A technology roadmap will identify the systems that will enable core capabilities across the organization and help define product development and its release schedules. It discusses your current technology capabilities, your upcoming technology needs, and the course correction you plan to implement to reach your important goals. E.g., a technology roadmap communicates plans about the major systems and processes used to run your business. The technology roadmap also considers when a product may be scheduled for end-of-life. For instance, when a new one is redeeming the existing CMS, a technology roadmap can effectively predict the life cycle and when the new CMS can go live. The same logic applies to every major technological system, e.g. relationship management system (CRM), enterprise resource planning system (ERP), newsletter management tools, subscription management tools, etc.
What is a technology roadmap?
A technology roadmap which is also known as an IT roadmap is a well-outlined document that talks about different technology initiatives of an organization. A technology roadmap typically describes when, why, and what technology solutions can be implemented to achieve an organization’s goals while avoiding costly mistakes.
It helps organizations outline their strategic goals and initiatives and brings clarity to their long term goals. This roadmap will help them identify the technologies to pursue and implement a sound product development strategy. A technology roadmap should ensure that the outlined technology and infrastructure investments meet the short-term and long-term goals of product development.
You can broadly define your technology roadmap according to the headers like objectives, new system capabilities, product roadmap, key milestones, resources, training, risk factors, and status reports.
In this blog, we are only going to discuss one of these, i.e., the product roadmap. We will address all the other headers in future blogs.
Please understand that unlike a technological roadmap, a product roadmap will not address the operational aspects but is more like a strategic document.
We will discuss here the cornerstone steps that will ensure your product roadmap meets the highest of expectations.
1. Define the ‘Why’ of your product
Perhaps, the most critical question you can discuss with your team. Your discussion should revolve around strategic questions like:
Why are we even developing this product in the first place?
Why develop the product now?
Why choose a given set of features?
Why the current Product ROI is not enough?
Why do we need a revised break-even threshold?
If your answers are not very clear, it will be unwise to proceed further.
But as it happens in most of the cases, it is not very easy to come to a solid conclusion and which is why you need data to rationalize your assumptions.
Product managers will often try to hurry up with this step. They may think of this as a non-crucial step or because they have an urgent upcoming meeting with stakeholders (e.g. sales, marketing, client).
But a well defined ‘Why’ has its rewards in the form of smoother onward documentation and less likelihood of time-consuming reiterations at the execution level.
Moreover, it also helps you come up with a product development strategy that will go hand in hand with the overarching technology roadmap.
2. Does it resonate with the stakeholders?
The most common mistake is to create one single document for different types of stakeholders. For example, a developer is as important a stakeholder is as a client. A product roadmap should be able to convey the specifics and details to each type of stakeholder you are meeting down the line.
And it only makes sense to create stakeholder specific roadmaps that deal with varying levels of objectives and give information that is relevant to the stakeholder.
The only crucial thing to remember here is to update all the versions as and when you receive feedback and incorporate those changes. If you are not diligent enough, soon you will have multiple versions running out of control in the organization.
3. Identify the product’s strategic themes
By now, you have already defined the ‘Why’ of your product. You also know how it is going to be projected to various stakeholders.
Where to begin with?
You can start by defining all the major themes of your product, and within each theme, you can specify a set of features essential to complete that specific theme.
Once you start doing this exercise, you will realize how the different themes are in correlation to one another and are responsible for successful product development.
4. Be ready to change course
You will inevitably execute your plan, which is influenced by the ongoing market conditions or your competitor’s strategy. And this is why you have to be ready for course correction.
In today’s rapidly evolving environment you can’t afford to stick to the same age-old mentality of sticking to the first product roadmap plan come what may.
By adopting a flexible mindset for product development you can creatively outsmart your competition and are in a better position to tackle future challenges.
Any change in strategy should not only be reflected at the product roadmap level but also incorporated at the technology roadmap level. This allows all the stakeholders to be well informed about their tasks.
Of course, creating a product roadmap is just one aspect of the entire technology roadmap. And it is equally important to share it with all the stakeholders to give them a better idea about how every detail will unfold in the future. It should be able to foresee an organization’s big and small, long-term and short-term objectives. And also acts as the proverbial lighthouse that helps the organization steer clear of any impending risk.