We often get approached by businesses who need help with their digital strategy or creating a marketing campaign.
Generally they'll have an idea of the problem they're trying to solve or an idea they want to tackle. So we sit them down and try to work through it.
Then we realise they've got a million ideas and haven't yet taken the time to prioritise what to do first.
So we help them build a roadmap for their business.
A product or business roadmap is a six month guide to what you should be working on.
The aim is to determine your medium- and long-term goals. Then to decide what you can be achieved in the next three to six months that will help you reach those goals in the shortest time possible.
So how do you do this?
First, book a weekend to workshop the roadmap.
It might only take one day but it's good to give yourself plenty of time.
Next, recruit someone whose opinion you trust but who is not actively involved in your business.
No family members. Generally someone you've had minimal contact with, but who has some business acumen – their fresh eyes will be incredibly valuable.
The workshop is then broken down into four sections.
1. Current position
What is the business doing? What are the numbers? How does it compare to the market at the moment?
It's worthwhile here to take the time for a competitive analysis, partly to force you to review the market in detail and partly to make sure everyone is on the same page.
2. Workshop objectives
What do you want to get out of this workshop? What do you want to get out of the business?
Create objectives for where you want to see the business in six and 12 months time. From here it is easy to work back to define what you should be working on now to achieve those goals.
3. Idea bucket
You need to get every single idea that you could possibly do around your business out of your head and down on paper. Everything.
Write them down on post-it notes and stick them up on a board somewhere. Start recording them from the very first conversation. It's important at this stage that everyone knows there is no such thing as a bad idea, it's a brainstorm session with no judgement – you can start to filter ideas in the next stage.
In the past, it has helped us to come up with innovative ideas that have evolved out of the conversation that occurs around each feature or business direction.
4. Define the next six months
Up to this point you've defined your business as it sits in the market at the present, you know your objectives moving forward and you've created a board full of different things you could be working on. Now it's time to define exactly what you'll need to work on to reach your objectives.
Here we generally take the post-it notes from one board and transfer the important ones to a much smaller board. Try to keep the number of notes as small as possible and be realistic about what you can achieve in the timeframe with your limited resources.
Once complete and everyone agrees to the plan of action, everything should be drawn up into a simple document that includes the objectives and the roadmap.
We normally take this to a printer and get a planning print done for a couple of dollars – it looks really big and impressive in the office and it's an important reminder about what you should be working on today.
Sticking to the plan
You're going to have moments where additional ideas crop up or someone suggests you deviate from the roadmap. That's okay, but remember that if you're going to shift focus, you need to do it consciously. Decide which elements of the current roadmap need to be removed in order to go in the new direction.
And that's how you write a roadmap for your start-up. Now that you know all this it's time to take action. Get the team together and lock in a date to write yours. Don't think, just do it now. And post a comment to let me know when you do – it's a great moment and I want to hear about it.