Modern society tech demands have increased recently and that’s why many companies focus on developing mobile apps that will solve people’s problems.
In order to get a competitive edge over other companies, businesses aim to launch their products as quickly as possible and to be the first ones in their industry niche.
Developing a mobile app is not as easy as it sounds although today you can find almost 2 million apps in the stores.
The mobile app development process is always risky and requires following a lot of steps – that’s why you should have a product manager on the project and use product roadmaps.
What is a product roadmap?
Product roadmap is a strategic document outlining major stages of a product development process. The main goal of a product roadmap is to link your product vision and your business goals.
Roadmapping is all about prioritizing and organizing – it allows you to analyze feature ideas, to decide which features should be released and if necessary, which features to remove or restructure to something that makes more sense for the product as a whole.
The best roadmaps even go beyond – give more insight into the big picture, clarify any missed opportunity and eliminate difficulties along the way.
You should use your roadmap to overview your product’s long term development.
How to do it?
Always create a plan prior to roadmapping so to align everyone in your company and keep them focused on the work that is the most important. Roadmap, as the name says, leads your team to the goal of your product and plans what needs to be done to reach the same goal.
Roadmap is a result of a strategic planning – it contains both: executive planning and overall product goals.
Typically, a roadmap should contain the following key points:
PRODUCT VISION – what you want your final product to be
STRATEGY – execution plan detailing what you need to do to meet the requirements
GOAL – objective to be measured by specific metrics
INITIATIVE – set of features to be implemented to achieve the GOAL
FEATURE – a piece of a product: functionality or a 3rd party application
TIME FRAME – time necessary (approximate value) for a certain goal/feature to be completed
STATUS MARKER – used for work progress
METRICS – measurement of goals, e.g. organic traffic or churn rate.
Let’s break down the process of how to create a successful roadmap to achieve your goal:
-Define your strategy and product vision
Firstly, you need to come up with a plan – which problem your mobile app will resolve, why and for whom. You don’t have to go into details or list all the features but instead, focus on how the roadmap will fit a strategic direction for your business.
It’ll help you to articulate your product’s mission, the problem it will resolve, its target users and its unique value proposition (UVP). After all, the last thing you want is to waste your time and resources to develop an app which doesn’t serve any purpose.
Define your customer personas, do a research of your market and your competitors, listen to your customers and talk to your stakeholders.
Once you’ve presented your vision to everyone who will be involved, you have the necessary info to start working on your roadmap.
-Define your ‘audience’
One of the most important things today is to know who you’re writing the roadmap for. Roadmap is not uni-size fitting everyone – you should pay attention to format, its type and content.
Be aware of its format as it must be suitable for your specific audience.
For example, roadmap listing only features won’t suit sales or marketing department but your engineering team.
A roadmap can be custom-built for a specific audience, and with specific type of information, methodologies or orientation on different key points.
There are several types of roadmaps which Brian Lawley classified into the most common roadmap types as per his book Expert Product Development:
- Strategy & Market Roadmap
- Visionary Roadmap
- Technology Roadmap
- Technology Across Product Roadmap
- Platform Roadmap
- Internal & External Product Roadmap
The selected format will propose necessary information to be emphasized and the goals to be prioritized.
-Choose metrics and modify them as per actual features
Whatever you do, you need to measure the data to gain insight on the actual progress or a possible impediment. If you define your KPIs on time, you’ll understand what areas to focus on with your first release as well as what to improve when iterating for your product’s later releases. If you’re building a minimum viable product (MVP), focus only on a limited number of metrics.
You should create a master list of ALL features you want to include and then start organizing and prioritizing them to keep your product development lean.
The best known method is MoSCoW method – it is an acronym that stands for Must, Should, Could and Won’t. The method helps you define which features to implement first and which can come later and if any of the features need to be removed completely.
MoSCoW method will keep your project on track.
Your specific metrics will help you to grasp the broader picture and measure your progress, leaving you enough space to tweak your actions towards the best possible results. Some relevant metrics can be analyzing the market and/or competition, sprint burn down, flow efficiency, velocity, cycle time and more.
Be aware of feature-creep as constant addition of numerous features can result in a complex and confusing product – always keep in mind that users like it simple.
Once you gather the necessary information, you can revise your goals and determine which features need urgent attention and which can be added later in the next release.
-Use Roadmap tools
A while ago, Excel was the leading tool for building a roadmap – it was quite a static presentation of the development process.
Today there are cloud based roadmapping tools which enable you to speed up the process and update it easily along the way.
Some of the tools are:
OpenProject – open source software as per needs of Agile/Scrum teams.
Roadmap Planner – open source tool for Linux.
Roadmunk – one of the most popular software for roadmapping your project with ‘different’ views of your roadmap – meaning it can be tailored for different participants (developers, marketing/sales departments etc.)
You can choose the best software as per your specific needs and budget.
-Update the roadmap with important information
Strategic roadmap has a clear goal – to prioritize product development actions. If you want to preserve the functionality, you need to focus on providing the general strategy, not an approach.
Avoid being too detailed and don’t include too much information or unnecessary data. You should always keep your roadmap updated – the dynamics of your roadmap changes thus bringing new features and goals.
Keep track of your modifications so to successfully convey the information to all the teams (engineering, marketing, sales etc.) and stakeholders.
Keep in mind that your roadmap represents a gradual growth of your product development.
-Understand your users
User feedback is a gold mine which can help you to pinpoint areas in your product which can be improved and also areas which are doing well. The information given will help you to decide if you’re on a good track or you need to change the direction entirely.
Analyze user feedback as it will show you what your users want and what they need from your product.
A mixture of approaches and resources can be more useful – review all existing feedback you have, plus direct channels like surveys, interviews, chat bots etc. It can also be a good idea to engage a specialist app voice of customer tools like Mopinion or Apptentive – they can help you to gather feedback and monitor trends for your product.
Understanding the users will help you to determine not only which areas to improve but also which technology to use – e.g. if your users mainly use iOS, you’ll know which technology to go with or if you have a feedback on the most important features your users value, you will have a solid start for features to include or cut out.
All these insights will be greatly valuable when it comes to prioritizing future product development areas.
Many companies can apply SWOT analysis for determining the state of their business and it is possible to do the same for your product development.
You should bring all your findings together into a comprehensive SWOT analysis for your mobile app idea as well.
SWOT is an analytical framework that helps you to create a big picture, analyze the situation and find the best solution. It identifies both the internal and external factors that make an impact on your development process.
The SWOT analysis will give you an overview of potential opportunities and risks along the development process.
Building a mobile app is a dynamic process with many evolving parts, different team members and cross-functional requirements so a roadmap task is to support collaboration and eliminate barriers on the way.
A product roadmap is useful when it shows your vision, conveys the development strategy, prioritize high level features, evolves along with the product requirements and acts as a communication tool between the teams.
Although is seems complicated, a useful roadmap must be clear and easy to understand.
Not only a product roadmap is essential for communicating the strategic purpose of your mobile app but it also shows the exact goals and matches them to your business objectives.