Create a Product Roadmap That’s Designed for Startup Speed

Let’s go fast without breaking stuff

Joe Procopio

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I just completed my company’s product roadmap, outlining the future of our suite of digital and physical products for the next 12 months.

It took me a little over a year to get it done.

The company is already seven years old, fully funded several times over, with hundreds of employees, doing mobile business in over 40 cities across the country at the rate of thousands of sales on any given day. (Oh, and this isn’t my first product rodeo. I’ve been building products and startups for a couple decades.) That said, I have a very simple, very important, one-word excuse for why the roadmap took me so long: Velocity.

In other words: The speed at which we push product out the door and bring revenue in.

A startup’s greatest limitation is time, and product planning is, at best, a luxury. But without product planning, there is chaos, and mistakes, and rework. So with that in mind, here’s how to build a product roadmap that aligns with your company’s goals and doesn’t turn your throughput into a slow, bureaucratic soup.

Why Most Startup Product Roadmaps Fail

That section title above is actually a little bit of a headfake. I’m not going to list a number of important-sounding reasons why every startup’s roadmap (except mine) doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do — which is provide a clear, unambiguous path to get the product from point A to point B.

A quick search of the internet will reward you with dozens of upsell documents containing such lists — covering everything from missed deadlines to poor document versioning.

But most of those content marketing pieces will mention, with maybe a little different wording, that one of the most common and biggest problems is that the roadmap is “just a list of features.”

This is meant to turn your head. That’s when most of those upsell pieces will get a little vague as to why having a company-wide communicated list of upcoming features is a problem.

Why vague? Because at its core, a product roadmap really is just a plain-english list of features.

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com