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Define your product roadmap in early stage startup

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How to define a product roadmap?

When we talk about building or growing a startup, the backbone of the project is as always the product roadmap. What feature are you going to provide to your customers? When? Which one first? Are they ready to pay for it?

When I help a project to get started or even on a growing stage, it often a similar process we go through to help entrepreneur take into consideration their own desire and above all the customers’ desires.

Why does your startup exist?

All start from here. Defining the reason why your project exists, defining in one sentence the purpose of your project. Quite a difficult challenge! If it’s not as easy as it should be for you, let’s get down deeper on what are your values (usually the company value are representative of the founders values). So write down the key values and from it try to come up to a sentence that describe how does your startup affect the world.

Brainstorming / Idea generation

This part is usually much easier than the others. The most difficult part is to ensure that you’ve explored all the possibilities and, above all, that the idea is aligned with what your customers are willing to pay for. For the ideas generation, the best way to move forward is to start from questions which you should ask your targeted customers:

  • What activity in your business takes you a lot of time?
  • What do you like the most and what do you like the least?
  • What is the most critical job in your business?
  • What is the first [second, third, etc] thing you do in the morning, or even better, what does your typical day looks like?
  • What manual tasks in your daily routine would you like to automate?
  • Think about the last couple of days at work, what have been your biggest struggles lately?
  • How much time do you spend emailing on a given day, and what is the main topics?
  • What is the biggest problem in your industry?
  • What is the most expensive problem in your business? Do you think this could be automated?
  • How do you create value for your customers?
  • What would help you generate more revenue or create value for your customers?
  • What is something you know your customers want from you but you have trouble providing?
  • What’s a problem you’ve tried to solve in the past but it didn’t work out?
  • If you had a magic wand what’s the one thing you would change in and around your business?
  • If you had unlimited resources, what would you develop to make your day more productive?
  • What software do you wish existed but you can’t seem to find it?
  • Is there anything you want to do with your mobile phone that you can’t right now?
  • Are you currently using any sort of software?
  • Are there any features missing in your current software that you wish existed?
  • Are there any areas in your business where duplicate data entry exists?
  • What’s the most frustrating part of your business?
  • If some day you should have this magic software that you just thought about, how much time/income could that generate/save you?
  • What question should I ask you and I didn’t?

Note: Never ask yes or no questions, always open questions.

Prioritization

If you have done the previous step right, you should have a lot of features ideas to start with. You might even imagine a product that handle all of these. At that stage, even if you had millions of dollars of investment, doing all of these would be a huge mistake.

Mainly because you need to confirm the need of these features, being sure that you’ve well implemented the first one before moving forward to the second one.

This is why prioritization is one of the most difficult parts.

Usually, you already have the right feature in your basket to succeed, but if you show the wrong one to your customer, you’ll lose him. The feature order is critical. Usually I use two steps to sort out the roadmap priority.

Prioritize depending on your value

According to the reason why your startup exists, I like to prioritize depending on your values.

So let’s attribute a keyword that represents the value behind each feature. (example : freedom, fast, transparency, … )

Then create a post-it note for every keyword without writing down which feature is behind.

Prioritize the key value from the most important to the less important ones, regardless of the feature that it represents.

Depending on your value top chart, gather the 3 or 5 best key values and features they represent. Usually, features are quite compatible and might represent the next version you should develop.

The second step is effectiveness prioritization

When you’ve prioritized features according to your vision and value, try to prioritize them with the effectiveness criteria. I often use these:

  • How much value your customer will get from this feature? Rank it from 0 to 10
  • How complicated/expensive is it to implement this feature? Rank it from 0 to 10

Conclusion

When you’ve done you prioritization, through the previous steps, it’s time for you to get into action. But remember do only one step at a time and do your best to share the first step before doing the second one. As usual, feel free to share your way of doing things or ask questions here.

Referral:

Thanks to Dane Maxwell’s framework from the foundation: https://thefoundation.com

2 Comments

  1. Reda says:

    Very interesting article!

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