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Product Roadmap: Create One When You’re Unsure Where To Go Next

product roadmapThe lean startup movement  has been great about touting how you should “fail often” and “fail fast”, do  market research with landing pages and by buying AdWords to see if there is interest, I know it goes into more depth than that.  But too many of its followers are taking it for face value and focusing on validating their idea by seeing quick adoption rather than rigorous periods of building, testing, and refining or iterating.  The truth is that not every product is going to be an Instagram.  There are other products both mobile and web that take longer to build and develop.  This is the primary reason why you need a product roadmap.

I don’t know how many startups actually take the time to make a product roadmap.  The reason its important is because you need to have a logical flow of features and each time you put out a feature you’re creating it to accomplish one of 3 major business goals: customer acquisition – growth/distribution, engagement – keeping users around, or monetization – make money so you’re startup can become a viable business.

Most founders will probably roll their eyes at the thought of creating a product roadmap, who can plan out 6 months to a year?  Planning is half the battle.  Here are 3 reasons you need a product roadmap:

  1. Prevents premature pivoting.  Every startup is a pick your adventure story.  But to prevent from going too off course, and from throwing in the towel too quickly a roadmap will let you know where you currently are and what is next.
  2. It will set milestones for you and your team.  These don’t have to be hard deadlines, but people will now have something to work towards.  Its hard to have a sense of accomplishment daily, but if you can point to building something solid after a few days, weeks, or months then people will have that sense of accomplishment and show them how it fit into your plan.
  3. You now have something you can measure success against.  If you released  a feature and it accomplished 1 of the 3 goals (customer acquisition, engagement, or monetization) then you have achieved success.  Sure it might not be to the level you’d like, but you can at least see if its adoption and usage achieve that goal.  This also makes it easier to prioritize whether or not you want to develop the feature more fully, refine it, or abandon it altogether.
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