A good product roadmap is something you cannot afford to do without as a product manager. Without it, a great product idea may end up being a massive failure. Some unexpected setbacks may scuttle attempts to bring ideas into reality when there is no effective roadmapping.
What is a product roadmap and how do you put together one that delivers to expectations? We discuss these and more in this article. You’ll learn some best practices for creating a truly valuable and compelling product roadmap, based on what experienced product managers do.
What is a Product Roadmap?
You may think of a product roadmap as a blueprint detailing the goals of a product and how to go about achieving them. It includes both short-term and long-term goals. A product roadmap will usually also include planned features of a product and timelines for activities.
This detailed plan is useful not only for a product in the pipeline but also for an existing one.
A product roadmap serves many useful purposes. It gives an idea of what product the development team is working on. Also, it makes it easier for relevant teams to figure out the resources and technologies that would be needed along the line.
What’s more? Roadmapping may help to find and plug holes in product plans on time. It can also help a business to make a better decision on what to spend money on.
More importantly, a product roadmap lets relevant stakeholders to have a picture of processes and progress being made.
You should ideally have a special roadmap tool when looking to create an effective product roadmap.
Putting Together a Product Roadmap
There may be slight differences in the approaches product managers use to create a roadmap. However, certain aspects should feature prominently in all.
Below are critical steps to pay attention to when doing roadmapping.
Have a strategy
More often than not, a venture amounts to nothing but a waste of time without a proper strategy. Chances for success improves dramatically when you have one.
Therefore, defining a product strategy is one of the first things you want to do when attempting roadmapping. This should ideally follow the SMART principle. Your strategy should have goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound or timely.
You will have to convince stakeholders how a product fits into the overall business goals and what needs it fills. Your strategy should help you explain who the target users are and what edge the product has over similar offerings.
With your product strategy well defined, you have a solid foundation to build your roadmap upon.
Collect vital information
It is equally important to collect helpful information from relevant players. These groups include product users or enthusiasts, sales team, and customer support.
You can gain useful insights from people who have used your product when you engage them for such. Also, your sales and customer service teams can be good sources of information and customer feedback that are worth taking note of for your future releases.
Combine this information with your own product knowledge for your roadmap creation. Use this to decide what flaws to improve upon and what new features to add.
Set milestones and timeframes
It is good for your product roadmap to have set milestones. There should be a timeframe associated with every activity and this needs to be practical.
You are at liberty to set your timelines as you deem more practical and fitting to the product you’re working on. The timeframes could be short-term, medium-term, or long-term. Short-term timeframes, such as weekly or monthly, affords greater clarity.
Product Roadmap Best Practices
Focus on simplicity
It is critical to note that a complex product roadmap is no guarantee of an awesome product. Try to make your plan simple as much as possible. You can have a roadmap that is not intricate and still gets the job done very well.
It should not be too hard for relevant players to make sense out of the roadmap. The important thing is for it to indicate goals and what needs to be done to attain them.
Make your roadmap visual
Having a visual representation of your product roadmap can make it more useful. Stakeholders should be able to get a quick and clear picture of what you are doing and how it contributes to set goals by simply looking at this.
Many product managers use spreadsheets and PowerPoint to visualize roadmaps. But there are product management tools that do a better job at this.
Review and revise regularly
A product roadmap is not something you set and forget. It is important to go back to it often to take note of changes that might have occurred along the line. Majority of product managers say they revise their plans at least monthly.
You should regularly set time aside to analyze and identify changes that can improve your chances for success. Changes in strategy should reflect in your roadmap as they occur.
Be flexible with deadlines
Product roadmaps usually include timelines for the achievement of certain goals. However, it is helpful to not be overly rigid about this. Timelines should be flexible enough to absorb unexpected changes.
This is why it often makes more sense to work with a short-term or medium-term timeframe. This doesn’t involve planning too long into the future, thus enabling you to respond more easily to hurdles.
Share your roadmap with stakeholders
For roadmapping to be very effective, it is pertinent to share it with relevant stakeholders. You should consider sharing it not only with your team or teams but also executives, investors, and even customers.
A shared product roadmap can improve team engagement, secure management backing, increase investor confidence, and aid business transparency. It brings all or most important stakeholders up to date.
Tailor to a specific audience
It is obvious from the foregoing that there are different stakeholders. This means you have to do roadmapping with the audience in mind – for example, what is fitting for developers might not be for executives. You can have internal and external roadmaps.
However, this may not necessarily mean creating many different roadmaps for diverse stakeholders. There are product management tools that can help you present to each group the information most relevant to them.
Use proper tools
Experienced product managers typically look beyond tools such as Excel and PowerPoint when doing roadmapping. While those tools can help, they often offer less ease of use and lower flexibility.
You get greater aid in creating compelling product roadmaps when you choose a dedicated roadmap tool. This not only helps to create elegant roadmaps but also makes updating one easier.