A product roadmap is one of the basics for a SaaS company that runs like clockwork and keeps in touch with their product mission and vision. Thanks to so many tools for product roadmaps that have been launched in recent years, building a product map is now easier than ever. With the right resources and a tool like FeedBear, you can get started in less than 15 minutes.
Today, we’ll show you the practical steps for building a roadmap as well as explain why all good product and development teams need one in their lives.
Product Roadmap: What is it?
A product roadmap is a visual representation of the features and aspects of your product that your team is working on. It aligns with your product mission and vision and draws from customer feedback. It is an overview of high-level items that you’re working on as well as smaller tasks such as bug fixes and updates.
Most of all, a product roadmap is a communication tool for letting your customers know that you’re listening to their feedback. With one document, you can show them what you’re working on and what they can expect from you in the months to come.
Why Are Product Roadmaps Necessary?
You can run a product just fine without a roadmap. In fact, many startups don’t even get one until a later stage of their product development. However, product roadmaps have a unique set of benefits that makes them stand out from other product and development tools.
They help align internal stakeholders about long-term and short-term product plans
They help product and development teams set and maintain priorities
They give progress visibility to everyone, including customers
They let you communicate updates with customers
The more complex your product gets and the more customers you have - the bigger your need for having a product roadmap. Even if you’re not at the stage where you need one just yet, we suggest creating one today to set good foundations for your product in the future.
How to Create Product Roadmaps
The (somewhat) bad news is that there’s a lot of initial work to create a roadmap. The great news is that once you establish a process and you know how roadmaps work, it’s a piece of cake for your team. The key part of a good map is establishing a process and having a great way to get customer feedback from a feedback board to a product roadmap.
Let’s take it one step at a time. At first…
Determine Why Your Product Exists
Each product needs a mission and vision. This doesn’t have to be something amazingly complex or long - a 20,000-word paper is not necessary. You need to sum up what kind of pain points you solve and how you do it in as few words as possible.
For example, reducing the time to enter data manually in CRMs for small businesses in the accounting niche. It’s not overly complex but it says a lot in just a few words. Once you know why you created your product, you have a north star that will guide your entire roadmap.
Determine Your Audience
Remember the “small businesses in the accounting niche” part from above? No product out there is made for everyone. Unless you’re Coke or you produce toilet paper, you probably have a specific target audience in mind that needs your product to solve a pain point. And even Coke has very specific demographics and doesn’t sell and market to everyone.
Once you know who your product roadmap is for, you’ll have an easier time aligning your roadmap direction with your product vision and mission. The more specific you are, the better.
Start Prioritizing the Themes of Your Product and Be Flexible About it
Each product gets complex at some point, as you start adding more features that make it functional and make your customers happy - not necessarily at the same time. While there can be hundreds of items on your roadmap, you should have a handful of common themes that you can group them in.
For example, onboarding flow, customer-facing dashboard interface, integrations, user experience. The themes will differ from product to product but it’s a good idea to think about them before you even start adding items to your roadmap.
Create a High-Level Roadmap
The great thing about roadmaps is that you can have as many as you want, especially if you use a tool such as FeedBear. In fact, it’s a great idea to have a few different ones that have different views and levels of detail. Not every stakeholder in your company and every customer is interested in the same kind of roadmap view.
With this in mind, create a high-level roadmap first. This roadmap should contain high-level items, as the name says. For example:
Create 2 new integrations in Q3
Introduce Intercom for customer onboarding and communication
Connect Salesforce to track attribution
Each of these bigger roadmap items can contain many smaller ones. Of course, these go into a separate roadmap. A high-level roadmap helps you have a clear overview of the big picture and it’s probably the best type of roadmap to show to the company executive team or an investor.
Create an Internal and Detailed Roadmap
Another type of roadmap you need is for your internal use. This is the rough, dirty draft of your artwork and what your product and development teams see every day. This is where customer feedback turns into tickets to be built. It’s a place where you discuss progress, check up on how things are going and keep track of your roadmap delivery internally.
Out of all the roadmaps you create, this one has the highest potential of becoming very messy so basic maintenance and cleanup are a necessity. A good product manager should ensure that the internal roadmap aligns with the high-level one and that all of the goals are met, and that the entire team meets its deadlines.
Report on Progress and Analyze Delivery Metrics
Roadmaps are ultimately a tool that facilitates communication. Whether it’s between your customers and your company or your development/product team and the management, a great roadmap tells a story of what you’re doing and whether you’re on track with your goals.
As items progress through the roadmap, you can show all your stakeholders that you’re delivering the promised work. Once a feature is shipped, make sure that you close the feedback loop and let your customers and management know. Also, it’s a good idea to track if you’re meeting the goals you set with your roadmap or not.
Roadmap Tools: Getting Started
There are many considerations when choosing your roadmap tool. Besides the most obvious one that is cost, you need to select a tool that fits in nicely with the rest of your tech stack. Here is a checklist for choosing the next roadmap tool for your team:
It’s easy to use even for non-developers and non-tech team members
It has templates that you can use for a quick start
It allows you to create private and public roadmaps
It feeds into a source of feedback (such as a feedback board)
It allows customization of the look and feel (design, copy, logos and more)
It comes with the features that you need and not more (no feature bloat)
The good news is that you’re in the right place because we have just the tool for you.
A product roadmap is a superb way to communicate and act on customer feedback. FeedBear lets you do just that because you can create a feedback board in just minutes. This is where customers can leave bug fix requests, product feature requests, and any other feedback they have. Once the feedback is there, they can comment and vote on it.
The best suggestions and feature requests get a special spot, as you can move them to your product roadmap. Within FeedBear, you can create a new roadmap from scratch, start from a template or build from a feedback board - which are all equally easy to do.
The roadmap allows customers to see what you’re working on as they can click on individual roadmap items. They can leave comments and communicate with your team. The messages are organized in threads, making it easy to follow who wrote what and when.
Moreover, customers can vote on the roadmap items too, letting you know that something deserves higher or lower priority. Every customer who interacts with a roadmap item (with a comment or vote) gets an email once the card moves from one status to the next in the roadmap.
Ready to get started? Sign up for your free trial today!
The Importance of a Product Manager in Product Roadmaps
The skeptic inside you may think that with a great roadmap, a product manager is not necessary. However, the product manager is the main person in charge of maintaining and updating the roadmap and they should be the primary stakeholder. Some of the tasks that they are in charge of include:
Creating a high-level roadmap
Making sure that roadmap items align with the product mission and vision
Setting priorities for product development based on the roadmap
Assuring that the development and product teams are working in line with the roadmap and that the features are shipped within the promised deadlines
Regularly reviewing the product roadmap for changes in priority
Communicating with customers within the roadmap
Having all of this in mind, a product manager will definitely have their hands full with a roadmap. However, if you don’t have a product manager yet - don’t worry. Anyone can manage a roadmap in FeedBear.
Product Roadmap Examples
For many great examples of how product roadmaps look in practice, we suggest visiting this page. These are not mockups - they’re actual, live roadmaps being used by SaaS companies in different niches. Here are some examples:
A product roadmap is a product team’s best friend. It keeps the departments aligned and gives a crystal clear vision of your plans to your customers. With just a few hours spent on your roadmap every month, you can improve your company workflows, give management an easy overview of your progress, and most importantly, keep your customers happy.
Ready to get started today? You can create your first roadmap in FeedBear in just minutes - it’s super easy to get started. Sign up today for your free trial!