A product roadmap is a high-level visual representation of a product’s strategy and goals. It helps teams align on the product’s vision, direction, and prioritization, and acts as a communication tool to stakeholders. In this article, we’ll explore what a product roadmap is, why it’s important, who is responsible for its creation, how it evolves as your product matures, and how it is used by other teams.
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is a visual representation of the product’s strategy and goals with the right prioritization. It typically includes the product vision, objectives, and initiatives, as well as the prioritization for them. A product roadmap can be represented in different ways, such as a timeline, a Gantt chart, or a visual roadmap. Personally I prefer visual roadmaps only.
Why is a product roadmap important?
A product roadmap is important for several reasons:
1. Aligns teams:
A product roadmap helps to align teams on the product’s vision, direction, and prioritization. This alignment ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals and makes it easier to make decisions about what to work on next.
2. Communicates with stakeholders:
A product roadmap serves as a communication tool to stakeholders, including customers, investors, and partners. It helps to keep everyone informed about the product’s progress and future plans.
3. Supports decision-making:
A product roadmap provides a clear understanding of the product’s strategy and goals, which supports decision-making about what goals to work on next.
Who is responsible for creating a product roadmap?
The product manager is typically responsible for creating the product roadmap. The product manager is responsible for setting the product’s strategy and goals and ensuring that the product roadmap aligns with the overall business strategy. The product manager should work closely with the development team and other stakeholders to create a roadmap that is realistic and achievable.
How will the roadmap evolve as your product matures?
A product roadmap is not a static document and should evolve as the product matures. As new goals, objectives and initiatives are added, the roadmap should be updated to reflect the new priorities. The roadmap should also be updated to reflect changes in the market and the product’s competitive landscape. The roadmap should be reviewed regularly and updated as needed to ensure that it remains relevant and up-to-date.
Who are roadmaps for?
Product roadmaps are for everyone involved in the product development process, including the product manager, development team, stakeholders, and customers. A product roadmap helps to ensure that everyone is aligned on the product’s vision, direction, and priorities and helps to ensure that the product is evolving and delivering value.
How will roadmaps be used by other teams?
Product roadmaps can be used by other teams to understand the product’s strategy and priorities. For example, the sales team can use the roadmap to understand the product’s future plans and to plan their sales efforts accordingly. The marketing team can use the roadmap to plan their marketing campaigns and to understand the product’s future plans. The development team can use the roadmap to understand the product’s priorities and to plan their development efforts accordingly.
Waterfall roadmaps vs Agile roadmaps
Waterfall roadmaps and Agile roadmaps are two different approaches to project management and product development.
It is a sequential process where each stage of the project must be completed before moving on to the next stage. The focus is on completing each phase of the project before moving on to the next one, and the end result is the delivery of a completed product.
It is a flexible and iterative approach where the product is developed and delivered in small increments. The focus is on delivering a minimum viable product as quickly as possible, and then making improvements based on customer feedback. The end result is an evolving product that is constantly being improved.
The Waterfall approach is more structured and linear, while the Agile approach is more flexible and responsive to change. The choice between the two depends on the specific needs and requirements of the project.
Different types of agile roadmaps
There are several types of agile roadmaps, including:
1. Theme-based roadmap:
This type of roadmap focuses on a specific theme or goal, such as improving the user experience. It provides a high-level view of the initiatives that are being worked on to achieve that theme.
2. Feature roadmap:
This type of roadmap focuses on the features and improvements that will be delivered to the product. It provides a timeline for each feature and helps to ensure that the development team is focused on the most important features first. Personally, I don’t like using feature roadmaps since features explain the solution already without including the customer.
3. Release roadmap:
This type of roadmap focuses on the release schedule for the product. It provides a timeline for each release and helps to ensure that the development team is focused on delivering a high-quality product on time.
A well-designed agile product roadmap is an essential tool for product development. By following the steps outlined above and choosing the right type of roadmap for your product, you can ensure that your product is delivered on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of your customers.
The Now, Next, Later roadmap
The now, next, and later roadmap is a type of agile product roadmap that focuses on the most immediate initiatives and provides a high-level view of the product’s future. It consists of three main sections:
This section includes the initiatives that are currently being worked on or will be worked on in the near future. It provides a view of what the development team is focused on and what the customer can expect in the near term.
This section includes the initiatives that will be worked on after the initiatives in the now section have been completed. It provides a view of the product’s future direction and what the customer can expect in the medium term.
This section includes the initiatives that are longer-term and may not be worked on for several months or even years. It provides a view of the product’s long-term vision and helps to ensure that everyone is aligned on the product’s future direction.
The now, next, and later roadmap is a flexible and iterative approach to product development. It allows for changes in the market, competitive landscape, and product priorities to be incorporated into the roadmap.
It also helps to ensure that the development team is focused on the most important initiatives and that the product is delivered on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of the customer.
Goal-oriented product roadmap
A goal-oriented product roadmap is a type of product roadmap that focuses on the end goal of the product and how it will benefit the customer.
It is a visual representation of the product’s strategy and how it will achieve its goals.
In a goal-oriented product roadmap, each initiative is linked to a specific goal and is designed to bring the product closer to achieving that goal.
The roadmap provides a clear and concise view of the product’s objectives.By focusing on the end goal and how it will benefit the customer, it helps to ensure that the right product is built.
Story map roadmap
A story map roadmap is a type of product roadmap that uses a visual representation of the product’s user journeys and how they relate to the product’s goals.
It is a way of mapping out the user’s experiences and how the product will meet their needs.
In a story map roadmap, each initiative is linked to a specific user story and is designed to bring the product closer to meeting the user’s needs. The roadmap provides a clear and concise view of the user’s journey and how the product will be delivered to meet their needs.
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a framework for setting and tracking organizational and individual goals. It helps organizations align their efforts towards a common goal and measure progress towards that goal.
An OKR consists of two parts:
Objectives are specific and measurable goals that an organization or individual wants to achieve. They should be ambitious, inspiring, and achievable within a specific time frame.
Key Results are measurable outcomes that demonstrate progress towards an objective. They should be specific, measurable, and time-bound.
OKRs help to ensure that everyone in an organization is aligned towards a common goal and working together towards that goal. They also help to track progress and measure the impact of initiatives.
Building Agile product roadmaps
Agile product roadmaps are a flexible and iterative approach to product development. To build an agile product roadmap, follow these steps:
1. Start with the product vision:
Define the product’s vision and ensure that everyone is aligned on it. This vision should guide the development of the roadmap and help to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal.
2. Identify high-level goals:
Identify the high-level goals for the product and prioritize them based on their importance and urgency.
3. Define initiatives:
Break down the high-level goals into smaller initiatives or features. Prioritize these initiatives based on their impact and effort.
4. Create a visual time line:
Add the initiatives to a timeline and assign a proposed delivery date to each one. Make sure to consider the resources and dependencies involved in each initiative.
5. Review and adjust regularly:
Review the roadmap regularly and adjust it as needed to reflect changes in the market, competitive landscape, and product priorities.
Prioritizing a product roadmap
Prioritizing a product roadmap is an important step in the product development process. It helps to ensure that the most significant initiatives are delivered first, and that resources are focused where they will have the greatest impact.
Here are some steps to prioritize a product roadmap:
1. Align with business objectives:
Start by aligning the product roadmap with the overall business objectives. Make sure that each initiative supports the business objectives and is aligned with the product’s overall strategy.
2. Identify customer needs:
Understanding customer needs is key to prioritizing a product roadmap. Gather feedback from customers and analyse customer data to determine the most pressing needs.
3. Assess feasibility:
Assess the feasibility of each initiative and prioritize based on the resources required and the time needed to deliver the initiative.
4. Consider dependencies:
Consider any dependencies between initiatives, and prioritize initiatives that are dependent on others.
5. Use data-driven decision-making:
Use data to inform decision-making. Look at customer data, market trends, and past performance to help prioritize the roadmap.
6. Review and adjust:
Regularly review and adjust the roadmap as needed. Be flexible and adjust priorities as new information becomes available or as the market changes.
Aligning with business objectives, understanding customer needs, assessing feasibility, considering dependencies, and using data-driven decision-making, organizations can prioritize their product roadmap and ensure that resources are focused where they will have the greatest impact.
Common mistakes when building an Agile product roadmap
Building an agile product roadmap is a complex process that requires careful consideration of a variety of factors. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when building your roadmap:
1. Failing to align with the product vision:
A product roadmap should always be aligned with the product vision. If the roadmap strays from the vision, it can lead to confusion and decreased motivation among the development team.
2. Not prioritizing initiatives:
Failing to prioritize initiatives can result in the development team working on low-impact or low-priority initiatives, which can negatively impact the overall success of the product.
3. Ignoring dependencies:
Failing to consider dependencies between initiatives can result in delays or rework. It’s important to understand the relationships between initiatives and to plan accordingly.
4. Not involving stakeholders:
Building a roadmap in isolation can lead to a lack of buy-in from stakeholders. It’s important to involve stakeholders in the process to ensure that everyone is aligned on the roadmap and to get feedback that can help improve it.
5. Overcomplicating the roadmap:
A complex roadmap can be difficult to understand and use. It’s important to keep the roadmap simple and focused, while still capturing the necessary information.
6. Failing to review and adjust:
A roadmap should be reviewed and adjusted regularly to reflect changes in the market, competitive landscape, and product priorities. Failing to do so can result in a roadmap that is outdated and no longer relevant.
Building an agile product roadmap requires careful consideration of the product vision, initiatives, dependencies, stakeholders, and regular review and adjustment. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your roadmap is effective and helps drive the success of your product.
A product roadmap must contain the product vision and communicate the desired goals with the right priority. A product roadmap is not a plan with timeline committing to delivering features. It contains goals, objectives, and initiatives to deliver value and improve the overall product.
It’s a team effort that will be changed regularly to reflect the truth of the product within the market. Committing to features and deadlines is not realistic, however using roadmaps to communicate priority and goals is a great way to create clarity within the product teams.