What Is a Product Roadmap?In recent years, the traditional "release plan" for product roadmaps has come under scrutiny, due to it being often times misguided and misused. The discussion of product roadmaps has been a topic of interest for product managers, who have reasonably suggested that a roadmap should communicate Product Vision deliberately, strategically and with flexibility. VP of Product C. Todd Lombardo and Head of Product Jens-Fabian Goetzmann both assert that a roadmap should ultimately be a prototype for the Product Strategy, which paves the way for a list of themes employed by the product, along with customer/user value, understanding of the competitive position, and a business model.
Common Product Roadmaps Challenges
These are common challenges people face when gaining expertise in product roadmaps. Tackling these challenges head-on can help you learn this skill quicker.I'm a product manager at a startup. I need to create a product roadmap for our new mobile app, but I'm encountering friction when trying to prioritize features because our engineering team is already overwhelmed with other projects. What should I do to make sure this project gets prioritized appropriately?I'm a CEO of a small tech company. I'm leading the development of a new product. We have a roadmap in place, but I'm finding it challenging to balance customer demands with technical feasibility. Some customers are requesting features that are not feasible within our current tech stack. How do I strike the right balance between responding to customer needs and making sure that our roadmap is realistic and achievable?Add your own to track your progress and inspire others
What Goes In a Product Roadmap?Paul Adams believes that roadmaps should include a balance of both new ideas and existing products – and that finding this balance is key to success. C. Todd Lombardo suggests including components such as a vision, business objectives, a disclaimer, themes, and timeframes in order to craft an effective roadmap. Janna Bastow and Jens-Fabian Goetzmann both advocate for creating theme-based roadmaps as opposed to feature-based ones, allowing for better prioritization and organization. Liteally, roadmaps should contain a combination of long-term Product Vision, give an understanding of the strategy used to deploy this vision, and provide actionable short-term goals. This balance of vision, strategy and action helps to create an effective roadmap.
- Using ‘Themes’ in Your Modern Product Management RoadmapJon explains how it is difficult to create a roadmap purely around features, because your learnings can change over time as you dig into each problem & solution. To solve this, you can use 'themes' in your roadmaps, which focus on outcomes and business goals, giving PdMs the freedom to explore the right features.
- now, next, later: Roadmaps without the DrudgeryNoah explains different roadmaps for different company stages, and the format that works well in companies from 20 to 1000 employees: 3 timeframe buckets for now, next, and later. This format balances clear communication vs. flexibility.
- Tweetstorm on Roadmap Formats: Timeline vs. LeanJanna picks up Noah's point about inflexibility and builds on it, explaining how Gannt chart-style roadmaps create problems. She recommends thinking about time in three buckets similar to Noah's: "Current", "Near Term", & "Future".
Where does the Content of a Roadmap Come From?Creating a product roadmap is a delicate balance of art and science, requiring hard decisions and trade-offs, according to Paul Adams, VP of Product at Intercom. He suggests that great product teams have a roadmap that includes a balance of new ideas, iterations on existing products, addressing common customer problems, improving quality, and features to help scale. Adams emphasizes the importance of not just focusing on new ideas, but also iterating on existing products based on real data and customer feedback. He also highlights the role of sales teams in providing critical input into the roadmap. On the other hand, C. Todd Lombardo, VP of Product at MachineMetrics, suggests a different approach to creating a roadmap. He recommends gathering inputs from various channels, organizing and prioritizing the data into themes, and placing these themes into timeframes. Lombardo also emphasizes the importance of gaining Alignment among stakeholders through shuttle diplomacy, and separating the outcomes from the outputs.
- Where do product roadmaps come from?Paul explains the different categories for where roadmap items come from: new ideas, modifications to recently-shipped products, common customer problems, improving product quality, and features to help you scale.
- How We Build our Product Roadmap at AsanaJackie explains Asana's roadmapping process. It's built through a process they call the "Pyramid of Clarity," which maps five levels: company mission, company strategy, (both of which rarely change), annual company-wide objectives, annual team/product-level objectives, and semi-annual key results.
How to Align a Product Roadmap With Company StrategyAlignment with company strategy is crucial for a successful roadmap. It should reflect the company's overall goals and values, and be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure it stays on track.
- Stop Setting Up Product Roadmaps To FailJohn describes 14 common problems with product roadmaps, and then encourages you to think through the job a roadmap is being hired to do by your organization and whether a roadmap is the best solution for that job.
Product Roadmap ExamplesProduct roadmap examples can vary depending on the industry and product type. Some examples include a software development roadmap, a product launch roadmap, and a marketing roadmap. Each should be tailored to the specific needs of the product and its stakeholders.
- 4 Excellent Examples of Agile “Nearsighted” RoadmapsSven explains how planning is essential for product managers, who must consider both short-term milestones and long-term strategy. Good agile roadmaps are nearsighted, containing both short and long-term planning, with milestones becoming foggier and broader as they extend into the future. He provides examples including: • Meltano, a product maintained by GitLab, has a nearsighted roadmap that clearly outlines the next 3-4 months in detail, followed by broader time units with a clear focus for each. • Airbyte, a data integration start-up, also adopts a nearsighted roadmap with time segments such as "within a few days" and "a few weeks/months." GitHub's roadmap covers the next three quarters and includes a "future" bucket, providing an overview of the tool's direction. • Atlassian's roadmap for BitBucket covers roughly 2 years with quarterly and yearly labels, serving as a decent agile roadmap.
- GitLab's Public Roadmap: "Maturity"GitLab exposes a 2-year roadmap across their 10 products, with a maturity designation per feature. This approach seems to work for GitLab, but may not work for all companies.
Product Roadmaps Cheat Sheet
Here is a quick reference for the top 5 things you need to know about Product Roadmaps.
- Step 1: Define Product Goals
- Align product goals with the company's overall strategic objectives.
- Identify key metrics and outcomes to measure success.
- Prioritize goals based on business value and customer impact.
- Step 2: Gather Requirements and Prioritize Features
- Collect input from stakeholders, customers, and market research.
- Define user stories and feature requirements.
- Prioritize features based on customer needs, business value, and technical feasibility.
- Step 3: Create a Roadmap
- Visualize the roadmap timeline, including major milestones.
- Group features into releases or iterations.
- Consider dependencies, resource availability, and market timing.
- Step 4: Communicate and Align
- Present the roadmap to internal teams, stakeholders, and executives.
- Clearly articulate the rationale behind feature prioritization and trade-offs.
- Solicit feedback and address concerns to gain alignment.
- Step 5: Iterate and Adapt
- Continuously review and update the roadmap based on feedback, market changes, and new insights.
- Regularly communicate updates and changes to stakeholders.
- Monitor progress and adjust the roadmap as needed to stay aligned with business objectives.
- Step 1: Define Product Goals
Frequently asked questions
How do I prioritize features and initiatives for my product roadmap?
Prioritize features and initiatives based on factors such as customer needs, business value, strategic alignment, and resource availability. Use prioritization frameworks like RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort) or MoSCoW (Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, Won't-have) to help guide your decision-making. Regularly review and adjust your priorities based on feedback, market changes, and new opportunities.
How often should I update my product roadmap?
The frequency of updating your product roadmap depends on your product's lifecycle stage, market dynamics, and company culture. Some organizations update their roadmaps quarterly, while others do so monthly or even more frequently. The key is to strike a balance between maintaining focus on current priorities and adapting to new insights, customer feedback, and market trends.
How can I effectively communicate my product roadmap to stakeholders?
To effectively communicate your product roadmap to stakeholders, tailor your presentation to their specific needs and interests. Focus on the strategic objectives, key initiatives, and expected outcomes, while providing context on how the roadmap aligns with the overall product vision and company strategy. Use visual aids and storytelling to make the roadmap more engaging and relatable. Be prepared to address questions, concerns, and feedback, and maintain open lines of communication to keep stakeholders informed of any changes or updates.
How can I ensure my product roadmap remains flexible and adaptable?
To ensure your product roadmap remains flexible and adaptable, adopt an agile mindset and be prepared to adjust your priorities and timelines based on new insights, customer feedback, and market conditions. Use a living document or digital tool that allows for easy updates and collaboration. Encourage open communication within your team and with stakeholders to identify opportunities for improvement and innovation. Regularly review and update your roadmap to maintain alignment with your product vision and company strategy.