How to Build a Good Product Road-Map

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Building a road-map is not an easy exercise as it is is a strenuous process. Rapidly-changing technology requires companies to innovate quicker and get new products to market faster. But good ideas don’t always guarantee good products, and product owners are often held up by delayed decisions. A product road-map can help product owners avoid these issues and create a forward-looking go to market plan.

Getting the correct prioritisation of feature set, and planning a proper release that will address the executive strategy, are serious challenges for the product manager and the project teams. Lack of fast feedback, inability to change course direction based on new priorities, and reluctance to gather inputs from multiple stakeholders can throw the team off track quite easily. This can lead to some of the challenges in creating that good or even great road-map.

A few of the key questions that were considered for building and prioritising the road-map are:

  • What is the business value for the product?
  • Is the new feature considered a legal obligation for the market?
  • Does the new product provide a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace?
  • How much can the proposed product leverage the newly created infrastructure?
  • Which product can help launch or promote new or emerging lines of business?
  • Will the new product allow the stakeholders to reach and exploit new marketing geographies?
  • How much will it cost to launch the new product?
  • Is there a need to build follow-up modules to the product?
  • Is this a new product a catch-up with rest of the players in the market?
  • Is there a partner obligation for the product launch schedule?
  • Are all necessary resources available for the product to be implemented?
  • Which product addresses the most demanding stakeholder group in the company?

The idea is to initially create a backlog for the product road-map that addresses all the bugs and enhancement requests and for all high business value products and new feature requests. Unless the bugs and enhancements were deemed to be critical, or if there was not enough work for the whole team, the sprint focus of the project team was always dedicated to new features and high value business products based on prioritisation from the product manager.

Once an initial draft of the road-map is created, loaded with multiple new products and features, the challenge facing the organisation was to make sure that the agile project teams were dedicated to working on the right products selected from that road-map. In our view, there are essentially four steps in creating that great product road-map:

  1. Identification: – This is the phase where business stakeholders brainstorm and define the business goals for a new product. Based on the initial round of discussions and evaluations every project idea is assigned a priority ranking.
  2. Prioritisation: – During this phase the whole team is normally brought into the road mapping process. A quick kick-off is arranged to make the team aware of the road mapping process. Based on priority inputs from the product owner, the team evaluates the project ideas and generated epic backlogs to provide initial “order of magnitude” estimates (estimating in T-Shirt sizes). All the risks are identified and assumptions are laid out. It is at this stage the product manager reassesses the risks, estimates, and potential business values. This reassessment results in revised priorities for one or more projects, through collaboration with the other stakeholders.
  3. Exploration: – At this stage, the risks get well defined as the team performs early technical spikes for integration touch points. Refined estimates are available as user attributes and user interface workflows are defined to the next level of detail. This results in a tentative release plan based on the current sprint backlog and team capacity.
  4. Confirmation: – This is the phase when the business stakeholders review all the available information (business value, risks, estimates, product definition, and suggested release plan) to reach a Go or No-Go decision.

It is the responsibility of the Product Owner along with the team to refine the release timelines and resource scheduling based on the decisions taken. Best of luck with all your road mapping work.

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