The hardest part of bringing an idea into reality is getting started and creating your plan. This applies to just about everything in life: from booking a dream vacation to developing a weight loss plan—or taking a concept and turning it into a product. We’ve all probably sat around chatting with friends or families, coming up with “great ideas” for products or businesses, etc. But how many of those ideas actually come to fruition?
Part of what we do as software consultants is help strategize and plan to take software product ideas from paper to reality. But product strategy and roadmapping is more than just whiteboarding—it’s a complex process that involves a lot of different stakeholders. If you ignore it, you’ll end up with holes in your process that could cause your product to flop. But if you do it right, you end up with software that meets the needs of your business and users. Here are some steps you won’t want to skip when creating a roadmap for your software product:
Understand your product goals
The first, most important component of your product strategy is to develop a shared understanding of the purpose and goals for a product—regardless of whether the product is “net new” or you’re revitalizing an existing product. This usually involves consulting with key stakeholders—the product owner, the team that will be working with the product on a daily basis, and business stakeholders—to understand how the product impacts them. This is where you think through business implications for the end product and answer questions to help best strategize your plan of attack for development and implementation.
Prioritize product features and embrace iteration
You can use a prioritization framework (we created one for our clients that’s useful!) to help you decide what feature or part will have the highest value or impact on the business. We call that the “MVP,” and that’s where you want to start. Utilizing agile development methodologies can help you develop features more quickly and get them in the hands of your stakeholders early. That way you can iterate and perfect the MVP of your product. The goal is to ensure that the product is continually aligned with the vision defined at the outset, and that the long-term goals will be met.
Get an outside guide
If you don’t have someone on your team who’s really experienced in the roadmapping process, having experts to consult can enhance your strategy. The meaningful questions that consultants ask will prompt your own team’s thinking, and together you’ll make sure no stone is left unturned. You’ll also have a guide along the way and someone to keep you accountable—ensuring that the product roadmap is realistic, achievable, and meets the product goals and vision.
Product strategy and roadmapping success story
As software consultants, one of the most existing aspects of the job is seeing an idea come to life after having meticulously worked on the strategy. One recent project stands out as a great example of how to navigate the strategy and roadmapping process successfully.
Our client in the plasma industry had an innovative idea for a software product that would help hospitals fill blood product shortages in the event of a major catastrophe. There was an existing, similar product on the market at the time, but it didn’t meet the exact needs of the client’s customers. They quickly recognized a gap that they could fill in their market: In the age of digitization, it is easy to see how a more efficient, less costly product would be a smart solution! And it was the direct feedback from their customers that became pivotal in defining the reasons why this new product should exist. In working with our team of industry experts, they began to fully articulate their product idea and goals, and thus the vision was formed.
We staffed the project with not just one, but multiple team members who have experience in the healthcare industry. They were able to ask meaningful questions and think through challenges that would be unique to the client’s industry. Together, we began to work through the vision.
Our product strategy team used wireframes, mock-ups, and real-world examples in order to work through the details and better define the product for development. Using visual representation, we were able to clearly show how the vision would come together…ensuring that the development strategy aligned to the initial goals and vision.
Next, we collaborated with the client team to determine what was required for an MVP to be operational, setting aside the “nice-to-haves” as candidates for later product enhancements. These priorities helped us create a product roadmap that not only brought the product to an MVP state in less than four months, but ensured that it was live and in end-users’ hands.
In this short time, we were able to take the client’s product vision from idea to reality by developing a clear, informed product strategy and a prioritized product roadmap.
From here, our managed IT services team will work with the client and continue to build upon that MVP. They will follow the roadmap outlined for them and leverage the backlog defined during the requirements definition/clarification sessions.
Invest in the journey
Will every product idea be able to be brought to life in this short period of time? No! But creating a strategy and a realistic, achievable roadmap that keeps your vision and goals (as well as your budget and timeline) in mind is absolutely key. The product is the destination, but, like so many things (e.g., life!), the journey is what matters. So if you want your software product to be a win with your users, it’s important to make sure you get your product strategy and roadmap right.