Is a product roadmap appropriate for an early-stage company? Learn the answer to that question and understand when roadmaps are appropriate and when they aren't.
- There are times when you can't and shouldn't even try to build a product roadmap. Picture Christopher Columbus in the days leading up to his voyage from Spain to search for a western route to the Orient. Imagine asking him for an estimate of what he was going to bring back and when. It would be a fool's errand, because his intention was to explore a completely unknown territory. And, of course, he'd be learning along the way and making decisions in response to what he had learned. When you're developing a very early-stage product, when you're exploring a new market, a new customer and product, it would be foolish to try to plan out what you're going to develop far into the future.
In the very early stages of the product, the team doesn't have a product strategy. They don't know enough about the market to form a coherent, well-founded strategy. Instead, they probably have ideas about some unmet customer needs and a possible way to meet those needs to create business value. In this case, the purpose of product development isn't to support the product strategy. It's to learn about the market and the customers and validate the hypotheses that will later form the basis of the product strategy.
So how do you know if your product is mature enough to build a product roadmap? I think it's safe once your product has achieved product market fit, and you're able to articulate a product strategy that is based on solid market and customer knowledge. And how do you know if you have product market fit? Well, one definition is that you have a set of active, engaged customers who'd be very disappointed if they did not have access to your product. Until you get to product market fit, you should have a set of hypotheses that you're validating at every given moment.
And instead of a roadmap, you should have a list of development projects that will allow you to validate these hypotheses as efficiently as possible. If you are working on an early-stage product that has not yet achieved product market fit, and someone, anyone, even your CEO comes to you and asks you for a product roadmap, tell them that you won't do it. Instead explain to them the key hypotheses that you are currently validating, and tell them that you'll be happy to build them a product roadmap after you've got to product market fit.
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