Finally, the creative part: Using your customer knowledge, figure out what you need to build to achieve your product strategy. Get some tips on how to propose milestones that have the maximum impact.
- This next step may well be the most creative part of building your product roadmap. Let's say you've assembled your team of product stakeholders and together have aligned around a specific product strategy. Now it's time to identify the sequence of product milestones that best implement that product strategy. Before you start asking your stakeholders for their ideas, it's often best to start with a little of your own research and thinking. Start by rereading your product strategy. What are the barriers to achieving this strategy? And which ones could be removed or at least improved by changing your product in some way? Hopefully you've spent some time researching the market and in particular your target customers and you understand the decisions they make when choosing to use your product.
Think about the barriers that prevent your target customers from adopting your product. As you do so, try to imagine the major product changes that you believe would have the desired impact on the strategic objective. Often these will be features that your customers have asked for directly. But sometimes they might be features that will benefit your customers but haven't even occurred to them yet. Remember that milestones can be impactful in different ways. Some may just address pain points of existing customers, increasing their usage or reducing their churn and other milestones may allow your customers to use your product in new ways and reduce some of the appeal of competing products.
Some might be intended to open up new markets for an existing product or even launch a new product that has strategic value to the business. And sometimes the milestones won't directly benefit your customer, but would benefit some other strategic objective like opening up a new distribution channel or lowering your cost structure. Make sure you're thinking about things at the right level of granularity. These are not backlog tasks. These milestones should be major product changes which will take significant amounts of research, design, and development work and will correspond to perhaps dozens of tasks on the backlog.
As you write down each milestone, be sure to record the strategic objective that it supports as well as the rationale. Your rationale should be high level and easy to understand. For instance, if your strategy calls for winning over a specific customer segment and you know that the primary reason they're not currently adopting your product is because it's too expensive, then your strategic objective might be to reduce your cost of service delivery. You probably want to propose a milestone that would significantly lower your cost like automating some manual tasks or switching service providers.
Notice that at this point, you have not yet put dates on any of these milestones nor could you because you don't yet know how long they would take to build. We'll do that in a later step. But you can try to put the milestones in a rough priority order. Once you've done your best to brainstorm the milestones on your own, it's probably a good idea to meet with each of your product stakeholders to see whether they can think of any that you might have missed. I found that it's best to meet with each stakeholder one-on-one to increase the chances that they'll share their ideas freely with you.
At the beginning of each of these meetings, start by reviewing the product strategy with your stakeholder and then ask them for their ideas about which milestones would best support that strategy. Once you've exhausted their ideas, review the other milestones you proposed with them and ask for their feedback as well as their sense of priorities. At the end of this process, you should end up with a sequence of product milestones, each of which has measurable impacts on one of your strategic objectives and which together will implement your product strategy.
This course shows how to build a product roadmap for your business—and gain critical stakeholder buy-in. See examples of what roadmaps might look like, and spend time learning the tools and techniques necessary to map the projects for your specific organization. Instructors Teg Grenager and Eldad Persky help you create strong, dynamic roadmaps that will ensure your team is working on the right projects at the right time.
- What is a product roadmap?
- Roadmaps in agile organizations
- Selecting stakeholders
- Researching customers
- Identifying milestones
- Estimating effort
- Maintaining the roadmap