Product roadmaps are powerful, but only when designed for clarity and easy understanding. A clear product roadmap serves as a project plan and teams use it to make all of their product decisions. When the product roadmap becomes the focal point for making business decisions, organizations become successful.
What is a Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap is a is a high-level summary of the project plan. It defines where the product is headed. It is a critical project management tool that helps communicate the overall product strategy. Product roadmaps explain how a product will grow over time. It includes features and other technical specifications. Product managers use the product roadmap to communicate the product vision to both internal and external stakeholders.
What Does a Good Product Roadmap Have?
A good product roadmap is one that is clear and accessible. It must provide answers to these questions:
- What are we building?
- Why are we building it?
- How does this align with our business objectives?
A product roadmap is not just a feature list. It must show how product decisions will be made. Roadmaps can be used to present different information such as strategic initiatives, releases, feature details and bug fixes.
Product Roadmap Example
- New Admin Console
- Product Review
- Market Analysis
- SEO Plan
- On Premise Backup
- Code Review
- Lead Generation
- Pricing Review
- Content Review
A good product roadmap offers some immediate benefits
- Lesser meetings: The product vision and team priorities are clearly outlined in the roadmap, this eliminates unproductive meetings with different stakeholders to make them understand.
- Productive team discussions: The product roadmap can be used as a reference to solve conflicts within the team. They help in aligning roadmap activities to the project goal.
- Transparent product decisions: All decisions are made in the light of the product roadmap. This ensures quicker buy in and greater consensus building.
Build a Project Plan with the Product Roadmap Template
Define your Product Goals
The first step to building a product plan is to develop the product outlook. Describe where your product is headed and what goals your product will achieve. While communicating the product strategy, be sure to include information about the customers, their needs, your marketing plan and features that will make your product stand out. This stage is crucial to obtain buy in from stakeholders.
Determine Your Roadmap Audience
Different stakeholders would require different roadmaps. Determine what information the audience seeks from your roadmap and provide the view that best matches these requirements.For example, management teams would like to see how the roadmap helps achieve the firm’s objectives. The development team, on the other hand, would like the product roadmap to show what technology they will use to build the product. Tailor your roadmap with the right level of detail for each stakeholder. Here are common requirements for different stakeholders
- Upper management: items in the product strategy and information about market size.
- Marketing: Product features, comparison with competitor product features and your product’s sale potential.
- Sales: Release dates (general timelines) and specifics about the benefits of the product.
- Developers: Requirements, timelines, sprints, and tasks.
In order to understand what to build, gather input from the following groups
- Customer support teams- They can provide information about problems that the customers face and how they engage with the product.
- Users- Gather feedback from users who spend considerable time on your product
- In house- product knowledge- Delve into your understanding of the product, its features and weaknesses. identify most important features for customers and prioritize them.
It is important to obtain buy-in from those who will use the roadmap-marketers, sales folk, developers and executives. Work with them to create and update the roadmap. The easiest way to build a shared roadmap is to Invite everyone to a collaborative roadmapping session. During this session, use the product vision to determine which features to build. Do not agree to include every feature suggestion.
Feature requests should always be compared with the product vision. The best way to prioritize requests is to build a scorecard for your product. Customize metrics, scale and weights of the scorecard to suit your product. Once the scorecard is built, analyze your features to understand which will have the highest impact.
Define Product Milestones
The goal of building a product roadmap is to provide a reference document for the team. Do not add specific dates to the roadmap. Group the product activities into monthly and quarterly periods. This gives teams the freedom to innovate and respond to change.
Share Product Roadmap
Sharing your roadmap is the fastest way to get everyone aligned with the product strategy. This step is crucial to building great communication and transparency right from the start of the project. You gain team engagement and upper management support by sharing the roadmap. You can also share progress details and plan next steps. This improves accountability and gets everyone up to speed.
Why Your Product Roadmap Needs to be Flexible?
Your product roadmap can be flexible in two dimensions, time and scope
Use time horizons instead of exact release dates. Use “current”, “near term” and “future” to describe these time horizons.With this approach, you can replace existing projects with others in that time horizon, without redrafting the entire roadmap. This reduces the time required for explaining and securing buy-in for a new roadmap every time something changes. Over the course of time, teams and technology can change and there may be unexpected setbacks. Time horizons help to keep up with these changes and keep the team aligned with the product vision.
Some projects are expected to be completed within a specified date. A lot of time goes into planning and defining scope. The best way to reduce this time is to have a flexible scope. Do not include detailed descriptions for features that will be built. Define areas of focus instead and explain the problem that is to be solved.
A great roadmapping process and a clear product roadmap enables teams to work better. Conversation and communication are effective through the entire journey of product development.The result is a valuable product that solves the customer’s pain points.