Building the best products on the market isn’t easy—you need to balance what your current products offer, new features your customers want to see, and the competitive landscape, among many other factors. But with your competitors constantly updating and upgrading their own products, and the ever-increasing demands of customers, creating your own top-notch products is more essential than ever.
This is exactly why you need a product roadmap. A product roadmap is a structured plan to develop your product, mapping out the direction and vision of your product over time. It’s a guiding strategic document that communicates not just what you’re building and the timelines for creating and releasing it, but the why behind everything that goes into it as well. And it’s also a plan for executing the product strategy from beginning to end.
You should prioritize product roadmaps because they help your team articulate your product vision and strategy. They also help keep everyone on the same page through the product development and ensure each team member is working together towards a common goal.
A vital part of a good product roadmap is knowing how to prioritize product features. Your product team can’t focus on every single feature they’d like to build—they need to choose which ones are most important to customers and to your business. And the best way to know which features your product team should prioritize? It’s asking your customers what they think through feedback surveys. When you gather feedback from customers directly during the product roadmap process, you’ll know your team is on the right track from start to finish at creating an exceptional product and an excellent customer experience as well.
Goals of a product roadmap
A product roadmap is a powerful engine to drive better product development. It has multiple goals:
Describe vision and strategy. A product roadmap aims to describe the strategic direction for your product, and to tie that back to the overall strategy for your business as well. It maps out the vision for your product over time, inspiring and motivating each person who will be working on the product.
Provide a guiding document for executing the strategy. A good product roadmap aims to lay out precisely how the product strategy becomes reality. It ensures that the product team, and everyone else involved, focuses on what’s really important to avoid getting distracted along the way.
Get internal stakeholders in alignment. There are many people, teams, and even departments involved in the typical creation of a new product. Getting everyone aligned on the product vision, the strategy, timelines, and areas of responsibility ensures the development of the new or updated product runs smoothly.
Facilitate discussion of options and scenario planning. Product development is a constantly evolving task—needs and desires of customers change, technology advances, and business priorities shift. Your product roadmap helps your team discuss options for products and features and plan for possible future scenarios to stay agile.
Help communicate with external stakeholders. External stakeholders, such as distributors of your product and current users, also need to know about end timelines for products and release dates for new features so they can prepare. A product roadmap helps nail down these important dates so you can communicate them clearly and accurately.
What to include in a product roadmap
Wondering how to create a product roadmap? It’s about more than simply considering features and timelines.
To begin, you need to focus on the reason that this product should exist at all. Why are you building it, and what are you hoping to accomplish by building it? How will the product help your users? Begin the creation of your roadmap by answering these key questions, and you’ll be focused on what’s most important about the product.
It’s best to take a top-down planning approach to your roadmap. You begin by delineating the product vision clearly. Next, focus on the specific goals that will help you to get to that vision. Your roadmap should then provide an illustration of how to accomplish those goals that your product team and stakeholders have agreed upon. By prioritizing the items that help your product get to those goals, you can relegate less important items to the backlog and focus on what’s truly critical.
You should also ensure that your roadmap is focusing on only the most vital items. It’s easy to get distracted by features that are nice to have but not essential to the product or your customers. You can accomplish this by asking four critical questions of every piece of the roadmap:
Does this have real, tangible value for users?
What is the evidence of this value?
Who owns this and will be its champion?
Does it truly fit, or is it just a tempting idea?
Product roadmaps are designed to help you prioritize what really matters so your team can release an excellent product on a targeted timetable. Trying to cram in extras that sound nice but aren’t essential derails that plan, so be cautious about how much you’re trying to include in your roadmap.
How to get feedback for your product roadmap
A vital part of your product roadmap plan is gathering feedback from your customers and prospects. You want to know what the end users of your product think about your current products and features, and what they would truly value in new ones, before you begin the hard work of actually creating those products.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to collect and analyze feedback from customers so you know your product roadmap is on the right track.
Surveys that live on your website can serve a multitude of purposes—and a major one is gathering feedback on your existing products and features. You can add a website survey in the form of a popup, widget, or other form to ask customers what they think about a certain feature or product—and for a software product, you can gather this info in the moment as they’re actually using it. This gives you timely, accurate feedback about the product so you know your current state and how customers feel as they use your products.
Product feedback surveys
You can also use surveys to get more targeted about the current and future state of your product. Product feedback surveys can be sent via email to ask current customers and users of your product about new features they would like to see, what they think about your current products, existing pain points, pricing, and much more. These surveys tend to be more in-depth and allow customers to answer on their own time.
While longer surveys asking detailed product questions are great for your product team, they take a lot of time out of your customers’ busy days. If you’re looking to get higher response rates by sending a shorter survey, you should consider sending micro surveys as part of your product feedback plan. These small-bite surveys consist of five or fewer questions and take less than one minute to complete.
Advantages of micro-surveys
Micro surveys are simple to set up and send for your product team. Since they require so little effort to complete they also tend to have high response rates. They give you actionable, accurate feedback with a fast turnaround time. Micro surveys are very helpful for gathering feedback about a specific piece of the product roadmap since they can’t go very in-depth.
Metrics you can gather
Micro surveys can be used to gather a range of metrics that can be helpful in your product roadmap.
Customer Effort Score (CES). If your products aren’t easy to use, your customers won’t be satisfied even if the product itself is exceptional. You can use a CES micro survey to ask customers how easy your product makes it for them to solve their issues and problems. This can help you uncover current pain points your product roadmap needs to fix in order to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). Measuring how satisfied your customers are with your current products and features is essential to your product roadmap - this data will help you decide which products require retooling and which ones are fine for the moment. Sending out a CSAT micro survey to determine current customer satisfaction with products and features offers you valuable insights to use when prioritizing new projects.
Goal Completion Rate (GCR). The GCR metric measures how many users complete a specific goal on your website or app. You can use micro surveys to ascertain GCR by asking users if a feature or product they just used helped them achieve their goal for using it. If a certain product or feature is falling short in the GCR metric, you should consider prioritizing updates to it in the next product roadmap to increase customer satisfaction.
Usability. Your products need to offer an experience with excellent usability if you want to provide an excellent customer experience. Sending a micro survey to ask about usability in a feature or product can help you uncover any existing issues that are affecting product usability and causing customer frustration.
How to prioritize features for your product roadmap
Deciding how to prioritize product features can seem like a daunting challenge at first. There are always many new features product managers dream of adding to existing products, and multiple new products the product team has envisioned. But time and resources are limited at even the largest companies, and so your product team needs to decide how to undertake product roadmap prioritization.
Surveys that gather customer and user feedback are the most effective and efficient way to prioritize features for your product roadmap. It’s easy for the product team to get attached to features they believe are cutting-edge and innovative, and to focus on those exclusively. But your customers could have very different ideas in mind about what would make the user experience easier and more effective.
Failing to listen to your customers when they tell you what they want can mean a mismatch between what your products offer and what your customers really need. That can cause customer churn as they seek out competitors who might not offer the most innovative products, but do offer a much better customer experience. As technology rapidly advances, customer experience is quickly becoming the differentiator for many buyers—customer surveys help your business keep up or stay ahead of the game.
Frameworks for prioritizing roadmap features
There are several different frameworks your product team can use to prioritize features in your product roadmap:
OKRs. Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is used by Google, Twitter, Airbnb, and other companies to create alignment when setting goals. It’s a simple and fast process that ensures everyone is on the same page. The basic formula is this: “We will (Objective) as measured by (Key Results).” Objectives are qualitative descriptions of goals, and should be short and engaging. Key results are the metrics that gauge your progress towards the Objective, and should be between two to five in number and measurable.
MoSCoW. Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, Won’t-have is what MoSCoW stands for. It’s a method of prioritization that allows organizations to focus on the most important requirements in order to hit a deadline on time.
RICE Scoring Model. Standing for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort, this model helps you evaluate competing ideas for products or services based on four key components.
How customer feedback helps build better product roadmaps
A product roadmap is designed to create successful products that your customers will love—but you won’t truly know what customers think until you ask them, or until you launch your new product. And since launching a product takes a great deal of time and resources, you don’t want to start down the wrong path with a product roadmap that doesn’t take customer desires and experience into consideration.
Customer feedback can help your business avoid spending resources on products and features that aren’t important to your customers, and helps you create ones that really resonate with them in a timely fashion. In a highly competitive world, this is how customer loyalty is truly born—by creating high-quality products that align exactly with what your customers want and need.
Using collected data to prioritize features
Once you’ve collected feedback from your customers and users via surveys, you can use that valuable data to prioritize features in your roadmapping.
Different types of product features
During the product roadmap process, it’s essential to identify the different types of features and decide which ones are most important to the customer and user experience. Customer feedback can help you prioritize various ideas for features.
These are features that are innovative and exciting. Perhaps it’s something none of your competitors has offered yet, or using a brand-new technology that your product team is excited about. It’s important to test these features with customers to ensure it’s something they truly want and not just something that’s exciting for your product managers—that’s key to creating great CX.
Features that your product cannot operate successfully without, or that your customers have repeatedly clamored for, are your must-have features. They may not be the most exciting and novel features, but they’re essential to the success of your product and need to be included in your product roadmap.
These features are interesting and helpful, but not necessarily ground-breaking or deal-breakers. They can fall lower in the prioritization queue for when your product team has time to take them on.
Who cares features
As their name implies, these are features that your team could theoretically implement—but that no one really cares about. Put these features in the backlog and get to them when there’s available time, or when they become more important to your customers or your product team.
Steps to feature prioritization
Once you have identified your potential features and decided which categories they fall into, it’s time to actually prioritize them to figure out which ones to include in your current product roadmap.
Step 1: Identify highest value initiatives
Deciding which initiatives offer the highest value to your customers should be relatively simple once you’ve asked those customers for their feedback through surveys. These initiatives should also align closely with your business goals in order to gain maximum value from them.
Step 2: Score these initiatives
Identify the benefit your organization will receive from the high-value initiatives you categorized in the previous step, and estimate the cost they will require to implement.
Step 3: Get stakeholder buy-in on the newly prioritized roadmap
Now that you have a list of high-priority initiatives and a score for their benefit and feasibility, it’s time to get buy-in from your stakeholders. These could include teams in related departments who will be integral to the product design process, executives, and external partners as well. Once you have gathered feedback and gotten buy-in, your product roadmap is ready to launch!
The key to building a successful product roadmap is developing a deep understanding of what your customers truly want. By asking customers for insights into their views on your current products and features, as well as what they want to see in the future, you can build products that provide an exceptional customer experience and create customer loyalty for years to come. GetFeedback makes collecting and understanding customer feedback simple—try it today.