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A SaaS founders guide to creating a product roadmap

Updated: Mar 27



In this guide I’ll show you how to create a software product roadmap to help you figure out the budget and timelines for your SaaS development project.


It’s the same process I use with my customers in different stages of building SaaS applications.


If you’re a founder building SaaS software and stuck on how to figure out what it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take, this guide is for you.


Here are the items we're going to cover with you.


Why should feature requirements be so important to you

If a single product feature can cost you anywhere from $320 - $3200 it makes sense to spend your time making sure you identify each feature to control the cost and delivery time of your SaaS MVP.


  • Assume software engineering costs from $40 to $100 an hour

  • Assume any feature can take 1 to 4 days of development 


Small misses in features & requirements can have a big impact on what you expect to pay & what you end up paying. 


Creating a robust product roadmap ensures that your product not only meets your expectations, but is also delivered within budget and on schedule. 


Here's a comprehensive guide on how to effectively build your feature set and define your product roadmap, infused with firsthand insights and tools that have proven to be invaluable.


Leverage what you’re already paying for to boost your ability to define product features and requirements

Our method involves scheduling four weeks to do the following


  • Founder feature braindump

  • Product review sessions

  • Low fidelity design creation in Balsamiq 

  • High fidelity design creation in Figma

  • Product roadmapping with user stories in Assembla


We do 2 things that are not usually done in traditional software discovery projects to speed up feature identification. We leverage founders investments in UX design and in Zoom (or other equivalent platforms)


  • Leverage UX design sessions

  • Leverage Zoom transcriptions


This setup allows us to discuss the project from business, user experience, and engineering perspectives, ensuring every feature, no matter how minor, is captured and organized in a project management system for estimation and execution.





Capture your featureset using transcriptions

Despite the potential cumbersomeness of sifting through transcripts, this method guarantees that 0 feature requirement slips through the cracks, enabling us to thoroughly capture and address every aspect discussed.


Here are the steps you can use


  • Record Zoom meetings with transcription & the AI meeting summary feature turned on

  • Copy your transcript & AI meeting summary over to a Google doc

  • Review and highlight statements about what your SaaS app is going to do 

  • Highlight and Comment on Transcripts: Identify potential requirements or user stories within the transcripts, adding comments to summarize these insights.

  • Capture and Organize Visual References: Include screenshots and URLs referenced during the meetings to provide context to the requirements or user stories



Create user stories in your kanban board

User stories help to capture a description of a software feature from an end-user perspective. They are the de facto method software engineers understand and estimate feature development.


Creating them directly in your kanban board speeds up the process of managing them effectively.


Follow these guidelines to create clear and actionable user stories.


Start with the User: Identify who the user is for the story. This could be a customer segment, or a specific type of user (e.g., admin, end-user).


Keep it Simple and Concise: A user story should be straightforward and focused on what the user wants to achieve. Avoid technical jargon and keep it understandable to non technical individuals.


Use this format to maintain consistency and clarity.


  • Type of user

  • Can achieve a goal

  • For some reason


Here’s an example


[User] Sales representative [goal] will receive daily plan email notifications, [reason] so they can proactively plan their tasks for the day


Define what success looks like: Acceptance criteria are specific, actionable, and testable conditions that must be met for the user story to be considered completed.


Here’s an example 


  • Sales representative receives an email in the following format …. at a scheduled time.


Refine and Iterate: User stories are not set in stone. As more information becomes available or user needs change, be prepared to update and refine stories.



Prioritize user stories in your kanban board

Organize your product milestones by creating a set of 10 product milestones within your project management system, using memorable names. 


Move your MVP features up front and less needed features to later milestones.


This helps in visualizing the development journey from MVP to a fully marketable product.


Link your stories to larger goals. Whenever possible, connect user stories to larger product or business objectives known as Epics


This helps ensure that each story contributes to the broader vision of the project.


Feature prioritization involves collaboration between lead engineers, UX designers, and product owners. This group evaluates what's feasible, impactful on user workflows, and crucial for competitive advantage or funding.





Adjust and iterate your roadmap

This process remains flexible to accommodate new requirements or changes, with regular product meetings to reassess and realign the roadmap as necessary.


Review some lessons learned from our experience

  • Be Specific: Clearly articulate every feature request to avoid assumptions and overlooked details.

  • Leverage UX Discovery: Use these sessions not only for UX insights but also for identifying product requirements.

  • Record Everything: Early conversations are gold mines for requirement gathering. Record pitches and discussions to capture evolving ideas.


Conclusion

Collecting requirements for a SaaS MVP is a meticulous but critical process.


By leveraging the right tools and strategies, you can ensure your product roadmap is both comprehensive and flexible, setting your up for a successful launch and future growth.


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