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I am a software architect and loud-mouth on the design and development of enterprise softwares. Also I am a visionary who loves Big Data and Start-Up Chris is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 11 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

How to Get a Realistic Product Roadmap

01.17.2014
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I am struggling with my stakeholders and product owner on a discussion that how and what kind of features should be inside product roadmap for this year implementation. Then I received list of features with very high level estimations, something like a Gantt chart. As soon as I saw it, I noticed something is missing. The most important missing element is agile spirit. My impression out of such feature list was waterfall not agile. Something similar to following image:


This is what I always wanted to avoid because of various researches and failed experiences that I had in product development. One of the serious issues of such model product roadmap definition is lack of customer development. Lack of customer development approaches can cause significant product failures. Following image is trying to show what is customer development in a snapshot:


Lemme share couple of good resources which will help on this topic.

  • Perfection by subtraction by Steve Blank – Having a clear, tight vision helps to keep development scope down, but it isn’t the key to the “minimum viable product” often mentioned in discussions about product development.  The key is to get a product in front of customers who can understand the vision and who can become evangelists for it because – They have a problem your vision will solve. They understand they have the problem. They have been actively looking for a solution. They have put together some parts of a solution themselves. They have or can get a budget for something that solves the problem.  These customers can validate the vision and will actively pull it into the shape that fits their context. With them behind you – you can develop a beta product that is much closer to what the market needs.
  • Why startups fail by David Skok – The business model is just as important as the feature set in the end. We’ve all heard of great products that never sold enough to return their investment before failing. Learning if you have a market fit, if you can actually scale your operations profitably, if the cost of acquiring a customer (CAC) is less than the average lifetime value (LTV), and if you are going to have enough cash when it comes time to hit the marketing accelerator pedal – these are differences between success and crash and burn. They come down to having a roadmap that gets you into the market early, allows you to test your business model and your product before you have burned all your cash.
  • and my favorite The promise of Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Eric has a very good presentation with the difference between two companies he was with – that brought him into Lean thinking.
  • Value-Driven Product Development by Aaron Schildkrout. Value is created by fulfilling deep desires and solving deep problems. This is what gets the people moving, what gets them to pull out a credit card, to tell all their friends, to come back day after day to consume your content and your ads, and move your little icon to their home screen and tap it more than all the others

Long story short. What I am looking for product roadmap is a a methodology that matches the "customer development" model and agile development methodology like XP or Scrum, something similar to this image:


Then I stumbled on an interesting methodology developed by a company called Scio. Scio calls this approach as Lean Product Development which is explained in following image:


I believe this model is pretty good and is covering a lot of concerns. However in my humble opinion:

  • Timing part can be different from one to another company
  • I believe Phase 0 is missing. Phase 0 suppose choose ideas and high level features that needs to be worked on. This decision can be achieved by following metrics:

An ideally the blueprint should be something like following image:



Published at DZone with permission of Chris Shayan, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)