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Learn what a SaaS Product Roadmap really is, how to create one, and why it is the most important part of a SaaS company.
Would you ever venture into an unknown place without your trusted map app? The same is true for every product company. An experienced product manager knows that building the right product takes time along with meticulous planning and budget considerations. No one has ever built the “perfect” product overnight, weeks or even in a few months. This is why a SaaS product roadmap is essential for the strategic development and success of a business.
Before we delve into the actual creation process of a product roadmap, let us first take a look at what a product roadmap really is and why it is THE most important part of a SaaS company.
A SaaS product roadmap is the representation of the steps that the company needs to take to continually develop and improve its products. It balances the technical aspects of product development along with the strategic know-how. The visual summary is used to explain the product strategy for software-as-a-service products to all the stakeholders and maintain stakeholder alignment.
These roadmaps are especially crucial for the strategic planning process of the products that are continually being updated. It provides the foundation on which other execution plans are laid.
Of course, there are different product roadmaps for the different stakeholders such as the investors, sales teams, existing customers, potential customers, etc. For example, the roadmap for the development team includes the features, themes, design, and other technicalities of the product while the roadmap for the sales team usually focuses on the overview and the customer benefits of the product. The key element of the roadmap is the value that it offers for the users and how the costs are managed.
So how do you decide what to include in your roadmap?
Here’s a step-by-step process on everything you need to know about roadmaps for SaaS products.
A crucial aspect of the strategy is to outline the objectives of the business. Unless you define the success metrics, it is hard to map the road to reach these goals. The goals do not have to define your products. Instead, the roadmap should outline the difference that your products will make in the lives of the customers. It describes the vision and serves as a guiding light to the successful implementation of the projects. For example, the vision can be the launch of a product or retaining existing customers. The strategy is then tailored to these goals.
Ask your stakeholders the all-important “Why” questions. Why do you want to develop this product? Why do you want to develop it at this time? Why will your customer be interested in the product?
It is easy for companies to skip this step but a clear understanding of this helps in building the right product strategy that improves the chances of success of a SaaS product. It aids in the decision-making process and also allows stakeholders to understand the product better.
Your product will have countless features. As a product manager, it is your job to juggle between the different options and shortlist the features that will help you build a minimum viable product (MVP) that provides value to your customers quickly.
There are various prioritization techniques to help you organize the features that you want to include. The RICE Scoring Model is a popular technique that evaluates the features on the four main categories, Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort. You then have to measure the value of each feature against the effort it takes for the organization to implement the features.
Once the strategic plan is in place, it is time to break it down into epics or the initiatives that the company needs to perform for creating a quick MVP. Once the goals are subdivided into targets and mini targets, it is easier to assign the tasks and set deadlines at each level. It is also important to test at each epic level, instead of waiting for the final completion of the task. This will allow you to deal with unexpected changes quickly and efficiently to ensure successful project completion.
No roadmap is perfect. It needs to be fine-tuned and reviewed time and again so that it is relevant for all stakeholders and matches your vision. As a product manager, you need to lay out every detail of your team’s plan. This way the stakeholders understand their responsibilities and project timelines for efficient communication and delivery.
Some of the common mistakes that product managers need to avoid when implementing a strategy include:17
A well-defined SaaS product roadmap is the key to your product success. It may be a challenging task to get this in place but with the framework provided above it can be easier to start the process. Don’t forget to refine and revise this strategy with the changes in your business and marketing landscape.
Anshi has over 12 years of experience in demand generation, digital marketing, and managing global teams. In her prior role as head of marketing operations for a high growth US healthcare tech organization she transformed marketing from cost to revenue center.
Published August 18, 2021, Updated October 25, 2021
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