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Congratulations! Your product is live, you have product market fit, and customers are seeing value. You have a long list of potential initiatives: competitive features, items sales reps have been asking for, usability enhancements, technical debt, among many others. You’re also experiencing the blessing and burden of customers. So what initiatives are you developing next?

A roadmap will help strategically plan a future for your product that will guide you to meet your business goals.

As with most products, you probably have 100 initiatives on your list, but the budget and time to only do 25. Below is a simple four step framework for evaluating your roadmap to help you prioritize initiatives that reap the maximum return on your engineering investment.


Step 1 - Validate Initiatives Against Business Goals

At the core of any product decision is a business decision. Each initiative on your roadmap must align with the direction your company is going. If your company’s goal is to double the product’s revenue this year, you’ll need to focus on features that will secure a significant number of new customers, or features that your existing customers will pay more for. Alternatively, if your company’s strategy is to “keep the lights on” for a legacy product while harvesting as much revenue as possible from it, the roadmap should reflect this.

Questions to Guide You

  • Will this initiative help reach revenue goals for the year?
  • Will this initiative help reach user growth goals?
  • Will this initiative take you a step closer to your five year goals?

Step 2 - Consider Markets Your Company is Targeting

If an initiative is crucial for the automotive industry, but 95 of your 100 customers are retail companies, should it make it on your roadmap? It depends! (That’s the answer you wanted, right?). If you plan to grow in the automotive industry, then it should definitely be considered. The goal of this step is to eliminate items from your roadmap that are not in line with your company’s market strategy.

Questions to Guide You

  • Is this initiative important to the industries you are targeting?
  • What geographical territories are you selling to?
  • Are you expanding internationally?

Step 3 - Align with Buyer and User Expectations

Based on the high level business goals, and the defined target market, you’ll be able to narrow the scope of your product direction and strategy. Your product strategy may be to knock the mobile experience out of the park. It could be to guide your user’s decision making with best in class analytics. The key here is to ensure the product being built resonates with both the buyer and the user. Focus your initiatives to meet (and exceed) their expectations.

Questions to Guide You

  • What product needs to be built to resonate with your target market(s)?
  • Do you need to level the playing field with your competitors?
  • Does your product need to support mobile, or will it only be used on laptops?
  • Does your product need to support multiple languages and currencies?
  • Is this initiative needed as your team scales?

Step 4 - Determine the Product Investment Mix for Initiatives

Now that you have determined that initiatives on your product roadmap meet business goals, have been validated against your market strategy, and align with buyer and user expectations, it’s important to think about an investment mix. An investment mix is the percentage of time you want to devote to key themes like innovation, customer requests and technical investments/debt. Even if your key product strategy is to knock the mobile experience out of the park, you can’t ignore the rest of your product or the continuous inflow of customer feedback.

Below are examples of themes to consider in your product investment mix, as well as potential questions to ask in this phase to align development efforts with your product strategy and business goals.

Questions to Guide You

  • What percentage of your team’s effort should be devoted towards new features and innovation?
  • What percentage of your team’s time should be devoted to competitive moves and requests from sales?
  • What percentage of your team’s effort do you want to devote to customer requests?
  • Is there technical debt that needs to be chipped away at?

Conclusion

A strategic product roadmap will create a common understanding of your product vision, show what initiatives money is being put towards, and will be an effective tool for debating tradeoffs. Is your product roadmap strategic? If not, the above framework can help you prioritize initiatives to make a product your users can’t live without

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