Why having a product roadmap matters

You won’t need to be in management for long to understand that good planning is always a solid investment, and that the more diligent you are in defining a process, the more smoothly it’s likely to proceed. A product roadmap may seem like an unnecessary addition to other forms of planning, but it often proves invaluable. By setting everything out in visual form, you can ensure that everyone understands it in the same way, and you’ll find it much easier to deal with various issues.

Setting priorities

When you’re putting together your product roadmap, you’ll be defining, from the outset, the order in which key steps need to be taken. You can also attach different values to different outcomes, establishing what’s essential and what can be postponed or dropped entirely if you run low on time or resources. This will help you to stay agile and responsive to changing events. A roadmap is not a static document but something that should be subject to periodic review and adjustment throughout the process.

Coordinating actions

Once you’ve established your priorities, you’ll be able to define the actions needed to achieve each goal and assign individuals or teams to complete each of them. By setting these out on your timeline and working out how long each action should take to achieve, you can organize them and allocate resources so that each is completed in time for others dependent on its outcomes to begin. Remember that this part of the process is like setting a budget – you will always need to allow for some leeway.

Tracking progress

Reviewing your roadmap makes it easy to keep track of progress at each stage of product development. This isn’t just important internally – it also helps when you’re engaging with partners or other external agencies that are working to their own timelines.

This way, your grant application or product registration can be fitted seamlessly into your schedule. You’ll be able to identify delays more quickly and take steps to correct them or enable the rest of the process to flow around the obstructions.

Creating transparency

A product roadmap is a great way to ensure not only that everyone understands what’s going on but also that nothing untoward can occur without everyone noticing. For instance, if resource allocation is made visible, any siphoning off of funds to other projects will quickly become apparent. If somebody isn’t pulling their weight, there will be no argument about who that person is (or at least which team it is). It will also be easier to audit the whole process.

Transparency can also be essential if you are taking your product internationally and have to consider the laws and regulations that are specific to each country. Your roadmap should prepare you for navigating this part of the process, and transparent information sharing will be important. The healthcare industry is a good example, as each country has its own set of strict guidelines with which you will need to become familiar. Let’s say you want to take a new medical device to an unfamiliar market, such as China. A good strategy would be to partner with a company based in the country, which can help you to navigate the complexities of registering your product in that market. The Chinese medical device registration process will be much easier with a domestic partner and information sharing will be essential to help them get the approval you need for market entry.

For these reasons, setting out a product roadmap can be considered a vital feature of the product development process and one that everybody who will play a role in that process should be consulted on. A carefully designed, informed and responsive map will enable you to achieve the coordination you need to carry the process through to a successful conclusion, no matter what happens along the way.

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