What is a Product Roadmap? And How to Create One
Product Manager HQ | Dec 22, 2021
The purpose of a product roadmap is to identify key steps to take and when to take them.
Crafting a product roadmap is no different from planning a road trip. Think about the last trip you planned. You likely first began by identifying key destinations, key dates, and a theme of what kinds of experiences you wanted to get from your road trip.
What is a Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap is a guide that describes the steps you need to take in order to reach your product goals. It’s a plan of action that lines up a product’s short-term and long-term goals. It also outlines how you hope to achieve those product goals.
Product roadmaps can span a variety of timeframes. That’s because different companies and teams can have different timelines.
Types of Product Roadmaps
- The Evolutionary Roadmap = This roadmap is a great tool for keeping everyone in sync when there isn’t a lot of information about how the final product will look. This type of roadmap is a solid choice to keep developers, designers, and project managers in sync.
- The Release Roadmap = This is the product or marketing team’s most important tool to communicate with the customer community about what features are going to be released and when. Product managers create release roadmaps once the product team has accomplished significant work on all major features planned for the release.
- The Theme Roadmap = This roadmap is a logical way to communicate the next features that will be implemented in an effort to meet company goals or customer needs. This map indicates where the product is going and how it plans to get there.
- The Timeboxed Roadmap = This is similar to the release roadmap but has more specifics about certain features or types of releases. Similar to a release roadmap, this map is detailed. However, it does not include dates. It serves as a reminder and communication for the team that work should be completed in time for a certain date.
- The Capacity Roadmap = This one is similar to the release roadmap but without dates. Capacity roadmaps serve as communication tools among departments or functions and show the types of products that the team will create. Product managers tend to use this product roadmap to discuss resources needed as opposed to specific deliverables.
- The Market Requirements Roadmap = This roadmap helps a company steer its product and market positioning. It also shows how the plan and types of products match requirements from the customer or user base.
- The Opportunity Roadmap = This one is used for companies that sell to businesses. It helps align business development efforts with strategic initiatives so that customers can be acquired in a coordinated way. For example, product managers create this type of roadmap once a significant amount of work has been completed on all major features planned for the release.
- The Project Roadmap = Product leaders use this roadmap to align teams and individuals working on different products or projects with each other. It lets people see how their work fits in with the rest of the company’s plans for that release.
How to Build a Product Roadmap
The first step in building a product roadmap is defining the product strategy. That comes from the vision you have for the product. Then, you and your team will need to gather information from two main sources. Those are your customer support or sales team and your product users.
This will give you a good base for assigning a timeframe to your initiatives.
Keep in mind that a product roadmap should be a strong foundation for all decisions, but it should be flexible. After all, the landscape might change and you might need to re-prioritize.
Why is a Product Roadmap Important?
A powerful product roadmap is built to serve a product strategy.
In product management, you’re faced with multiple viable alternatives all of the time. A product strategy mandates that you select one viable alternative out of many and that you say ‘no’ to many other alternatives.
Because a roadmap forces you to take your journey one step at a time, it means that you will take a specific step in a specific sequence. This helps the team to have a structured plan to follow.
Product Roadmaps Serve a Larger Purpose
They’re also powerful tools for aligning internal stakeholders with the direction that your product is headed. As an example, providing sales teams with visibility on where your product is headed will enable them to sell more confidently in the field. Doing so allows you to secure the buy-in of executives from various internal departments.
Product Roadmap Template
One simple way to structure your product roadmap is to ensure that each row includes the following columns:
New product feature idea
User story and requirements
Effort required = You’ll have to work with your team to figure out the best way to define the effort required. This could be a time or $ cost
Sequence = Which items should be done first? Which items should be done later? Be sure to use prioritization to identify what will give you the strongest ROI, or return on investment.
Estimated release date = Remember to keep this high-level and either come up with or work with your engineering manager to estimate the time required to complete the feature
Best Product Roadmap Tools
While product managers tend to be tool-agnostic, you can get ahead of the curve by familiarizing yourself with these popular roadmapping tools.
ProdPad: Lets you capture ideas and feedback, create product specs, and build a product roadmap.
ProductPlan: Lets you plan and communicate your product roadmap.
ProductBoard: System of record for product management that helps teams make products people want.
Aha!: Web-based product strategy and roadmapping software for agile product managers.
Roadmunk: Visual roadmap software for product management.
Jira: A flexible and scalable issue tracker for software teams.
Excel: A straightforward way to put together your thoughts.
Google Sheets: Easy for startups to use to quickly collaborate on feature ideas.
Author = Clement Kao