When your company is working towards a launch, a product roadmap is a handy visual that product managers can use to guide their team towards success.
But creating a good product roadmap requires a few key decisions to be made well in advance so that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
So, how do you create a product roadmap that leads to success?
In this article, I will outline the crucial steps for creating an efficient roadmap for launching new products.
A product launch roadmap is an essential visual with a high-level overview of the customer journey—the roadmap usually includes most of the below steps:
Launch roadmaps can take a variety of different forms. Some look like mind maps, like this example, while others take on the form of a simple timeline or an infographic.
The way a product launch map looks depends largely on the needs of the launch management team and the complexity of the process.
Putting the visual design of your roadmap aside, there are a few steps that should be followed by everyone adopting a project roadmap.
Creating a map for your product launch is an essential and efficient way to make the launch journey appear seamless.
But to achieve this, there are some practices to be followed so that the team can achieve its launch goals.
Mapping out a product launch doesn’t just mean visualizing your path from point A to point B—you need to break the entire process down.
This means breaking the launch cycle down to its most minor components and then setting out goals for each segment.
For instance, your product creation process may require some phases to be completed before the next step can be attempted.
You need to include these phases in your process chart with clearly defined goals so that the team knows what they need to aim for and achieve before moving on.
These goals could be the implementation of new buttons in an app, added functionality on a website, or the manufacturing of parts for the final product.
No matter what the goals are for your product launch stages, they should be clearly defined and assigned to the correct teams, as you can see in the example below.
By setting goals for your team members, you make it easier for everyone involved to function as a cohesive whole.
Speaking of setting goals, it is also important to convey which aspects of the launch needs to be prioritized over others.
Managers must remember that not everyone in their team nor the organization, is focused on the same end goal.
Many lower-level employees have distinct tasks that they need to complete. Though these contribute heavily to the final launch, these tasks are often end goals in themselves.
Additionally, launch-related tasks can get clumped in with employees’ other duties, which may lead to them prioritizing another project instead.
This is why the project manager needs to highlight priorities within the launch project plan.
However, this can often be a challenge. The process of launching a new product can be unpredictable, and there are several variables beyond a manager’s control.
What is Agile Methodology and How Can it Help Your Online Shop?
What a manager can do, in this case, is to examine what activities can be quantifiably measured and highlight those as a priority.
It is also safe to assume which steps would not be possible without the completion of other goals—you can’t launch a product without a marketing strategy in place, after all.
At all times, it is important to look at your end goal—that is how you can determine what aspects can safely be prioritized over others.
The challenge with determining priorities is that one doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or make any departments feel like you aren’t giving their needs enough weight.
Project managers will find themselves struggling to balance between hearing everyone out and giving them their due, with prioritizing aspects that will lead to a successful launch.
It is important to note that every department is looking at the launch from its point of view—for instance, when you have a functioning prototype of the product.
Operations will want a sample of the product to test so they can train staff, whereas marketing will want photographs for their pre-launch page.
While we're on the topic of launch pages, don't miss our free checklist to make sure you optimize your landing pages for more conversions
It may be possible to achieve results for one department faster than another, which means the manager will have to deliver the bad news to someone sooner rather than later.
Instead of leaving everything up in the air, clearly define achievable goals (to the best of your knowledge) in your launch process, and explain why certain steps can’t be fast-tracked.
This will make it easier to manage the expectations of teams and higher executives who aren’t directly involved with the day to day workings of the product adoption plan, but who still have a vested interest in it.
An important point to remember when creating a product roadmap is that not everyone involved needs to be made aware of every aspect of the launch plan.
Some team members may be required to come in at a later stage, whereas others will finish their key components early on and have little to do with the product from then on.
Why does either group have to see the launch process from start to finish? They don’t, and you need to tailor your launch plan with that in mind.
Divide up your roadmap and highlight the portions that are relevant to the departments you send them to.
Look at the below example that divides the phases by color.
With a document like this, if a new functionality has been added to the product that could potentially drive up sales, you can highlight that section when circulating the roadmap to the sales team, but not when you send it to the operations team.
This process does require some forethought, but it will better help product managers manage expectations while also keeping relevant people in the loop about their priorities.
When the idea for a new product is discussed, it can be easy to fall into the trap of imagining other aspects that can be achieved during the process that will make the launch more successful.
You can avoid that by creating a launch plan that is flexible but doesn’t allow for too much change.
Look at this roadmap example and how it neatly divides the timeframe of the product plan.
There is enough flexibility here to add or subtract elements as and when required, without any overextension of the goals or expectations from team members.
Project managers must fight the temptation to overreach and over-promise in the launch documentation.
They should ask themselves whether the process and functionalities they are planning to include in the roadmap are actually achievable or merely wishful thinking.
And this is particularly important when project managers are fielding requests from different departments—everyone wants the product to reflect their needs, after all.
A certain amount of firmness is required for this, alongside a tight hold on the launch plan.
Ensure that people can comment and reply on the plan, but limit editing access to a shareable document.
This will discourage people from adding their requirements into the roadmap without consulting the manager—you don’t want to put undue pressure on the team.
We have already mentioned that the launch roadmapping process can’t be air-tight—some aspects are too up in the air even as the team reaches the end goal.
But as the launch process progresses, certain aspects will become more clear, while others will change or have to be removed completely.
These changes will affect different people at different times and need to be properly communicated.
In fact, not noting a change could lead to disaster—you don’t want team members working on a redundant task, or going off on a tangent that is no longer relevant.
Keeping people appraised of what is happening in the launch journey at all times is an extremely important part of the planning process.
But this process needs to include two-way communication, as much as any other project does. It isn’t enough to inform people of updates—you need to know how they affect others.
As a launch manager, you will have a high-level understanding of the impact of changes. This is why you need to create a process for receiving and accepting feedback in the plan.
Be open to the feedback you receive—some deadlines may not be achievable, while certain teams may find themselves questioning the reasoning behind a particular task.
Feedback is always necessary for all projects and must be considered when creating a launch plan.
Having spoken about the importance of feedback, we have also implied that reviewing the product launch map is a necessary part of the job.
Creating a plan at the start of the process doesn’t mean that it will remain the same right through to the end. Your plan should be reflective of the changes, updates, and completion of tasks.
This is why reviewing the roadmap should become a habit for the launch team. Schedule a day and time when you look over the map and acknowledge any changes that have been made and whether the feedback given can be accomplished.
Regular reviews of the launch plan will ensure that no updates are missed and that feedback is acknowledged in time, making for a more efficient system.
It is important to remember that no project succeeds in isolation—numerous people and teams are involved in the launch of a successful product.
Juggling the various responsibilities, expectations, and goals can be a challenge for a project manager, but with a launch roadmap, the process will become easier and more efficient.
There are many benefits to using a launch plan and with these best practices managers can create an efficient system that will result in a great launch.