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Product & Prototype

DIY Manage Your Product Roadmap: Guidance for Nontechnical Founders

By May 12, 2019 No Comments

Maybe you understand the concept of creating a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) but even that can seem daunting as a nontechnical founder. You have the vision but may struggle with how to break it down into something manageable and affordable to build now. Cue stage right: You need a Product Roadmap.

It feels like rocket science…because product management is backed by some technical, strategic and engineering-based logic.

Before you throw your hands up or stop everything to find a technical founder, take a moment to get your bearings straight on product management and what it means to build a product roadmap. You do not need to know how to code to do this.

Basic Definition

A Product Roadmap is very similar to a project or work plan. It’s a list of features you’re going to build, in the order you’re going to build them, where each is assigned an estimated due date.

The Product Development Journey

When it comes to designing and developing your product, you want to follow the model outlined in my Innovation Cycle Framework. You begin by exploring the problem you want to solve and the opportunity for you to seize.

Once you determine the most valuable problem you’re solving, you should have guidance on your early product iterations. With the Real MVP, you will explore all the possible solutions out there, picking the best one for you to pursue.

Teeming with ideas and vision, you’ll have an idea of what your total product could be after 12-18 months of hard work. But, you have to scale that down to what you can launch quickly to test your business model and product viability.

Organize all of your ideas into a big product vision that can be built in 12-18 months

Once you have this strategy, you can prototype your product, start getting feedback, and build the longer term product roadmap.

The Product Strategy Roadmap to Build off Your Minimal Viable Product

Your big vision is a dream solution. But, you cannot do all of that for your first version. Your first prototype, often referred to as your Minimal Viable Product, has only the essential features to demonstrate your unique vision. Testing this lines up with the Innovation Cycle Framework benchmark “Value / Prototype Fit.”

Your next product roadmap stage is to move from Prototype to Pilot. For a pilot, your next chunk of work should be the features that make the product a little more whole and standalone. These include: Sign Up, Log In, User Settings and maybe a Dashboard.

You will break this work up over “sprints” which are just segments of work that incrementally grow your product from the core value to something closer to your 18-month big vision.

The product pyramid shows how you can split your 18 month product vision into sprints - diagonal cross sections of the triangle
Find more of these instructions, images and tutorials in my Product Roadmap Primer

Managing Your Product Roadmap Long Term

The long term challenge in product management is to constantly balance new feature development while also improving existing features. This requires more strategic thinking and frameworks then understanding software development and the technical implementation.

As a nontechnical founder, you can give away a piece of your company to a technical founder or make HUGE strides (without learning how to code) by managing your product roadmap yourself.

Building a Product Roadmap and Strategy is like laying the groundwork for your business. Used in conjunction with my new product-market fit benchmarks, you’ll be confident that your product meets a market need.

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