Believe it or not, it’s easier to redesign your business website or build a new feature than to create a strong product roadmap. When you’re dealing with a clear task, like redesigning your website, you know exactly what you have to do to accomplish it.
Designing a roadmap for your product, on the other hand, is a less straightforward process. It takes a strategic approach combined with design thinking, visualization, and planning.
Creating a product roadmap is an ongoing process with no pre-established framework. You’re the one who needs to design the product strategy and come up with a structure that will help you materialize your vision. This endeavor takes time, resources, and a lot of thought, and sometimes, you and your team may miss crucial information or make big mistakes that lead to a bad product roadmap.
And that’s risky, to say the least.
A bad product roadmap may get you in big trouble
- You’ll waste your team’s time and effort. They’ll be working hard on creating a new feature that may end up being useless or misaligned with your product.
- You won’t be able to prioritize the right way. Let’s say you have two tasks to choose from and you decide to go with the one that requires less investment and has less impact. Meanwhile, your competition has launched a new, extremely successful feature that you also had in mind, but didn’t prioritize because … well, it wasn’t at the top of your list. Not taking your time to evaluate your priorities to build a strong product roadmap may lead to frustration and missed opportunities.
- You won’t deliver what you promised. You’ll be working like crazy on something and leave your customers’ expectations uncovered. And we all know that their patience is limited, and it won’t be long until they cancel their subscription and migrate to a different provider.
- Your product won’t sustain your business goals. A bad product roadmap is disorganized and misaligned with your company’s vision. Let’s say you want to build a Freemium model for your SaaS, but you didn’t develop this idea when building your product roadmap. As a result, you may end up with plenty of features people will have to pay for, but no free model of your product your audience can try. You won’t be able to set up a powerful marketing campaign and speed up the growth of your business. Another missed opportunity.
- You’ll risk sabotaging your entire company. Finally, a bad roadmap may lead to developing an unsustainable product that is not exciting for your customer or not a good fit for your market. What will happen then? If you don’t have enough resilience and flexibility, you’ll risk sabotaging your entire company.
So if you want to make sure that your product roadmap won’t fail, pay attention to these nine mistakes to avoid when designing one.
Mistake #1. Create your roadmap out of thin air
The fastest way to failure is to base your product roadmap on your gut feeling. You can’t conjure up a list of new features or improvements without having a clear product strategy or data from collecting the users’ feedback.
Before introducing a new item into your roadmap, you have to know exactly why you’re doing it, what kind of investment it requires, and the estimated impact it will have. If you don’t have this information, stop what you’re doing, start collecting the data, and then analyze it.
First, you want to know what basic features you need to keep your product competitive and up to date. Second, you’ll have to evaluate what performance features you want to add to significantly improve your product. Third, you’ll have to pay close attention to your users’ feedback and identify those features or improvements that delight your customers.
Talk to your team and analyze the viability of each item, the resources needed, and the time it will take. This information is vital for creating a quality product roadmap. So go after the data, analyze it, and then start working on your roadmap.
Mistake #2. Add all the requests your users have
We all know there’s an endless stream of user requests. Everybody wants something. But you can’t include all these requests on your roadmap. It’s unsustainable, and in most cases, these requests aren’t aligned with your overall product vision.
Mistake #3. Having no deadlines
A clear timeline is a key element to an efficient product roadmap. And although you won’t be able to respect all deadlines (thank you, planning fallacy), at least both you and your team will have a specific time frame that will guide you daily. So ditching or forgetting about the timelines may translate into wishful thinking, which is not business-wise.
Mistake #4. Adding too many things on your roadmap
You can’t build everything right now. Introducing hundreds of items into your product roadmap will put unnecessary pressure on your engineers and dilute the relevance of the main priorities you’ve listed. Think big, but act small. Don’t try to add everything to your roadmap. Figure out what’s important, eliminate those items that aren’t crucial for your product, and always remember that less is more.
Mistake #5. Having no prioritization criteria
When everything is important, nothing is important. Not knowing what comes first on your roadmap and what’s less relevant may lead to wasting your team’s time and effort on things that will have little to no impact. So before building your product roadmap, choose a good prioritization framework that will help you create your tip items list.
Mistake #6. Change your product priorities on a daily basis
Your product roadmap is not set in stone. On the contrary, it needs continuous updating. But it’s not quite as easy as changing the top priorities, introducing new features overnight, or deleting items your team has already started to work on. While your product roadmap is flexible, if you keep changing it every day, you won’t get anything done.
Mistake #7. Not keeping your marketing and sales teams in the loop
That’s a big one. If your marketing and sales teams don’t know what’s coming next, they won’t be able to build strong promotion, upsells, or cross-selling strategies. Although you may have multiple teams working on different tasks, for better results, you’ll want to keep everyone in the loop and update the product roadmap accordingly.
Moreover, you should run frequent all-hands meetings and make sure that everyone knows what’s on your product roadmap. These meetings will help your marketing and sales teams strategize and align their next actions with the product updates.
Mistake #8. Focus on improvements nobody cares about
Don’t build your product roadmap around things that may feel urgent, but aren’t important for your business. So instead of including items that nobody asked for, analyze the users’ feedback and work on things that are relevant for both your product and your customers.
Mistake #9. Copy your competition
Yes, you need to know what your competition is doing. It’s always good to keep an eye on them. However, don’t include a new feature that your competition just released on your roadmap. This means you don’t have a product strategy and are simply relying on other companies to build your entire roadmap. How sustainable is that?
Don’t just set your roadmap and forget about it
If you have a product roadmap but don’t follow it, chances are your team will work in chaos and constant stress. You don’t want to disregard your product roadmap just because you had a brilliant feature idea overnight or an important customer asked you to design a new special feature for them ASAP.
That’s the whole reason why you have a product roadmap: to reduce the uncertainty your team may experience and to follow a strategic plan that is aligned with your overall vision. So don’t just set the roadmap and then forget about it—look at it every day and make sure that all of your actions are derived from the items in the roadmap.
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