So, you and your team finally launched your big new product into the marketplace. It took 2 years and the collective will of most of your corporation in order to pull it off. So, now that everybody's done giving each other a bunch of high fives...what's next?
If company executives are just now asking themselves this question, then they probably lack a detailed product strategy and associated product roadmap. The purpose of a product roadmap is to outline at a high level, the path that a brand will take to deliver its product strategy. This should help drive the product planning, resource allocation and development activities to fulfill the strategy.
Retail marketers routinely use road-mapping as a planning tool. During my years at Bath and Body Works (BBW), the merchants would regularly diagram their brand's 2-3 year roadmap and its supporting business rationale as part of the company's brand planning procedure.
Let's assume that BBW's True Blue Spa brand will launch a collection of new products next Spring. What product "news" should follow this launch next Fall, and so forth? Which customers and consumer needs will these items address that the earlier products did not? How will this plan help ensure continued sales growth?
Drilling down further on this example, the technologies required to support True Blue Spa's new spray-on self-tanner for Spring '15 swimsuit season will need to be available in early '14. This will necessitate that a technology development or search effort occur even earlier. And so on.
If a company is being disciplined in its product planning, its technology needs should be pretty crisply defined and outlined. This makes it that much more understandable why companies can seem so rigid with respect to their technology need requirements. It also helps to explain why opportunistic technology finds usually can't find a home with companies geared to adhere to a defined product plan. (As discussed a few weeks ago, I feel companies should have mechanisms that allow their consideration of "outliers").
Product roadmaps are planning tools that help define and outline (and communicate) a path forward. They should be treated as a flexible planning tool versus a firm statement of commitment (although sometimes they can be treated that way). This is to allow adjustments in response to various changing business circumstances. Still, when used properly, they provide a vision to help direct internal development activities and to help set and manage expectations. For perspective, P&G roadmaps its prospective product launches 10 years out.
Product roadmaps can be vital to effective new product development and business planning. To learn more about this topic, here are some good possible starting points.
Product Canvas Template:
Product Roadmap Template: