A product roadmap is essential for guiding the strategic direction of mobile app development. A roadmap is designed to communicate the “why” behind what you’re building. When you begin your development project, it’s important to remember that a roadmap is not set in stone; instead, it is made to accommodate change.
It’s a complicated process determining what aspects of your mobile app will be the most valuable for your user base. This article will break down how to identify the primary goal of your product and how to create a business strategy and a roadmap to achieve that goal.
What is a Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap has several objectives:
- Define your vision and strategy
- Acts as a blueprint for executing your plan
- Aligns internal stakeholders
- Assists scenario discussion and planning
- Communicates the status and progress of development
- Clarifies strategy to external stakeholders
The most important step in creating a roadmap begins with product discovery. This stage is when you determine the vision and goals for your mobile app.
Product Discovery & Strategic Planning
Start with a high-level strategic vision. During product discovery sessions, you need to come up with a plan for what your mobile app will accomplish, why, and for whom. Don’t stress the granular details, or feature requirements for that matter, instead focus on how the roadmap fits with the strategic direction of your business.
Product discovery will help you articulate and defend your product’s mission, the problem it solves, its target users, and its unique value proposition. This top-down approach to planning makes it easier to identify priorities, as well as elements to set aside for later product releases.
From your product vision, you can determine the product goals that will guide your initiatives for iterative development. Establishing product goals help you transform your strategic vision into actionable deliverables. Again, keep these goals high-level, but linked to a key performance indicator (KPI). Here are a few examples of product goals:
- Mobile Adoption
- Customer Satisfaction
- Increase Lifetime Value (LTV)
- Reduce Churn
- Upsell New Services
By the end of product discovery, you will have answered the question of why are we building this product? The reason why could be an organizational need or a customer need as long as it addresses a current gap in the market. For example, if you’re a retail or eCommerce brand, you may have the long-term goal of reducing time-to-checkout by 30 percent. These strategic decisions are vitally important for sustaining market success.
Pro Tip: Your roadmap is not a backlog. A product roadmap cannot be a list of feature requirements. Remember, a roadmap communicates the big picture of the organization, as well as the strategy and initiatives that move the needle for your business. Use your roadmap to identify gaps where you can expand markets and create customer value.
Great Roadmaps are Data-Driven
Data-driven roadmaps set the foundation for successful development. With your team, establish your success metrics early in the planning process. By defining essential KPIs early, you will gain a firm understanding of what areas to focus on for your first release, as well as what aspects to improve on with each iteration of your product. If you are releasing a minimum viable product (MVP), you should only focus on a limited number of metrics.
Depending on the type of app you are building, you may decide to focus on customer success metrics or take a business-oriented approach. If you’re focusing on customer success, you’ll want to hone in on metrics like adoption rates, retention and churn metrics, product and UX quality, feature usage, or the percentage of users that take an action that matters. On the business end, you’ll be focusing on acquisition costs, LTV, revenue, and conversion metrics.
These are actionable metrics that tie back to the strategic direction and initiatives of your product roadmap. Once you collect the necessary data, you can revise your goals accordingly. When you understand how your users interact with your product with qualitative data, you’ll be able to determine what features and aspects of your product need the most attention with each subsequent release.
Pro Tip: Keep your team close and your competition closer. You can learn a lot about the market you’re about to enter by watching your competitors. However, look for information on unexpected channels. Monitor blog comments and support pages where users are talking about the competition’s product. Use these channels to learn what users like, what they don’t like, and what they want to see next. By monitoring reviews, you can find out what features your potential users are looking for and release them before your competition.
Prioritizing Features for Development
After you’ve done your research, created a vision, and defined your goals, you can start prioritizing what features to include in your app. Start by asking yourself what the core functionality and value this product offers to users is? If you’re launching an MVP, keep product features to a minimum and only focus on what’s necessary to take your app to market.
Create a master list of all the features you want your product to eventually offer and then start organizing and cutting features to keep your product lean. A great method for prioritizing features is to use a MoSCoW matrix. MoSCoW is an acronym that stands for must, should, could, and won’t. This method helps you determine what features need to be implemented first, which features will come later, and which features to cut entirely. If you deem too many features a priority, the timeline, the budget, and the ability to accomplish business goals suffer. The MoSCoW matrix manages scope creep and keeps your project on track.
Pro Tip: Organize your deliverables into themes. At high-level, themes are groups of features, epics, and initiatives that describe an action you aim to help a user accomplish. For example, if your theme is “reduce time-to-checkout by 30 percent,” you will bucket the initiatives to support it like new features, feature enhancements, or bug fixes. A major benefit of themes is you’re able to switch out features in a theme without harming the overall strategy of your roadmap.
Gather Feedback, Measure, Iterate
User feedback is a gold mine of information for helping you pinpoint what areas of your mobile app are doing well, and where you need to improve. This information will help you decide whether to stay on the track you’re on or pivot entirely. Analyzing user feedback and tracking user behavior patterns will show you what your users want and what they need from your product.
Not only is a product roadmap essential for communicating the strategic purpose of your mobile app, but it also helps you make informed decisions about how to enhance user experience with every product release.
Is your project ready for development? Download this mobile app development checklist to find out. The list is the most comprehensive downloadable resource to evaluate development preparedness. You might also want to check out more information on the benefits of launching an MVP.