A startup business starts with big dreams and when it’s a product-based company, the business owner’s entire world revolves around the product and its development. Nevertheless, product development and future innovations will need a well-defined and realistic product roadmap with clear and achievable directions and guidelines. So, what exactly is a product roadmap? How does it serve your startup and to what extent should it be consulted? Let’s talk.
A startup usually brings in a multitude of expertise under one single roof, where experienced professionals and SMEs from various industries and backgrounds gather together to build an amazing product for the world. Although, the goal remains the same for all, but sometimes challenges occur when different people start having difference of opinions. This leads to an extent of chaos and indecisiveness wherein a team as a whole sometimes fail to gain the essence of collective progress, which is imperative to drive agility and creativity. A product roadmap helps in this case
What is a product roadmap?
In layman terms, a product roadmap is a directional guideline that aims to build confidence around the product and the people working to build and develop the product. A product roadmap ideally provides supervision and leadership about how the product is going to be innovated and developed over time and where it is destined to be within a specific period. This can be defined as a static (or agile) document that offers a vision to the product managers, developers, designers, programmers, business analysts, marketers and other team leaders about the possible strategies and the way to execute those strategies.
3 Core benefits of having a product roadmap
While collaborating with heterogeneous set of people with dynamic thought processes and varied ideas, following a product roadmap offers the much-needed consistency and a sense of direction towards the long-term outcomes, It is also imperative to utilize organizational tools for product management. Even if it creates an illusion of order, it becomes important to keep people on the same page. So, a product roadmap tends to help a startup in the following ways:
1.It gives a sense of direction and strategic focus: When a startup introduces a new product to the market, everyone in the company is excited and optimistic about adding more and more features and being attracted to the next shiny new object. In the midst of varying opinions, expectations and anticipations, a product roadmap offers a strategic focus and a long-term vision about the desired outcomes from the product within a specific timeline. It brings the focus back to the realistic business goals and the original and strategic company mission. Having a product roadmap will also ensure that the product’s core values and strategies remain unaffected by new ideas and opinions of new minds. However, it is always advisable to keep the roadmap open to dynamic market changes and customer requirements, so there is always scope of improvements and innovations.
2. It helps in setting priorities and planning: As mentioned before, multi-dimensional teams working on the same product might suggest numerous contradictory ideas and different directions, which can prove to be pretty fatal for a startup where everyone will try to prove their own points. Here, having a single product roadmap will act as a clear strategic plan that everyone has to follow at the end of the day. It sets the priorities for every team towards product building, so the executives know their respective jobs and responsibilities to work towards the same goal. A constructively created product roadmap helps the startup to plan its ongoing journey, fundamental innovations, future development course, feature additions and so on. But most importantly, it should be drafted in a way that can be easily changed and updated as necessary.
3. It keeps the startup product team motivated: When diverse teams work together, keeping a product roadmap as their guideline helps them see the company vision in delivering the work as a whole. A product roadmap reminds the team that it is more important to focus and add value to the entire product than just delivering each team’s work as individual tasks. Having a product roadmap keeps the motivation level high for every team who needs to have total visibility of this document on a daily basis to weigh the importance of their daily hard work. At the same time, it also imbibes the sense that the product features and deliverables are converged together to serve the overall vision of the startup, and that everyone is playing a vital role in driving the product towards its desired destination.
However, for a startup it is important to bear in mind that a product roadmap is not a final document that cannot be questioned or adjusted by anyone at any point in time. It is crucial to take a middle path approach when it comes to creating a product roadmap, which should only have sufficient details and strategies that can be worked upon in the coming 6 months. The fact that markets, budgets, priorities, customer expectations, and technologies are constantly changing cannot be avoided, and hence, the product roadmap should be kept agile and flexible to mitigate unpredictable challenges and serve situational business requirements. After all, a product roadmap should cultivate an organized environment of innovation, agility, collaboration, and creativity in a startup with just the right kind and amount of flexibility and openness of ideas.