How to build a thorough product roadmap

According to statistics, 42% of startups fail because they create products without having a clear understating of who will use their products and for what specific purpose. Many startup teams try to solve the problems that they find “interesting to solve” rather than problems that serve a market need.  In many cases, that’s because they don’t have a clear product roadmap.

Do you want to avoid this mistake and make your project a success? Do market research and build a product roadmap before jumping into the development process. 

Are you new to product roadmapping? Here is a brief guide for you.

Think strategically

Every great product starts with a well-written strategy. Before you start building a product roadmap, you should outline your vision and strategy by providing comprehensive answers to the following questions: 

  • Who is your target audience? How can you describe people who will use your product? Here you need to specify how old your prospective users are, what languages they speak, what software products they prefer to use in everyday life, etc. 
  • What concrete problem does your product solve? Define a market need and explain how your product will benefit users. You can put it this way: “Our product will help users save X time on completing Z and Y tasks.”
  • How will your product differ from other products available? What specific features will make it unique and useful?

Naturally, you need to discuss these questions with your team and other stakeholders. You can do it using StoriesOnBoard. 

Build your product roadmap in StoriesOnBoard in 5 simple steps

Step 1 – Create an account & invite your mates

Invite team members and stakeholders to join the platform by email and select their roles. Choose the option “Members”, so they can create and edit “Insights” and “Ideas” while discussing your company’s strategy and other questions.

invite your team mates into your product roadmap

Step 2 – Automate product feedback & idea collection into a single repository

Go to the tab “Feedback management” and then to the tab “Insights”. This is where you’ll be able to collect granular pieces of product feedback like random feature requests or ideas.

Once you are ready to add the first insight, click the right top button.

Describe your idea in a few sentences. Save the “Insight”.

Encourage your team members to add their ideas as “Insights”, and then start a discussion. Invite team members to comment on each other’s posts.

comments on a product roadmap

The great thing about product insights in StoriesOnBoard is that you can automate insight collection to save you valuable time. Set up e-mail automations, add the Chrome extension or set up Zaps with the tools of your choice so that you never lose track of a valuable feature idea again.

3. Keep insights organized

If there are some ideas on the list that your team is not ready to start working on yet, you can move them to the “Incubated” list and review them later.

incubate insights if they don't make it to the product roadmap

If there are some irrelevant “Insights” on the list, you can archive them to declutter the main Insight list. You can also create your own lists for insights if you’d sort them according to status, the product or feature they refer to, where they came from etc.

You can also create your own lists for insights if you'd sort them according to status

4. Convert product insights into actionable feature ideas

Once the list of “Insights” is ready for review, you can convert the best ones into “Ideas” and start working on them. Choose the necessary “Insight” from the list and title it. Encourage team members to comment on “Ideas” and share their opinion.

convert some insights to feature ideas to push them to the idea board

Ideas are supposed to be higher in the hierarchy, so you may want to group some product insights to create a single feature idea that you could develop. For example, someone might want to log in automatically and someone may find your sign up process lengthy. Both of those insights could belong to an idea called “SSO log in”.

idea board product roadmap

Your ideas board will probably have lots of feature ideas in different statuses. You can create as many statuses as you need or have in your development process and simply drag & drop feature ideas into the right column.

The more stakeholders will provide feedback, the easier it will be for you to define the best ideas and create a more compelling product roadmap.

Step 5 – Discuss requirements with stakeholders on a public product roadmap

To build an effective product roadmap, you should discuss the product requirements with most likely your sales and customer support team or sometimes with external collaborators. It’s very rewarding reaching out to the user community and finding out what they expect from your product, including specific features, designs, etc.

If you use StoriesOnBoard, you can invite sales and customer support team members and other stakeholders to join the platform and participate in the discussion. Just make sure to assign them the “Member” role, so they have permission to add new “Insights” and write comments or choose their role wisely.

access management of a feedback management and roadmap tool

Consider “going public”

With the help of an advanced product management, you can create a public product roadmap. You can make your roadmap accessible not only for your team members but also for your current customers, prospective users, and other stakeholders. The main benefit of using public product roadmaps is that it allows teams to validate their ideas with real users and, ultimately, enhance the product development process. 

With the help of the Feedback Management feature, you can encourage users to share their suggestions and ideas on how you can improve your product (build new features, add new integration options, update UI, etc). You can structure these ideas and add the best ones to the existing product roadmap. Using this tool, you can convince users that you value their opinions and that your team is working hard to provide the most effective solution.

Timely given feedback helps developers understand how they should improve the product and what features they should add in the first place to meet customer expectations. It allows the team to better the product quality while also cut development time.

Your public roadmap in StoriesOnBoard will have a similar build-up to your ideas board, except it’s completely up to you to decide what ideas will be shown and what ideas will stay hidden.

Step 6 – Implement ideas and place them on a story map

This tool will help you visualize the process of ideas discussion.

Define goals/epics

Finally, you can immerse yourself in the user story map building process. And the first thing you should do is to define the types of users and the goals these users want to complete. 

Let’s consider an example. Imagine your team wants to create a shopping app. There are two types of users that will use your app:

  • A manager who will administrate products 
  • A shopper who will search for products, select products, buy products, and write product reviews.
user story map

Naturally, you can add to your roadmap as many users and goals as needed. 

Also, you can leverage user segmentation. You can divide users who complete the same goal into distinct groups based on shared characteristics. For instance, you can segment people who buy products into such categories: regular buyer, impulsive buyer, last-minute shopper, discount chaser, etc. You can even give them real people names.

user personas on a story map

Outline user steps

Next, you should try to split the user’s activities into “user steps” and do it following the narrative flow. You should list all the steps in a logical order. 

For example, users who have a goal to “buy a product” need to complete the following steps:

  • Sign in to the app
  • Add selected products to the shopping cart
  • Place an order
  • Make a payment
define goals and epics according to personas on your story map

Add user stories

What is a user story? It’s a set of actions that users will likely take within one “user step”. For example, “to find a product”, users will use “basic search” while also “browse products by categories”. 

You need to create a few cards for each user story. Here is a pro tip for you: ask everyone in your team to write out the tasks they would need to do independently and then discuss all the tasks collectively and remove duplicated tasks.

find user stories

Why it’s important to create user stories? User stories help developers visualize the sequence of the user’s actions and better understand the logic behind the user’s behavior. 

Use icons and symbols

If some cards/tasks need to be discussed or to be split, mark those tasks respectively using icons, symbols, or colors. It will help you ensure that developers will complete those tasks according to the given guidelines.

Let’s say you design a mobile app for students and you want a UX designer to discuss some UX writing issues with experts. If you mark the card this way, you will ensure that the UX expert will not forget to tap into the discussion.

Prioritize your ideas

If you get ideas on how your product can be improved in the future, you can add extra cards to your product map. Even more, you can divide your cards into categories “Should have”, “Could have”, and “Won’t have”. It’s another great way to boost the effectiveness of your product strategy and enhance the development process. 

slice out releases from your story map

Slice out releases

When it comes to product development, deadlines always play an important role. If you want your team to release the product on time, make sure to specify the release date along with key release goals. When developers are aware of deadlines, they prioritize tasks the right way and work more effectively.

Consider going the extra mile – Go beyond a simple product roadmap

While a product roadmap per sé serves a variety of purposes – feature validation, transparency, community engagement – if it is not deeply integrated into your product management processes, it might still hang in the air. This is why we encourage you to build a cohesive process that takes you from ideation and product discovery through implementation to closing the feedback loop. Implementing such a process will obviously take more effort, but it will be more rewarding in the long run.

Wrapping up

Building a product roadmap is not as challenging as it may look. Just learn the core principles, and you will create a great roadmap for your product.  You can be sure that once you do it, you will take the product development process to a new level.

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Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a copywriter and blogger at GetGoodGrade with a background in marketing and sales. She enjoys sharing her experience with like-minded professionals who aim to provide customers with high-quality services.

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