roadmap Best Practices and Common Pitfalls

Learn from the Trenches

It’s not just about the tools – it’s how you use them. A common mistake is treating the roadmap as a static list of features, or even a commitment to stakeholders, which can lead to inflexibility and issues down the road as the business evolves.

In our practice, we emphasize adaptability – the roadmap should adapt to your product and market feedback. For example, when we design products for healthcare startups, we continuously integrate state-of-the-art clinical research findings into the development cycle.

Measure and Iterate

What metrics will indicate success? How will you iterate based on data? These are crucial considerations. In computer vision projects, for instance, we look at model accuracy and processing speed as key indicators.

Tools like Google Analytics, Amplitude or Heap for web-based MVPs, or specialized telemetry for hardware projects, can provide the necessary data to inform roadmap adjustments.

Remember to include a UX Researcher throughout the process – these experts know how to deploy Continuous Learning and User Research methods at every stage of product development, not only at the ideation and initial design stage.

Last but Not Least – Integrating Maintenance into the Roadmap

The Strategic Role of Bugfixing

Incorporating bug fixing into your product roadmap is a strategic move that signals a commitment to quality and user satisfaction. It ensures that maintenance is not an afterthought but a core aspect of the product lifecycle. This approach is particularly crucial in fields like digital health, where product reliability is non-negotiable. By planning for bug fixes, startups can set realistic timelines, manage stakeholder expectations, and allocate resources effectively, ensuring that product evolution includes enhancement of stability and performance.

Leveraging Support Tickets for Improvement

Support tickets are a goldmine of user feedback and integrating them into the roadmap allows for a proactive response to user needs. This practice turns every reported issue into an opportunity for product enhancement, fostering a continuous feedback loop. In sectors like sports tech, where user engagement is key, addressing support tickets promptly and efficiently can significantly enhance user experience and product reliability.

Unified Approach Benefits

A unified roadmap that encompasses feature development, bug fixing, and support tickets promotes transparency and continuous improvement. It demonstrates to users, team members, and investors that the startup is dedicated to delivering a consistently high-quality product. For startups in areas such as wearables and embedded systems, this approach not only improves product quality but also builds user trust and loyalty over time.

Conclusion

A product roadmap is more than a set of milestones; it’s a living document that guides your MVP from conception to launch. It’s about asking the right questions, choosing suitable tools, and being ready to adapt. At punktum, we’ve helped numerous startups navigate this journey, leveraging our expertise in AI, machine learning, and beyond to turn innovative ideas into market-ready products. This guide complements our previous insights and offers a practical approach to building your MVP roadmap.

Appendix: Toolkit Compendium

Here, we’ll list all the tools mentioned, providing a quick reference for startups and tech companies at various stages of growth. Whether you’re developing the next big thing in wearables or breaking new ground in digital health, the right tools can make all the difference:


Trello
– A visual collaboration tool that creates a shared perspective on any project.

Asana – Project management tool that helps teams orchestrate their work, from daily tasks to strategic initiatives.

JIRA – Advanced project management tool for software development teams, focusing on agile methodology.

Aha! – Roadmapping software to set strategy, prioritize features, and share visual plans.

Roadmunk – Create beautiful roadmaps in minutes and communicate your strategy effectively.

ProductPlan – Easy-to-use roadmap software for building and sharing product strategies.

Miro – Online collaborative whiteboarding platform to bring teams together, anytime, anywhere.

StoriesOnBoard – User story mapping tool for delivering the right product to users.

Google Forms – A survey administration app that provides a simple way to gather information.

InVision – Digital product design platform for prototyping and collaboration.

Feature Upvote – Collects and prioritizes product feedback so you can focus on building what matters.

UserVoice – Product feedback management software that helps you understand and prioritize what your users want.

Pivotal Tracker – Agile project management tool that fosters collaboration and dynamic tools to analyze progress.

ProdPad – Product management software that helps product managers develop product strategy.

Craft.io – End-to-end product management platform that integrates with existing workflows.

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