The Most Common Product Roadmapping Mistakes

blog6-in-articleIf you’re developing a product roadmap, think of it as charting the course toward the future success of your product. Having a roadmap will keep you focused and on track, and will be a valuable tool throughout the product development process. But you’ll need to avoid some common pitfalls along the way. Avoid making the most common roadmapping mistakes by reading the tips below.

A product roadmap is a big-picture plan that explains, based on research, the projected growth of your product or product line. The roadmap looks one to two years ahead, and should inspire investors, executives, and employees to buy in.

If you avoid roadmapping mistakes, your plan can be a key tool to help you achieve sustainable growth. You want to craft your roadmap goals to stay ahead of the competition and provide your customers—current and future—with innovative solutions to meet their needs.

How can you keep from getting hung up on problems when creating your product roadmap? Learn about the most common roadmapping mistakes, outlined below, and how to avoid them.

 

1. Mistake: Getting too specific

If you want to create a strong product roadmap, don’t get mired down with the specifics. Yes, it’s great to provide some key detail, but your roadmap shouldn’t be a detailed release plan. Instead, it should be a high-level plan outlining how to formulate a winning strategy for your product. Keep it to the point.

Providing too much detail can be a mistake because it makes it hard for investors and board members to sift through all your information. You should outline your plan for profitability, but you don’t need to go into the nitty-gritty, such as elements specific to your development team.

Nor do investors want (or need) to see a litany of product features, user stories, or epics. Don’t waste your energy outlining every single detail of your product, which creates unnecessary noise and isn’t always easy for outsiders to follow. Instead, stick to the themes, not the specific features. Make sure your goals are clearly outlined, are concise, and are easy to digest.

Another way to avoid roadmapping mistakes is to make sure your map doesn’t dictate your day-to-day activities, or name specific dates. Instead, your roadmap should guide your decisions and help keep you on track to achieve your long-term goals.

 

2. Mistake: Not including input from different departments

Think of your product roadmap as a recipe that should be created with plenty of insight from all the cooks in the kitchen. You want to get input from other groups throughout the process, including engineering, sales, marketing, and design. This will help broaden perspectives and buy-in.

It will likely be one person, or a few people, whose job it is to put the roadmap together. But it will be everyone’s responsibility to put the plan into action. Therefore, you don’t want to craft a roadmap without others’ input, only to find out down the road that you’re missing valuable information, or you’ve overlooked a key area.

Collaborating with other departments will provide you with the benefit of knowing realistic timelines on the market landscape, and expected finances. All of which is key information to know when crafting your roadmap. Getting the input of others can also make them feel more vested in your product, and willing to do what it takes to make the product succeed.

 

3. Mistake: Not launching a product due to ever changing goals

A roadmap can be very useful for keeping your organization future-focussed. It can help you avoid being blindsided by a competitor that releases a product that capitalizes on a consumer or technological trend that you’ve missed. But don’t let a roadmap keep you from launching a product that is relevant now.

Too often a product launch is postponed because an engineer or other team member just wants to add one more feature that suddenly became feasible or relevant. If a new product specification or brief keeps changing, you may find your competitors have released three new products before you’ve launched one…and they’ve gained valuable market insights from direct customer feedback on each iteration. A smart product manager will stagger product launches, so that each one is better than the last.

Working through your own challenges can propel you to become your own competition, and continually release and retire products in a planned and measured way.

4. Mistake: Set it and forget it

A roadmap isn’t a document to create in the beginning of your product development process and then tuck away to be forgotten about. On a regular basis (more frequently than quarterly), set aside time to review your roadmap. Doing so will help you stay on track and make sure you are sticking to the goals and path you set out to take.

Straying from your plan could worry your investors or board members, so it’s important to keep to the course you charted from the beginning. However, your roadmap isn’t fixed.

It will likely need to change slightly over time as new information becomes available, or when changes in the marketplace are discovered. Stay on top of any changes, while also keeping on track based on your roadmap. Updating your roadmap over time will show your investors that you are in-the-know on current industry and consumer trends, and are truly invested in the value your product provides.

 

By being aware of these common roadmapping mistakes, you can avoid making them as you embark on developing your product roadmap. And, Outerspace is here to help. Learn more about how we can guide you by contacting us to get a conversation started.

Working through your own challenges can propel you to become your own competition, and continually release and retire products in a planned and measured way.
And, if you’re looking for more information on product development, read our series on the must-know phases of the new product development process, including Part 1 and Part 2. Or, check out our blog on the top five things you should discuss with your product designer.

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Sergei Plishka
About the Author
Sergei Plishka
Sergei has a particular interest in eco architecture and design, including alternative materials and sustainable energy management. Following a passion for travel and knowledge he’s studied in Canada, Singapore and Australia, achieving degrees in commerce and industrial design.

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