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Four steps to building a SaaS product roadmap that actually works

If you’re a software company bringing a product to market, you’ve probably developed a plan for how you’ll do that.

But for many, this plan is essentially an internal piece with internal-facing strategies and tactics. Contrary to popular belief, that isn’t what a product roadmap should be. 

When companies craft a roadmap that doesn’t take into account the needs of the customer, they can turn out hyperspecific, unrealistic, static, lacking a clear vision, and completely out of touch with the customer. 

A genuine product roadmap is so much more — it can be the difference between success and failure of your product or business.

At Monterro, we support our portfolio companies in building rock solid SaaS product roadmaps that are a genuine encapsulation of strategic intent. 

In this blog, we delve into how you can build a product roadmap that gives your organisation direction. 

That will allow you to: signal ambition, rally teams around a single vision, win and keep the right customers, and reassure investors of significant progress. 


Sounds good? Let’s get started.

Building a useable SaaS product roadmap

Every team within your organisation, DevOps right through to Marketing, can benefit from a well thought out product roadmap. 

That’s because a product roadmap gives everyone a clear understanding of the changes that need to happen for customers to get the most out of the product. And crucially,how those changes must happen. 

There are four steps that go into creating any impactful product roadmap:


Step 1: Understand how you solve your customers’ problems

Narrow down why and how you solve your customers’ problem(s), how that connects to your product’s direction, and to your company’s strategy and ambition. Then, distil the outcome of these discussions into an engaging, high-level narrative. 

This is where your product manager becomes a true customer advocate, gaining a detailed understanding of the issues your customers face, the solutions competing for their attention, how they expect to work with you, and all the best ways to reach them. 

Don’t forget to look at this from every angle. Include representatives from all departments including: UI/UX design, engineering, sales, support, marketing, and finance among others. 


Step 2: Put your identified customer needs to the test 

Now that you have a good idea of what your customers’ needs are, filter that feedback through these three lenses: strategic forces, competitive forces, and market forces. 

By looking at strategic forces, you can assess how changes in the market – like geopolitical changes and industry changes – may impact customer needs. Then consider how you cater to this need. 

Competitive forces can help you understand the alternatives and what you can learn and leverage from them. Don’t forget that ‘do nothing’ can also be a competitive option for the customer. 

Finally, by looking at market forces, like advice from industry analysts, you’ll gain access to a wealth of customer insight. 


Step 3: Set priorities, draw a timeline

You’ve no doubt got a laundry list of tasks to do. Don’t panic (yet). 

Sort your priorities into three time periods: “now” (projects that need to take place in 0-6 months), “next” (projects that need to take place in 6-24 months), and “later” (projects that need to take place in 24+ months). 

Once you have this in place, your product owner and development teams can break these steps down into epics, user stories, features, and tasks.


Step four: Synthesise your input into one roadmap 

Use one statement of direction, value, priority and ambition — all reflected by what you choose to do and not do.

Remember: a product roadmap is a short, inspiring representation of your plans for future product capabilities and improvements — and how they solve specific customer problems. 

It communicates not just how you aim to solve these problems, but also what differentiates your approach from your competitors, and how that approach adds value for the customer.


Putting your rock solid SaaS product roadmap to work

A good, working product roadmap can give your teams direction in an otherwise chaotic process of keeping your key offering relevant and competitive.
It can also help you demonstrate your vision to stakeholders, so they know exactly how every step contributes to the overall success of the business. 

That’s why building your product roadmap should be at the very top of your priority list.
But remember, product roadmaps are living things that need to be updated, maintained, and adapted.. That’s how all your customer and market insight come to life.
The good news? We’ve got a whole bunch of advice on those steps.

If you’re ready to get into them, download our product roadmap playbook for software companies