Evidence-Based Roadmaps: Definition, Example, and Guide
We started using evidence-based roadmaps out of necessity.
My business partner Ryan and I both spent over 15 years leading products at companies like Microsoft, ESPN, and Myspace. We saw very quickly how important it is to listen to customers—listening is the key ingredient to good software products.
But PMs often aren’t very good at actually incorporating the voice of the customer into products. (We certainly didn’t use to be.)
Here were the problems we had:
Collecting feature requests and feedback to understand what customers need
Segmenting the feedback to understand which customers wanted each feature
Communicating those insights to other stakeholders to justify our product decisions
We created Savio to help PMs solve those problems. It logs customer feedback, centralizes feature requests into a backlog, and then connects that feedback to customer data from your support tool or CRM.
And, you can display that data right on the roadmap. For each feature, you can see how many customers want it, the total MRR for all the customers that asked for it, opportunity revenue, and more. That lets you better prioritize features based on customer data.
In this article, we describe evidence-based roadmaps and why they’re so powerful for PMs building customer-centric products.
What is an evidence-based roadmap?
An evidence-based roadmap is a roadmap that displays customer data for each feature, project, or initiative. It provides insights about customer feedback that gives you the context you need to make prioritization decisions and explain those decisions to your stakeholders.
Evidence-based roadmaps vs. other types
All of those can be made to be evidence-based. The essential feature of an evidence-based roadmap is just that the roadmap displays evidence—customer data—that is relevant to making product decisions.
So yes, a “scrum product roadmap” or a “goal-based roadmap” can both also be evidence-based roadmaps if they display customer feedback data or other evidence that helps you make product decisions.
Example of an evidence-based roadmap
Here’s an example of an evidence-based roadmap. An example evidence-based roadmap made in Savio. In this case, the roadmap displays four kinds of data: MRR, opportunity revenue, priority, and number of requests.
You can see that in this example, each card represents a feature and displays four types of customer data:
MRR. The cumulative monthly recurring revenue (MRR) of each of the customers that asked for a feature. This was collected through an integration with a CRM.
Opportunity revenue. This is the cumulative opportunity revenue of all of the prospects that requested the feature. This was collected through an integration with a CRM.
Priority. This is the priority assigned to each feature. This example follows the MoSCoW method format, where each feature is categorized as a must-have, should-have, could-have, and won’t have.
Number of requests. Each card also displays a count of the number of customers that asked for the feature.
Together, they quickly paint a picture for the audience as to the relative importance of each feature.
For example, eleven people asked for the Zapier integration, it’s a “must-have”, has an MRR of $4,250, and has $19,644 in opportunity revenue. In comparison, only four people asked for the integration with Salesforce and it has only an MRR of $2,500. If you were asked to explain your decision to prioritize the Zapier integration, it’s easy to justify yourself by pointing to those numbers.
Why use an evidence-based roadmap?
There are two main reasons to use an evidence-based roadmap.
Better product decisions. Evidence-based roadmaps give you visibility into what your customers are telling you about your product. That helps you make more informed decisions when you’re prioritizing features.
Obtaining agreement. If you’re a PM, you know that one of the hardest parts of creating a product roadmap is getting buy-in from stakeholders. The evidence-based roadmap gives you the data you need to explain your product decisions and justify them.
How to make an evidence-based roadmap?
You put together an evidence-based roadmap the same way you build other types of roadmaps. The main difference is that you have to have a way to collect the data that you’re going to include. And then you need to include design elements on your roadmap to display it.
Here’s a full set of steps you can use:
Prerequisites. First, create a system to collect feedback and feature requests. Give your customer-facing teams a way to send feedback directly to a centralized repository. Also, make sure you have your product vision and strategy set up.
Gather your product ideas. Here’s a full guide on where to find new product ideas and how to gather them.
Decide the type of roadmap. Figure out what information you want on your roadmap, including what evidence or customer data to include. Also, think about what design elements and types of roadmap make the most sense.
Display your evidence. When you have your priorities, include your customer data. Savio lets you choose what data to display automatically. If you’re using a different roadmapping tool, you might have to put this data on your roadmap manually.
Review. Now run it by your Dev team and other key stakeholders for feedback. Revise it as necessary until you get it approved.
Presentation. You finally have your roadmap. Now you can tweak it for your different stakeholder audiences if you need to, and share it.
Full Guide: How to build a product roadmap
Making an evidence-based roadmap in Savio
It’s easy to build an evidence-based roadmap in Savio. Just follow these steps:
1. Decide what features to put on your roadmap. You can include all of your features or just a selection of them.
You can add features to your roadmap one-by-one or in batches.
2. Choose what data to display. Next, choose which customer attributes and data you’d like to display. You can display as many or as few as you’d like.
You can choose which data to display on your roadmap and which to keep private.
That’s it! Now you can share with your teams, stakeholders, and customers.
Other types of roadmaps
Not sure whether evidence-based roadmaps are what your team needs? Try something else. Here are some popular roadmap types and styles to choose from.
Roadmap types by what information is displayed:
Roadmap types by workflow framework:
Roadmap type by design style:
Use customer data to build the right thing
Building a roadmap is difficult because it’s high stakes and because it’s difficult to feel confident in your decisions about what to build.
Evidence-based roadmaps help you feel confident that you’re prioritizing the right things. They show you the data that confirms (or invalidates) your choices. And that helps you and your team work together to make the best decisions possible.
Up next: Roadmapping 101 Guide
- What is a customer feedback management system?
- How to build a leak-proof feature request collection system
- How to centralize feedback from teams into a single database
- The Savio framework for feature prioritization
- How to close the loop with customers
Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.
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