Tracking Real Startup Progress on a Product Roadmap

Make sure your effort is balanced and your destination is clear

Joe Procopio

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It’s impossible to know how far away your destination is if you don’t know how far you’ve already come.

This is the true purpose of the product roadmap. It’s not about impressing investors. It’s not about delighting customers. It’s not about motivating employees. Sure, it can be all of those things, but if you’re building your product toward any one of those purposes, you’ll probably fail at all of them.

I know. I’ve done it.

In more than 20 years of building high-growth startups, across various industries and at all levels of technical complexity, I’ve learned that one of the more difficult parts of the growth phase is pulling the signal out of the noise, confidence out of chaos and real progress out of perceived progress.

A common tool used across those challenges is a product roadmap, which is a list of features documented out from now to near to far. It’s often a misunderstood document, treated like a homework assignment that has to be tackled before the real work gets done.

I totally get that. I’m a maker and a doer at heart, but I’ve learned the hard way that making and doing without direction is essentially play time. Nothing wrong with play time, of course. But ask any professional athlete and they’ll tell you they don’t get paid to play the game. They get paid for everything else around those couple of hours of play time.

A roadmap will always show you true north. Just like any navigation system, the turn-by-turn directions wouldn’t work without the GPS telling you where you are, and more importantly, how far you’ve come. Once you know that, you can calculate, with pretty decent accuracy, how far there is to go and the arrival time.

You are your startup’s GPS. Let’s talk about how to track your startup’s progress against your roadmap.

A Trackable Roadmap Starts With Goals

This post is the fourth and probably final installment in a loose series on developing a product roadmap at startup speed; it’s about planning for the future while maintaining velocity and flexibility in…

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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