Product Roadmap for SaaS: The Basics

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Mariano Rodríguez
Oct 06, 2021

So you’re going for a long trip, you have a planned destination, but you better take care of all the stops too. The car is ready, everyone’s on board, but where are you going to eat? Will you be able to have restroom stops? Where are you going to spend the night? In the development journey of a SaaS product, we track that path with a roadmap! 

Roadmaps are a perfect tool to keep track of your SaaS company goals, feature development, and general improvements short and long term. In this article, we’ll examine in detail what a roadmap is, who needs to see it and how to make it work for your SaaS. So let’s go to the open road! 🛣️

roadmap

Here are the basics to build a product roadmap for SaaS companies

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a visual representation that serves as a guideline of the entire development process. Think of it as a development map. 🗺️ It should contain your long-term vision, the steps necessary to achieve it, your priorities, and how far you are in that regard. 

Roadmaps are guides that tell your users what to expect in the future. They are also a way for them to interact directly with your product development. Roadmaps should be a dialogue between users and product teams. Users should be encouraged to suggest improvements, and new features, while the product team should use those inputs to prioritize and decide what path to follow.

All SaaS companies are ever-evolving. They follow the movements of the market, new trends, user requests, and better available technology. Roadmaps are living documents because as your product improves, the map changes too. If you want your roadmap to work, you should update it constantly to reflect the hard work that your team is putting into your product.

what is a product roadmap

Who is the roadmap for?

It’s a common but excellent question! It seems that most companies use roadmaps as internal tools, especially for product, development, and leadership teams. And just a few show them to the public, and maybe more should.

Using a roadmap as an internal tool can help you keep your developers on track and inform your sales and marketing teams about future improvements. Everybody will know what their shared goals are, what work is ready, and what’s missing.

An external or public roadmap can entice investors and customers with new additions to an already great product. Even if you missed some features at launch, a roadmap works as a promise of further development. 

You can create a single roadmap for everyone or multiple roadmaps for different groups. But regardless of what you choose, always keep in mind the needs of each group:

  • A roadmap for developers should be task-oriented and full of technical specifications that could help to keep the team in sync and focused on the work you need from them.
  • A roadmap for sales or marketing teams should avoid the technical jargon and focus more on how each planned improvement can solve your customers’ problems. It should also keep them informed on the development process as they will have to convey that information to users and potential customers.
  • A roadmap for executives needs to be business-first. It should focus on strategies, long-term goals, overarching planning, and team coordination. You may differentiate between C-suite executives. For example, a CTO may be more interested in the tech, while the CFO and CEO on the business-side strategies.
  • A roadmap for users should consider who your customers are. A SaaS product aimed at developers may need more technical details than one for general audiences. But regardless of that, it should always convey the advantages of each update in customer-friendly and enticing terms. They need to be excited for what is to come!

 

 

Steps to implement a product roadmap for SaaS

So far, we’ve defined the basics of what a SaaS product roadmap should be. Checked! ☑️ Now it’s time to put it into action! Let’s go step by step:

  1. Define your short and long-term goals and then devise the best strategy to achieve them.
  2. Gather inputs from your product’s stakeholders. For an internal roadmap, your stakeholders are the members of your team. While for an external roadmap, those would be your users and potential customers.
  3. Filter and prioritize the inputs gathered according to your vision and goals.
  4. Start planning! You need to assign resources and set the workflow. That means  select the team, pick a leader, set a time frame and deadlines, and assign a budget.
  5. Create the roadmap with the items defined by the previous steps.
  6. Update your SaaS product roadmap constantly to keep everyone in the know. 

 

There are many different tools and formats to build a roadmap. But if you’re looking for a quick and easy-to-use solution, think of Beamer. Beamer is a suite of tools that includes a changelog, Net Promoter Score surveys, and now roadmaps too! You can create your own in a matter of minutes without any coding.

Beamer roadmap

With Beamer Roadmaps, you can forget about building or coding and focus on managing your updates, adding new ones, and gathering inputs. Your users or team can vote for their favorite updates, letting you know what they are more excited about. And that leads us directly to the next section…

 

How to look for roadmap inputs?

So you have your goals, and you planned a strategy. How to turn that information into features or updates to add to your product roadmap?

Starting from the top

  • Use your set goals as the base for your roadmap.
  • The guiding principle of your map should be your vision, strategy, and long-term goals.
  • You already know what you want to achieve with your SaaS product so, think about what steps are necessary to follow that path.

Starting from the bottom

  • Ask for feedback from all your stakeholders.
  • Consult with all the team members of your team, from development to sales. Each will have different insights about what your SaaS product needs to achieve your set goals. 
  • Ask the public! Gather user inputs through comments, surveys, polls, and open forms.

bottom up vs top down

It has been demonstrated time after time that users want to be heard and that by using user feedback, SaaS companies can boost engagement and sales. By giving your users the chance to request features or vote for their favorite new updates, you’ll create a community and improve brand experience and loyalty

 

What to include in a SaaS product roadmap?

When starting a roadmap, what should be in and what should be left out may be hard to identify. While an internal roadmap needs to be comprehensive (full of all the details to get your team in sync), a public roadmap needs to be impactful.

A neverending list of future updates will confuse your users and potential customers! And it’ll probably give the idea that your product is somewhat incomplete. So what to do? The keyword is prioritizing!

There are different ways to prioritize what features or improvements should go next, like the Kano Model and RICE scoring. My personal favorite and one that illustrates very well what prioritization means is Value vs. Effort.

The name says it all: measure the value that an update provides to your product against the effort required to develop it. The best bet is to pick improvements that need low effort but provide big rewards while avoiding tasks that need high effort and produce a low reward.

Aligning internal teams for your roadmap

Keep in mind that what is considered high or low effort and high or low value may depend on who you ask. That’s why you should always consult with your entire team while you prioritize!

A feature that may seem simple for your marketing team could be a big project for your product development team. And something that your developers swear is a goldmine may be identified as a low revenue idea in practice by your sales team that is more in tune with what the customers want.

Each team will have specific pushes, ideas, pitches, and priorities, and it’s fundamental to align them to work for the same long-term goals. That means balancing their views and prioritizing.

By creating a roadmap according to your goals and values, listening to your stakeholders (like your team and your users), and filtering their inputs to prioritize the most rewarding improvements, you’ll be set on a safe journey on the open road. A convoy of different interests, traveling together in the same direction.

 

align teams for your SaaS roadmap

 

Picking what to show

Keeping your users and customers updated makes for engagement, but you need to plan what to show them and in which level of detail. This is a balancing game. Of course, you need to include basic information like descriptions, but what else should you show?

 

  • As we explained before , different audiences need different details, technical information, customer-focused content, and business strategy.
  • Status tracking is vital. Whoever reads your roadmap needs to know what is planned, in progress, and soon to be completed. Without this information, your roadmap is no more than a wishlist!
  • Priority order can give your customers a sense of what improvements you consider more important and what you will be working on next. But it can also set you on a fixed path without room to work on multiple things at once.
  • Deadlines and time frames are excellent for transparency and to engage users while they wait for their desired update. But they also can restrict your work or confuse your customers if you suddenly need to change your plans. There’s nothing worse for your brand loyalty than broken promises.  

Usually, broader time frames (like months and quarters) are better than fixed dates because you can give your customers an idea of how soon you will finish an update without pushing your team to the extreme.

Remember that regardless of the roadmap style and the content, you need to keep it updated. Roadmaps allow you to track your team’s progress, keep them all on the same page and offer your users the possibility to see the future of your SaaS product while helping directly to create it. Their dreams made reality.

SaaS roadmap

 

For all your roadmap needs, think of Beamer. With Beamer, you can create a roadmap and embed it in your app or site with no coding required. It can be internal or public, a widget, or a fully standalone page. Gather inputs directly from your users, customers, or team and let them vote for what they want to see next. For all of that and more, try Beamer for free today.