As a SaaS product owner, you know that a SaaS product roadmap is crucial for guiding your team and ensuring that your product aligns with your business goals.
However, creating a roadmap from scratch can be daunting, especially when you consider your customers' constantly evolving needs and preferences.
The problem is compounded when you factor in the growing competition in the SaaS industry.
Without a well-planned and executed roadmap, your product may lose its relevance and fail to meet the expectations of your customers.
In this article, we will guide you through ten essential steps to build a SaaS product roadmap, along with tips and examples to help you create a roadmap that is flexible, customer-centric, and goal-oriented.
A SaaS product roadmap is a multi-level plan that outlines a SaaS product's features, goals, improvements, and milestones.
This strategic document can also include timelines for the entire SaaS app development, release, and marketing processes. It will clearly communicate what actions should be taken on the app and at what time.
You can think of a SaaS product roadmap as a blueprint. It gives you a clear vision of how you and your team plan to develop and improve the SaaS product over time.
The SaaS product roadmap is also a communication tool to align development, sales, finance, and marketing teams toward the product's short and long-term goals. This shared understanding helps ensure transparency among team members.
A SaaS product roadmap is essential for any company that provides software-based products or services.
Here are some key reasons why building a SaaS product roadmap is important:
Creating a SaaS product roadmap is challenging, but not if you know the right steps to take.
For this reason, we have put together ten steps to help you create an actionable SaaS product roadmap to take strategic decisions and stay ahead of your competitors:
Before you begin creating your SaaS product roadmap, you should define its vision.
To do that, answer the following questions in as much detail as possible:
Once you've defined your vision, write down your short-term and long-term goals to help achieve it. To do that, start by setting your long-term goals first and breaking them down into short-term ones.
For example, suppose you want to build a cloud-based Human Resource (HR) management platform. Your long-term vision can include developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) within the first six months.
To achieve the long-term goal, you can then create short-term goals like:
As you start to put together your roadmap, it's important to consider the stakeholders' inputs. Stakeholders can be anyone associated with the SaaS product you are about to build, like potential customers, investors, and the board of directors.
These people are vested in your product or service and can provide valuable insight into what to include in your roadmap.
If you skip this step, you might design a product that may not work. One such example of SaaS product failure is Ink, a SaaS app for digital signatures. According to one of the co-founders, their biggest mistake was that they were too focused on building the product and spent less time talking to the customers and other stakeholders.
Take stakeholders' input regularly if you don't want to make a similar mistake.
Feature prioritization is deciding which SaaS product features are most important, which need to be included in your product roadmap, and when to release them. This step is important because it helps you determine the order in which you will build your product roadmap.
If you don't prioritize features, you may get confused about resource allocation. For example, you may end up giving more resources to less-required features.
There are multiple feature prioritization frameworks you can use. Some of the most common and solid frameworks are:
The MoSCoW Framework is a prioritization technique that categorizes features based on their importance. MoSCoW stands for Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, and Won't-have.
The Kano Model is a technique that categorizes features based on how they impact customer satisfaction. In the Kano Model, the project manager compiles a list of questionnaires and surveys to collect answers from potential end users.
The project manager then creates a customer satisfaction chart based on the answers.
They then categorize the SaaS product features into basic, excitement, performance, indifferent, and dissatisfaction. The features that fall into the first three categories are the ones the development team will include.
The RICE framework is a prioritization technique that combines four factors: reach, impact, confidence, and effort.
You can then use this formula to calculate the RICE score and prioritize accordingly.
RICE Score = (Reach x Impact x Confidence) / Effort
The Weighted Scoring Model is a prioritization technique that assigns a score to each feature based on predefined criteria.
Story Mapping is a technique that helps product teams visualize and prioritize features and user stories more holistically and sequentially.
Once you prioritize features based on their importance and value, it is time to start planning your strategy on how to bring them to life.
You can use several brainstorming techniques to generate ideas for the features. Mind mapping is one of the most popular methods, which involves visually organizing your thoughts on a whiteboard or paper.
Another approach is free association. Just write down anything that comes to mind when you think about what makes a good feature for your product.
You must also decide whether you only want a SaaS platform or a SaaS mobile app and what different features each will have. This will help you determine the human resources you will need.
Once you know the resources and team requirements for developing your SaaS product, you can also decide if you want an in-house team or would want to outsource some parts of its development to a software development company.
Now that you've defined your product roadmap, it's time to set the project completion goals. The first step in this process is defining the project’s timeline.
You can do this by breaking down your roadmap into different phases. This will help you understand how long each phase should take, as well as what deliverables are expected at each stage of development.
Once you've done this, set a specific date and milestone against all the phases on your timeline before adding the resources needed for those tasks. Your general aim should be to accelerate your product's time to market to a gain competitive advantage in the market.
There are many different tools for creating roadmaps. You can use a spreadsheet, pen and paper, or a whiteboard. But investing in the right software is essential if you're working with a team of people to create your SaaS product roadmap.
You'll want to use a tool that is easy to learn so that everyone on your team understands how it works and can contribute their ideas without getting bogged down by technical obstacles. In addition, make sure that whatever tools you choose fit all the needs of your business model.
Here are some tools you can use for creating SaaS product roadmaps:
You may already know the importance of clean design.
But if you don't, here's a stat to help you get a clear idea: according to recent data, 84.6% of web designers believe that building a crowded web design is a common mistake small businesses make.
The same is true for a SaaS product roadmap. The more crowded the roadmap, the harder it is to understand.
This means the roadmap should be created in a way that effectively communicates what needs to be done. For starters, it should use color and font styles that are clear and reader-friendly. For example, use different colors for tasks depending on their status (e.g., green for complete) or their priority (e.g., red for top priority).
The bar fill level of each task can also indicate progress. Full bars mean you've completed the task, half-full bars indicate partial completion and empty bars mean you have not started working on the task.
Additionally, you should use arrows between different steps of the process flowchart to help other team members or stakeholders see how one step leads to another.
This can help them understand where they're going next! You can do many such things to make your SaaS product roadmap easy to understand.
Monitoring outcomes and key results is an effective way to assess your product’s development progress by measuring how well it meets the roadmap’s objectives.
For example, if one of your goals was “we want to build and release the MVP within six months," then you would use this metric as part of your outcome monitoring process.
You can make the roadmap accessible to relevant teams and stakeholders by using a tool like Kanban. Kanban is a visual tool that allows you to create different stages for your product. You can then add tasks into each stage as relevant teams complete them so everyone knows what's being worked on at any given time.
This transparency is essential to ensure everyone is aligned with the project's objectives. If not, this can lead to failures. For example, Ansaro, an HR-related SaaS, failed after two years. According to one of the co-founders of the SaaS product, lack of transparency and expertise were at the core of failure.
The responsibility of the product roadmap was on the co-founder. And when the core product idea turned out to be wrong, it took several months for others to question it due to a lack of transparency.
The roadmap is a dynamic document that should be updated regularly. It's important to ensure the roadmap is up-to-date with current priorities, goals, and setbacks, so you can make decisions quickly when needed.
If you're working on multiple products simultaneously, consider creating separate roadmaps for each one. This helps keep things organized and makes it easier for people who aren't involved in both projects.
A well-structured roadmap helps SaaS product team members align their priorities. But for the team to understand the roadmap’s priorities and the product’s vision, the SaaS product roadmap should be as detailed and clear as possible.
This does not mean you should make the roadmap overly complex by adding every detail possible. Instead, try to add relevant details in a precise manner by including the right elements in your roadmap and visualizing them.
Here are eight things to include in a SaaS product roadmap:
Roadmaps are a key component of successful SaaS companies. However, not all roadmaps are created equal. In fact, there are different types of roadmaps used for different purposes.
Let's explore the eight types of SaaS product roadmaps that relevant teams involved in the development process can use:
A technology roadmap shows the evolution of a product's technical architecture. It can include technology stack details along with timeframes.
This is usually meant for web development teams.
You can also include a scope for identifying emerging technologies and potential market opportunities. For example, you can include timeframes for analyzing tech trends and the most useful technologies for your specific use case.
A SaaS feature-based roadmap shows feature prioritization. A good feature roadmap will also show how the product should evolve, what's being prioritized, and why.
This can help track each feature's development and the resources required.
In addition, the feature-based roadmap should also show the relationship between different features as well as the company's overall strategy. This helps avoid redundant work by reducing the chances of building similar or overlapping features.
These are roadmaps that focus on themes and goals. They are ideal for teams who are looking to communicate their product strategy in a way that's easy to understand.
A goal-oriented roadmap focuses on the key objectives you want to achieve over time and then breaks those down into smaller, more digestible chunks.
The Now-Next-Later roadmap is a framework that helps you understand your product's current state and what it needs to succeed in the market.
You can then prioritize the product feature based on how ready they are, how important they are to customers, and the risk involved in delivering them.
You can think of this roadmap as a goal-oriented roadmap but with prioritization. The Now-Next-Later roadmap consists of three columns:
This type of roadmap is more strategic. It focuses on the company's strategic goals and shows how the product aligns with them.
The strategy roadmap should be flexible enough to allow for changes in strategy, but it should also show how the business can maintain its goals in light of those changes.
This type of roadmap is helpful because it helps you decide where your product needs to go next based on what's essential for your company.
A portfolio roadmap is a high-level view of the company's product portfolio.
It helps to define and communicate multiple product strategies while also serving as an internal communication tool to share this information with stakeholders.
For example, portfolio roadmaps can be a valuable tool for the sales team in a SaaS company. The sales team can use it as a source of information when interacting with potential customers.
By understanding the customer's needs and goals, the sales team can tailor their pitch and suggest the most relevant products to the customer.
A SaaS market roadmap is a strategic plan that outlines the steps a company will take to develop, launch, and scale its SaaS product in the market.
It includes a detailed analysis of:
A SaaS product release roadmap is a high-level view of the product's releases. It outlines the timeline for the launch of the SaaS product. The roadmap is further divided into releasing new features, updates, and improvements to the SaaS product.
This roadmap typically includes details about the features that will be released, the timeline for each release, and any dependencies or prerequisites your team should address before the release can occur.
You must update the release roadmap regularly as new information becomes available or changes occur in an agile environment.
Both internal and external SaaS roadmaps are important for SaaS companies but serve different purposes.
Internal roadmaps help ensure the development team focuses on building the right features and capabilities into its product.
External roadmaps, on the other hand, help build customer trust by providing transparency into the company's plans.
For example, let’s say a software company is developing a new SaaS-based project management tool. Internal roadmaps for developers and marketers can have information like what features will go inside the tool, when will they be released, and how and when your marketing team will create a marketing strategy for the tool.
On the other hand, an external roadmap will have information like future plans for the SaaS app, subscription model planning, etc.
Here's how internal and external SaaS roadmaps differ based on who uses them:
Companies use internal SaaS roadmaps to guide their internal product development efforts.
Some examples of internal SaaS roadmaps include:
An external SaaS roadmap is a public-facing document that a company shares with its customers and investors.
It provides a high-level overview of the company's vision, highlights major upcoming product releases, and outlines the key features and enhancements customers can expect to see in future product updates.
External SaaS roadmaps are also useful as a marketing tool. You can use them to generate traction around your SaaS product and give customers a sense of the company's direction.
Creating a SaaS product roadmap is just the start of the process. As we already mentioned, you need to maintain and regularly update your SaaS product roadmap once it’s ready.
Here are some tips to simplify SaaS product roadmap maintenance:
Here are some SaaS product roadmap templates that you can use to plan and communicate your product development roadmap:
Building a comprehensive SaaS product roadmap is essential for your business’s success.
By following the ten steps outlined in this guide and incorporating the tips and examples provided, you can create a roadmap that sets you on the path toward achieving your business objectives.
Make IT Simple is a web development company with an extensive experience in SaaS product development. Our experts can help you not only navigate the process of creating a roadmap but also with the next steps of the SaaS development process: web design and bespoke SaaS software development.
Contact our team today to learn how we can assist you in building a roadmap that drives your business forward.
If you are looking for a bespoke software development company, please get in touch by phone by calling +44 (0) 1905 700 050 or filling out the form below.
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