Benefits of Strategic Planning and Building a Product Roadmap
When it comes to building successful software, it’s essential to have a clear plan in place. This is where strategic planning and product roadmapping come in. Strategic planning involves setting goals and identifying the actions needed to achieve those goals. It helps businesses understand where they are going and how to get there. This information then translates into the actual activities related to product road mapping. Product road mapping involves identifying and prioritizing the features and capabilities based on your strategic plan. This article will explore the importance of strategic planning and product road mapping for software. We’ll examine how these processes can help organizations achieve their goals, stay focused, and build successful products. We’ll also discuss best practices for creating and maintaining a strategic plan and product roadmap. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand how to plan and execute your product vision effectively.
As we’ve mentioned, product road mapping is a crucial process for any software. But with so many potential options and feedback from stakeholders to consider, it can be overwhelming to create a roadmap that effectively communicates the direction of the product. That said, focus on four key steps and functions of the product roadmap:
- Develop a strategic plan,
- Determine themes, timeline, and key metrics,
- Create initiatives,
- Communicating the product roadmap,
Step 1: Strategic planning
Once you receive feedback from users, customers, and other stakeholders, it is time to build milestones and key metrics into your strategic plan. Your mission, vision, and values are what drive strategic planning activities. Without a strategic plan that considers your business’ mission, vision, and values, you may prioritize aspects of the product that could have otherwise been built later.
To begin, let’s define the mission, vision, and values:
Mission statement: Defines the purpose of your organization and the problem you’re trying to solve. It should drive your product roadmap, helping you stay focused on the most important goals.
- Example: To build a software platform that helps small businesses streamline their operations and improve efficiency.
Vision statement: Outlines where you want your organization to be in the future. It should be aspirational, guiding your long-term product strategy.
- Example: To be the leading software solutions provider for small businesses, helping them grow and succeed.
Values: The guiding principles that inform how you make decisions and conduct business. They should be reflected in the products and features you build and how you interact with customers and stakeholders.
- Examples: Innovation, collaboration, and integrity.
By lining up your product roadmap with your mission, vision, and values, you can make sure you’re building a product that fits your organization’s purpose and will help you reach your long-term goals. The mission, vision, and values may evolve over time as you learn more about your product and your focus as an organization. Before completing the next steps, you must understand how to prioritize certain features based on evaluating risk and value (link to blog post).
Once you have your mission, vision, and value, you can create high-level goals for your business and product. Consider information from your customer discovery process, such as which customer pain points you are assisting in resolving. For example, you may be helping your customer scale their current processes. Additionally, consider desired outcomes based on your business needs, such as the number of new or retained customers. Based on this information, set a high-level timeframe. For example, you may want to accomplish these outcomes in 6 months.
Step 2: Determine themes, timeline, and key metrics.
Now that you have a high-level focus and timeframe, it is time to determine general themes, initiatives, timelines, and key metrics.
- First, start with themes. Themes are broad, high-level categories or areas of focus that help guide the direction of an organization and are used to prioritize and focus efforts. For example, you may have received feedback that it would be helpful for the user to have a video explaining how to use the platform. The theme then might be “Customer Onboarding.” By defining clear themes, organizations can ensure that they are focusing on the areas that will have the most significant impact on the business, its customers, and its users.
- Timeline is another key element; it’s important to clearly understand when certain high-level features will be delivered and when certain goals will be achieved. This allows the team to plan and work towards specific deadlines and helps with communication with stakeholders. Having a clear timeline also helps identify any potential challenges or delays that may impact the delivery of a feature, allowing the team to take proactive measures to address them. When working through this step, use the information you obtained when evaluating the risk and value of each feature.
- Lastly, use metrics to track the team’s progress toward goals. Metrics should be quantifiable. They help the team understand how they are performing and to identify areas for improvement.
In summary, themes, timelines, and metrics are powerful tools for product road mapping, as they help organizations stay focused on high-level strategic plans, align with the goals and make it easy for internal and external stakeholders to understand the direction of the product development.
Step 3: Creating initiatives
Once you have a high-level overview of the product roadmap, the next key step in the process is breaking down the roadmap into smaller, more manageable pieces. This might include specific features or milestones. Breaking down your roadmap allows you to track progress and identify potential challenges. It also allows you to focus on one thing at a time, rather than trying to tackle everything at once. In the above step, we broke things down into themes. Now, we are going to create initiatives. Initiatives are specific actions or projects that are taken to achieve the goals of the business within a specific initiative.
For example, let’s say that your product roadmap includes the following high-level theme: “Improved onboarding experience.” To break this down into smaller elements, you might consider the following initiatives:
- Research current user onboarding experience and identify areas for improvement. This might involve gathering feedback from current users, analyzing usage data, or conducting user interviews to understand common pain points with the current onboarding experience.
- Develop wireframes for an alternative onboarding flow. Using the insights gathered from the research phase, create wireframes that outline the steps and flow of the improved onboarding experience.
- Create prototypes for testing with a small group of users. Based on the wireframes, create prototypes that allow you to test the redesigned onboarding flow with a small group of users.
- Iterate on design based on user feedback. Use the feedback gathered from user testing to make any necessary revisions to the design of the onboarding flow. This may involve making changes to the wireframes and creating new prototypes for testing.
- Build and launch an improved onboarding experience to all users. With the design finalized, work with the development team to build out the improved onboarding experience. Once complete, launch the feature to all users.
Each of these smaller elements represents a specific piece of work that needs to be completed to achieve the overall goal of improving the user onboarding experience. By breaking down your roadmap into initiatives, you can more easily track and manage progress.
Step 4: Communicating the product roadmap
The final step is communicating and reviewing the product roadmap regularly. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. It also allows flexibility and the ability to adjust your plans based on new information or changing priorities. When developing the roadmap, there are several methods and tools that may be helpful. Tools such as ClickUp or Trello can be helpful in this case.
To communicate and update your roadmap, consider the following:
- Meet with key stakeholders (such as the product, customer success, and sales teams) to review the roadmap and discuss any questions or concerns.
- Use a project management tool (such as ClickUp, Asana or Jira) to track progress on each of the more minor elements that make up the overall feature. Use the same tool you used to develop the high-level roadmap, if possible.
- Schedule regular check-ins with the team responsible for working on features to discuss progress and any challenges.
- Share updates with customers and other relevant stakeholders via email or through a customer-facing ecosystem (such as an email newsletter or product update page).
- Review and update the roadmap as needed, at least quarterly, based on new information or changing priorities.
By following these steps and regularly communicating and updating your roadmap, you can ensure that your product is moving in the right direction and meeting the needs of your users and stakeholders.
ECommerce Platforms: When It’s Time to Build Custom Features
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Practical Use Cases of User Experience Research – Part 3
Why Conduct UXR?
Use cases typically describe how users interact with a system in order to determine how to optimize the system from the users point of view. User experience research is predicated on that idea; empathizing with users will vastly improve products and save resources in the long run.
There are a multitude of ways to apply user experience research to the product development process, with applications of multiple research methodologies possible at every phase of the design cycle. During early product development, user input steers a product’s concept, branding, and structure. The following use cases are valuable assessment tools that are often used during the early phases of the design thinking process as well as to inform later iterations of the product.Continue reading
The Benefits of User Experience Research – Part 2
What is User Experience Research?
User experience research (UXR) aims to empathize with users, developing a deep understanding of their desires and abilities while maintaining the context of the business objectives. With possible applications to every aspect of the design process, user experience research supports iterative improvements to your software and services that enhance users’ experiences with and perceptions of your product.
By empathizing with users and testing the usability of your digital solution, user experience research determines the functionality, efficiency and desirability of your product. Best practices promote and “provide a consistent, rapid, controlled, and thorough method of examining the users’ perspective.” (1)Continue reading
What is User Experience Research? Part 1
In this three-part series, REEA Global explores what user experience research is, the benefits to be gained from understanding your users’ voices, and practical use cases to follow through on insights and recommendations.
So what is user experience research? How is it different from user experience design? What’s included in the process? What type of study should be used based on your needs? Let’s dive in!Continue reading
How to Set Requirements for Custom-Developed Software
Building custom-developed software without having solid requirements is like trying to fly a plane without a flight plan. Yet, so many custom software developers set off blindly without understanding the problem they’re trying to solve, only to discover when it’s too late that they were totally off course.
The only way to avoid this is to invest the time at the outset to draw up clear and concise requirements to guide the product design and development process.
Sounds easy enough, but creating a solid set of requirements can be a real challenge. Let’s look at the difficulties and how best to draw up requirements for software development projects.
Agile vs Waterfall
The ancient idiom The Quick and The Dead conjures up images of a shootout in a good old-fashioned Western movie of the same name, featuring a cowboy drawing his pistol from his waistband, pointing it, and eliminating the enemy in seconds.
Similarly, in the Wild West of software development, it often is the speed of the draw that determines the winner. How quickly you bring a new product to market can be the difference between success and failure. The speed vs quality debate rages on, but in our opinion faster software development is often the only way to survive. Let’s explore this idea a bit further.
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Experts say 2022 will be the year of the metaverse as Big Tech gear up to release hardware and software to allow us to play or work in a variety of virtual 3D worlds.
With big-box retailers such as Walmart appearing to be getting ready to enter the metaverse with its own cryptocurrency and collection of NFTs, the mass adoption of the metaverse can’t be far off. We only need to think back to how quickly the internet transformed our lives to realize the massive impact the metaverse could have on the way we do business.
UX Research: The Difference Between Good and Great
It sounds so obvious — when designing a new digital product, developers should take into account the experience of end-users. Yet in practice, user experience research (UX) is often ignored or, at best, treated as an afterthought in favor of the hunches and opinions of the founders, developers, or product team themselves.