The Inputs to a Great Product Roadmap
I’m often asked how I think about coming up with the product roadmap for an upcoming release. To help answer this, I thought I’d share how my team recently went about thinking through the roadmap for an upcoming product we’re working on.
Analysis of existing usage metrics
When you’re innovating on top of an existing product, the best place to start is by conducting an in-depth analysis of the existing usage patterns of your product. Understanding at a high level the features that are most used will tell you where further investment may be justified. Low usage features also give you insights into what might need a redesign or need to be removed altogether. Diving into flow analysis also helps you understand what optimizations could be made to reduce friction in the current experience.
User interviews to understand audience pain points
Great products provide solutions to great problems, so it’s always important to ensure you’re solving the problems most top of mind for your target audience. The best way I’ve found to really understand these pain points is through user interviews seeking to understand your audience’s motivations, daily workflow, existing tools, current frustrations, and more. The focus here should be problem space more than solution space to really get at what problems would warrant product solutions.
Aggregation of customer feedback & support requests
Users are constantly reaching out to creators of products with feature suggestions, support requests, complaints, and more. It’s valuable to spend the time to aggregate this feedback to understand trends amongst your user base and what areas might be worth investing in.
In-depth look at competition
Taking a look at other players in the space to see what’s working for them and what isn’t is another great source of product ideas for your roadmap. Using the products, reviewing the product’s user forums, and reading product and industry reviews is a great way to uncover what’s most interesting about your competition. While it’s important to play your own game compared to your competition, it’s nonetheless an important source of input to consider.
Commercialization of internal innovation
Oftentimes your product is a part of the overall suite of offerings your company provides. Each product tends to innovate on their own dimensions and bring to market what’s most important for their audience and product area. Nonetheless oftentimes there is a significant opportunity to bring similar innovations to your target audience or product area. I thus find it helpful to stay abreast of the latest releases from other company products to see what might be leveragable in your own product area.
Audience surveys to understand feature prioritization
Once you’ve contemplated a set of potential features, it’s often helpful to survey a portion of your existing or potential users to help prioritize these features against each other. Leveraging conjoint analysis can help get at the relative importance of each of your features to better understand which are worth investing in.
These various inputs help inform your product roadmap by helping you discover key themes across the various inputs that may be critical areas to attack in your next product release. However, it’s important to keep in mind that developing the right product roadmap remains as much art as it is science. While these inputs can help inform your potential roadmap, it’s the creative synthesis of these that ultimately result in a great roadmap.
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Sep 23, 2013