Know 6 Types of Most Used Product Roadmaps for a Successful Startup!
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur with the ‘changing it all’ attitude, you must be well acquainted with names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Google co-founder Larry Page, and Yahoo! co-founder David Filo. Though they are the most searched names of the tech glitterati community with their scintillating success stories, they were once new player like you! What set them apart was their ambition and goal planning that set them apart.
A study released by a research organization reveals that there are 1,215 billion-dollar startups today. With each passing day, more people are joining this number. Have you ever thought about how you will create a distinctive entrepreneurial entity in the face of such fierce competition? How you are going to overcome the challenges to convert your idea into a successful, profitable venture?
The secret to launching a successful venture lies in planning and managing it effectively, and an infallible way of doing this is to create a winning roadmap that outlines your steps and strategies. This article will discuss the type of roadmaps that will ease your journey as an entrepreneur.
Types of Product Roadmaps
A strong product roadmap is crucial for startups as it outlines the company’s vision and goals, prioritizes tasks, and enables the team to be more agile and adaptable to changes in the market or customer feedback. This leads to growth and profitability. Below, we have categorized the various types of product roadmaps into three sections namely:
1. Product Roadmaps based on Design Style
2. Product Roadmaps based on Workflow Framework
3. Product Roadmaps based on Information Type
So, let’s begin our insightful journey!
Here we will understand the types of product roadmaps based on the design style of your project. There are two variations in this category: timeline-based roadmaps and “Now/Next/Later” roadmaps.
This is a traditional roadmap that outlines features and deliverables over a specified time period, usually divided into quarters or months. It works like a visual planning document that displays product features, milestones, and sometimes tasks plotted along a chronological timeline. A typical timeline roadmap looks as follows:
A crucial feature of this roadmap is that it works like a strategic tool that helps teams plan, communicate, and track progress effectively. It can create alignment between teams around what features are designed to be delivered and by when. It comprises crucial elements such as:
· Timeframes and Milestones: Clear timeframes indicating when specific milestones, features, or deliverables are scheduled to be completed. These can be represented in weeks, months, quarters, or other relevant time units.
· Features or Initiatives: A list or visual representation of planned features, enhancements, or initiatives the team aims to implement within the specified timeframes. Each feature is usually associated with a timeline indicating its planned release.
· Priority Levels: Some roadmaps include priority levels for features or initiatives, indicating their relative importance or urgency. This helps in organizing and focusing efforts on high-priority items.
· Dependencies: Identification of dependencies between different features or tasks. This highlights which items need to be completed before others can start, allowing teams to plan accordingly and avoid bottlenecks.
· Resource Allocation: Indication of resources allocated to specific tasks or phases. This can include team members, budget, tools, or any other resources necessary for the successful completion of each feature.
· Key Deliverables: Identification of key deliverables or outcomes associated with each milestone or feature. This helps in clarifying what is expected at each stage of development.
· Status Updates: Some roadmaps include status indicators or progress bars to show the current status of each feature or milestone. This allows stakeholders to understand the progress made on different tasks quickly.
2. Now/Later/ Next Roadmap
This roadmap helps you have a dynamic and simplified approach to your product development planning. The Now/Next/Later roadmap is often updated frequently (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) to reflect changes in priorities, completed tasks, or new insights. Your teams can use it to plan their sprints or development cycles, ensuring they’re working on the most critical tasks while preparing for what’s coming next.
It’s a valuable tool for discussions with stakeholders, allowing for clear and focused conversations about the current state, upcoming initiatives, and future product directions. The simplicity and adaptability of the Now/Next/Later roadmap make it an effective tool for agile teams, startups, or any projects where flexibility and responsiveness to change are essential. It categorizes your initiatives or product features into three main timeframes:
· Now (current focus) – They are usually the most immediate priorities aligned with the ongoing sprint or development cycle.
· Next (immediate future) – Features or initiatives planned for the near future, typically the next development cycle or upcoming sprints right after the current tasks in the “Now” section.
· Later (future goals) – This section represents long-term goals, ideas, or features that are on the radar but aren’t yet scheduled for immediate development.
Each category represents a different stage of development or priority level for the product. A typical roadmap of this format would look as below:
It provides a clear and concise view, helping the team stay focused on short-term goals while keeping an eye on the broader vision. As items move from “Later” to “Next” or “Now,” the roadmap dynamically adjusts based on evolving requirements; hence it is agreeable that this map is highly adaptable and allows for changes in priorities or market needs. This roadmap simplifies communication with stakeholders, as it’s easy to understand and doesn’t overwhelm with all the details in a single time.
It facilitates quicker decision-making by providing a snapshot of current, upcoming, and future plans by responding swiftly to changes or unexpected developments. It fosters alignment within the team and ensures transparency in prioritization, as every member of your team will have a clear picture of the immediate tasks, what’s on the horizon, and the long-term vision.
Product Roadmaps based on Workflow Framework
This category of roadmaps is suitable for the development process or workflow of your product development phase. It has two variants:
1. Agile Product Roadmap
An Agile Product Roadmap is a dynamic planning tool used in agile product development methodologies like Scrum or Kanban. It serves as a visual guide outlining the direction and goals for the product over time in a software product engineering company. Unlike traditional, rigid roadmaps, Agile Product Roadmaps are more flexible and adaptive to changes, aligning with agile development’s iterative and incremental nature. A typical agile product roadmap would look like:
This agile roadmap has an iterative approach that encourages continuous improvement and learning throughout development. Additionally, it helps identify risks early in the development process, allowing teams to address them before they become significant issues. Following the crucial elements of an Agile Product Roadmap:
· Themes or Goals: Broad objectives or themes aligning with the product strategy.
· Epics or Initiatives: Large bodies of work that need to be broken down into smaller, manageable pieces.
· User Stories or Features: Specific functionalities or improvements planned for the product, usually expressed from the user’s perspective.
· Iterations or Sprints: Timeboxed periods during which specific work is completed, typically ranging from a week to a month in length.
Agile Product Roadmaps align your product team, stakeholders, and other departments around a shared vision and product development goals. With the help of this roadmap your development team can prioritize features or user stories based on their value, dependencies, and feedback from customers or stakeholders.
A distinctive use of this map is its usage as a communication tool to keep everyone in loop about the product’s direction, progress, and upcoming work. True to its name, ‘Agile’, this roadmap is flexible to adapt to dynamic market needs, customer feedback, or emerging opportunities without disrupting the overall plan. These roadmaps thus serve as living documents that evolve with the product, fostering adaptability, collaboration, and customer-centricity throughout the development lifecycle.
Following are some ways in which you can use an Agile Product Roadmap:
· To make regular updates: They are updated continuously at regular intervals based on feedback, priority changes, or new insights gathered during development.
· To refine backlog: In this roadmap, product backlogs are refined regularly, with the removal or inclusion of items based on changing priorities of the product development lifecycle.
· To plan sprint: Guides the planning of iterations or sprints by selecting user stories or features to be worked on based on their priority and feasibility.
· To engage stakeholders: Used to engage stakeholders in discussions about product direction, progress, and upcoming features.
2. Feature-By-Release Product Roadmap
If you’re looking to plan and prioritize features or functionalities of your product development lifecycle based on their release schedule, a Feature Release Roadmap is the tool you need. Unlike the other roadmaps we discussed above that simply outline when specific features will be completed, this roadmap organizes features by the release they are intended to be part of. This way, you can see which features are planned for each release cycle in a structured view. The following are the constituents of a Feature by Release Roadmap:
· Features or Functionalities: Detailed descriptions of the features or functionalities planned for the product.
· Release Schedule: Clear delineation of planned release cycles, such as quarterly releases or specific dates for product updates.
· Prioritization: Features are grouped or ordered based on their priority level or importance to the overall product strategy.
· Dependencies: Identification of any dependencies between features or functionalities, highlighting items that need to be completed before others can be released.
Here is what this roadplan looks like:
A Feature-by-Release Roadmap focuses on deliverables and emphasizes the features that will be released in each iteration. Hence your team and stakeholders can have a clear vision of the product’s progression and alignment with agile development cycles. This will help you to initiate synchronized planning with iterations or sprints. Furthermore, this roadmap can serve as a powerful communication tool, effectively conveying the product’s roadmap to your stakeholders, customers, and internal teams, highlighting features you have anticipated in the upcoming releases. It can also help you in allocating resources based on release cycles, ensuring efficient planning for each development phase.
Since this roadmap can identify dependencies, it can help you understand feature priorities and aid in managing risks associated with the development process. It also increases your product visibility and transparency by providing a clear view of forthcoming releases, fostering openness and clarity within the team and among stakeholders. Following are some ways in which you can use a Feature by Release Roadmap:
· Release Planning: Guides release planning sessions by allowing teams to select and prioritize features based on business value and dependencies for each upcoming release.
· Progress Tracking: Helps track progress towards each release by monitoring the completion status of features planned for specific releases.
· Communication Tool: Serves as a communication tool to discuss and align stakeholders on the content and timing of upcoming releases.
· Decision Making: Assists in decision-making processes by providing insights into the impact of prioritizing certain features for specific releases.
· Adaptation and Adjustments: Allows for adaptation and adjustments as new information, feedback, or priorities change, enabling the roadmap to evolve iteratively.
Product Roadmaps based on Information Type
Based on the type of the information they provide, product roadmaps can be categorized into three variants as discussed below.
1. Feature Based Roadmap
With a Feature-Based Roadmap, you can strategically outline and prioritize specific features or functionalities that must be developed within your product. Unlike timelines or release-based roadmaps, which emphasize when features will be delivered or in which release they’ll be included, a feature-based roadmap is centered solely around the features. A typical example of feature-based roadmap:
Following are the characteristics of this road plan:
· Feature-Centric: It identifies and prioritizes individual features or functionalities that will enhance the product.
· Detailed Feature Descriptions: Provides detailed descriptions or user stories for each feature to clarify its purpose and scope.
· Prioritization: Features are often organized based on their importance, business value, customer impact, or dependencies.
· No Fixed Timeline: Unlike other roadmaps, it doesn’t explicitly tie features to specific release dates or timeframes.
The Feature-Based Roadmap is particularly useful in scenarios where the focus is on delivering specific functionalities or enhancements rather than adhering to strict timelines or fixed release schedules. It enables a more flexible and adaptable approach to product development, allowing teams to continually refine and improve the product based on changing priorities and feedback. Not only does this tool assist you in allocating resources, budget, and manpower to develop the most critical or valuable features for your product. It also serves as a communication tool that aligns stakeholders on the direction of the product by conveying its vision and the sequence of components to be developed.
2. Outcome-Based Roadmap
A specific roadmap strategically plans for you by focusing on desired outcomes or objectives rather than specific features or functionalities. It focuses on defining the intended results or impacts the product development efforts aim to achieve. With this roadmap, you can align your product’s evolution with the business’s overarching goals and desired outcomes. Here is an example:
The following are the features of an outcome-based roadmap:
· Outcome-Focused: Instead of listing features, it defines specific outcomes or objectives the product aims to achieve, such as increased user engagement, revenue growth, customer retention, etc.
· Key Results or Metrics: It includes measurable key results or metrics that will indicate the achievement of each outcome. These metrics help in tracking progress and success.
· Flexibility: It allows for flexibility in how features or initiatives are executed to achieve the desired outcomes. It’s less prescriptive about the specific tasks or features to be implemented.
· Customer-Centric: It’s centered around meeting customer needs or solving their problems to achieve the desired outcomes.
· Continuous Iteration: Encourages an iterative approach where the roadmap is continually adjusted based on insights, feedback, and changing market conditions to optimize for the desired outcomes.
This roadmap is designed to help you align your product’s evolution with broader strategic goals and objectives. It emphasizes prioritizing your customers’ needs and satisfaction by focusing on outcomes that improve their experience or solve their problems. By defining measurable metrics, it allows you to track progress and measure success against specific objectives. It also provides the flexibility to adapt and iterate on features or initiatives based on insights and feedback.
You can additionally prioritize features or tasks based on their potential impact on achieving the desired outcomes rather than just their individual functionalities. The Outcome-Based Roadmap is highly effective for ensuring that your product development efforts are purpose-driven, customer-focused, leading to more impactful and successful products.
Creating a roadmap is the process of turning your high-level ideas into a clear and tangible plan that visually communicates your strategy. The form of a roadmap can vary depending on the size of your company and the teams involved. According to studies on Product Planning, 64% of teams plan their roadmaps within the first 4 to 12 months of their product development lifecycle.
Product roadmaps are not static and can change during their lifetime. It is crucial to choose the right roadmap based on the needs of your product, audience, and market. Doing so can increase the excitement of important stakeholders and ensure the successful launch of your products, on time and within scope.
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