The way products are made has changed dramatically in the past fifty years. A prime example of this rapid change is the automotive industry. It’s common today to have vehicles with built-in Wifi capabilities, fuel-efficiency detectors, and artificial intelligence. Fifty years ago, these capabilities were seen only in cartoons. In every manufacturing sector, from heavy machinery to medical equipment to food production to electronics, the advancements not only to the products but to the process of creating those products have become increasingly complex.
Innovation drives countless new products onto the market every year. Most of these products are designed to improve our lives in such significant ways that it makes it difficult to remember life without them. Even the way we manufacture goods and products has evolved. Modern manufacturing requires not only human labor but also robotics, AI, software, and cloud systems. There are more components and departments for companies to manage than ever before. This means that while new products continuously improve our lives, manufacturers also need more tools to make their jobs easier. Tech startups have realized this need and are helping manufacturers innovate to increase their agility, especially when creating and managing product roadmaps.
The Evolution of Product Roadmaps
Much like any other roadmap, the product roadmap guides companies to create products that align with their goals. The roadmap is essentially a compass that keeps everyone in the product development sphere of the company, steering towards long-term plans with fewer distractions along the way.
The use of product roadmaps rose alongside the expansion of global manufacturing. As manufacturing became increasingly complex, better oversight and management became essential. The launch of computers into the manufacturing world allowed product managers to oversee product development phases and analyze data better than ever.
Just as production has evolved over the decades, so has the process of creating and managing product roadmaps. From pencil and paper to spreadsheets and word documents to dedicated product roadmap software, roadmap management is finally catching up to the industry’s needs.
The Gantt Chart
If you’ve ever managed a project or been involved with one, you’ve probably encountered a Gantt chart. The Gantt chart has been around since the early 1900s and continues to be an effective tool for managing timelines and schedules for a wide variety of projects. Many project managers rely on Gantt charts for their detailed visual display of timelines, deadlines, budget restraints, and buffer opportunities. While Gantt charts are useful in many scenarios, this tool starts to break down when timelines stretch into multiple years and need to cover vast product portfolios.
The Limitations of Gantt Charts, Word Documents, and Spreadsheets
When product manufacturing was more localized, Gantt charts, documents, and spreadsheets may have been sufficient to oversee the product planning, development, and creation phases. However, today, more powerful tools are needed to get the job done. Computer programs have made it easier for many companies to adjust Gantt charts and share files such as planning documents and spreadsheet reports. But these tools still fall short when it comes to large-scale global companies.
The Needs of Manufacturers
What global manufacturers need to create successful products are tools that allow them full oversight of every phase of the product creation process. They need tools that enable their teams to communicate efficiently, in real-time, while sharing up-to-date data on everything from customer values to budget restraints to market share. Not only are Gantt charts and other basic tools unable to scale these capabilities, but they are inefficient and cause more headaches for product managers than anything else. Tech startups saw that there was an opportunity for better tools to meet the needs of product managers and, as a result, improve the entire product development process.
Tech Startups and Roadmap Software
The basic concept of the roadmap is to lay out the path a product takes from the idea stage to product testing to design and production. This basic process is similar whether a company is manufacturing a vehicle, producing packaged food, or designing software. What was needed was a better way to create and share these roadmaps with all the stakeholders involved. Tech startups, such as Gocious, saw this need and developed software for manufacturing.
The initial improvements to roadmapping coincided with an increase in tech startups. Software developers were not only creating new digital products, but they were also creating new systems for developing roadmaps and managing them for their own projects. Yet, even with the improvements in roadmapping software, these systems were tailored for the digital world, including shorter deployment times, fewer required components, and fewer complexities overall. Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry continued to juggle inefficient roadmapping tools.
Manufacturers Need More Than Just Timelines
The manufacturing sector requires more than just timeline management to oversee its product portfolios effectively. Manufacturers and product teams need the ability to monitor and analyze any roadmap in their portfolio. Using one software and one source of truth for all stakeholders in the production process would revolutionize how manufacturers could manage their products.
Manufacturers also need specific features to better manage their roadmaps, such as real-time communication with stakeholders, key metric tracking, component comparison, feature scorecards, and competitive analysis. When software is designed specifically for manufacturers, it can radically reduce the time and energy that product teams spend on communication, data tracking, and product analysis. A strong roadmap is aligned with the company’s goals and helps product managers to make smart decisions made on data, evidence, and market analysis.
Product Roadmap Management (PRM) Software
Creating product roadmaps is one task and effectively managing them is another. Startup tech companies, such as Gocious, have recognized the need to create product roadmap management software that makes the product development process easier to manage. When companies have access to tools that help them clearly visualize their product portfolio both in detail by each component and at a high level to compare market shares, informed decisions can be made consistently, resulting in better products overall.
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