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Three big mistakes to avoid with your product roadmap

A product roadmap can be a strategic hero piece that drives your business forward, rather than just a to-do list for the development team – here’s how to make sure yours lays out a vision that inspires and unites.

A product roadmap is a concise and inspiring representation of your plans for your product’s future capabilities and improvements.

It might sound easy – but it isn’t.

To help you on your journey, we’ve highlighted three common mistakes that B2B software companies can (and often do) make when it comes to their product roadmap.  

If you’re ready for the full lowdown, you can jump to the Product Roadmap Playbook for Software Companies here.  Or read and get a five minute run through of the lessons our experts learned the hard way.

Don’t underestimate the scope

Product roadmaps are crucial for product strategy – and yet many software companies often underestimate their potential. 

Many think of their product roadmap as a detailed list of tasks that need to be completed for products in development.  And something that lays out a timeline so the development department can act on these product “to-dos” efficiently

These functions are undoubtedly useful, but they’re only a fraction of what a product roadmap can do. 

A product roadmap also captures the strategic intent for your product. It lays out a product vision and strategy for teams to unite around.  

Crucially, it has a large external impact. It signals ambition to customers and can be used to:

  1. Boost new sales revenues – by communicating your vision and value proposition to new customers within your target market. 
  2. Retain current customers – by giving them an exciting vision of your product’s development path and how it will continue to add value for them. 
  3. Attract investors – by showcasing your strategic intent and the growth path of the product. 
Pro tip:Avoid the temptation to separate your roadmap into an internal ‘realistic’ one, and an external ‘aspirational’ one designed to drive new sales. This can dilute the product vision and lead to unhappy teams, disengaged by the unrealistic vision being sold to customers. One unified product roadmap is always the better route. 

Don’t get tunnel vision

First things first, a product roadmap needs to consider target customer feedback. 

If fully developed, this ‘customer intimacy’ can afford you a detailed understanding of:

  • Customer issues (and how to prioritise them)
  • Customer expectations
  • The best ways to reach new target customers

But it’s vital you don’t allow this to become your only source of input. 

You’ll also need to consider strategic forces. Market changes can impact customer needs so it pays to consider: market forces, geopolitical changes, and industry changes. 

This informed picture of customer needs, allows you to plan how best to address them, capture your new market, set prices, and cross-sell.

Swat up on your competition too. Knowing the alternatives allows you to assess what you can learn and leverage from their failures, successes, benefits, and drawbacks. 

Finally, understand market forces. Seeking advice from industry analysts, not only affords you invaluable guidance here, you’ll also tap into a wealth of new customer insight. 

Pro tip:Remember, “do nothing” can also be a competitive option for your customers – so interrogate that fully too. 

Don’t neglect your development team 

Drawing up a product roadmap involves setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and timing market releases. And as you move forward, there can be timeline changes too. 

As the engine room of your product, the development team will feel every one of these changes acutely. 

At times, this will lead to heated discussion. While this is natural, to ensure those discussions remain healthy, it’s important to foster a culture of mutual respect and equitable input across all product teams. 

Pro tip:
Clear lines of communication, chains of command, and divisions of responsibility are a must to ensure your development team feels empowered and respected. 

And that’s it.

A product roadmap can provide much more value than just telling development teams what to build next. 

To build a successful one, combine customer input with rigorous market research, empower your development teams, and ensure great lines of communication across your departments.

By doing this, your product roadmap can avoid the pitfalls and help all stakeholders buy into your product vision of how you plan to change their world.

If you want to dive deeper into product roadmaps – take a look at our Product Roadmap Playbook for Software Companies