Do you want your short-term efforts to align with the long-term business objectives? In that case, you’re going to want a product roadmap to guide the product team in the right direction. It’s important to understand the role a product roadmap plays in keeping everyone’s head in the game.
Below, we discuss the goals and main elements of a product roadmap for the product management team and the organization as a whole.
A product roadmap is a visual summary that outlines the priorities, direction, progress, and vision surrounding a product over a certain time frame. Think of it as a plan of action aligning the organization’s short-term and long-term goals.
It communicates what you’re creating and why you’re doing it.
A product roadmap can have many goals, depending on the organization’s objectives and the product’s purpose itself. Some of these goals include:
Because the product roadmap spans a considerable timeline, it should have some integral elements. Here are a few of them:
An effective roadmap is a combination of these elements. Moreover, it allows for consensus and feedback, letting everyone contribute to the process.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that a product roadmap is the best ally for a product owner. It is a tool through which the product team can communicate with everyone involved, clearly visualizing the goal and vision.
A business plan is merely an idea on paper. A roadmap, on the other hand, is a practical version of that plan. Agile leaders often make strategic roadmaps to achieve their product vision and enhance user engagement.
Without a product roadmap, stakeholders tend to lose sight of the product vision. Moreover, teams fall short due to unclear or inconsistent communication.
A product roadmap visually represents the tasks everyone needs to do. It clearly shows the stakeholders the roles and responsibilities of every party involved.
Most importantly, it lays grounds for resource allocation, letting the product manager know how much, where, and when the resources need to be used.
A roadmap also defines all aspects of meaningful changes to a product plan. Why are these changes necessary? What tasks does the product team have to do to make these changes? In what sequence should everything take place?
When a team has the answers to all these questions beforehand, it can do a much better job of turning a strategy on paper into a reality in action.
The product manager or product owner is not solely responsible for creating the product roadmap. Because the whole product team will be working according to these visual guidelines, there’s a need for a group effort.
The product manager is the main driver in the creation of a roadmap. They need to serve as the strategic leader for planning the roadmap. Plus, they have to pull relevant data, strategic details, and product ideas for planning and discussions with stakeholders.
A product manager also has to play a role in coordinating the product planning meetings. For instance, they have to invite participants and keep the meetings topic-oriented.
The product owner acts as a liaison in the process by knitting the action plan of the development team with the product strategy. They must translate strategic items, such as the theme of the product roadmap, into actionable elements, like user stories for the development team to work on.
The representatives from the development team contribute to the product roadmap creation process by defining time frames and resource requirements. They also help the product team determine which other participants’ insights could be useful.
Some examples include the user experience and sales teams.
More importantly, the development team has to identify whether it possesses the right skills to execute the product strategy and whether the current resources are sufficient.
When the product management team is making the initial roadmap for a product, it has to work with an executive stakeholder. After that, the executive will be consulted only for approvals and final decision-making throughout the course of roadmap planning.
Initially, the executive stakeholder helps secure a budget for the product team so that it can efficiently execute the product strategy. Moreover, they approve the updates to keep the roadmap flowing.
Depending on your product development approach, you can build different types of product roadmaps. Each type has its own purpose and can fulfill certain needs for the customers, product teams, and stakeholders.
The three types of product roadmaps are:
A status-oriented roadmap exhibits the status of the product development process without setting any specific markers or time frames. It’s quite simple and works for basic projects.
Such a roadmap typically has three columns for each deliverable. These columns represent:
Because this roadmap has a “later” section, it has room for adjustments.
Meanwhile, the “now” section allows the incorporation of a tool like Parlor to visualize the team’s efforts in a customizable workspace that connects to customer feedback, giving the team insight into what it’s working on and why.
A theme-based roadmap, as the name indicates, has “themes.” These are strategic categories defined by the product goals. With this approach, the product team can prioritize themes based on their urgency or importance.
Every theme is further divided into epics. An epic is a body of work that serves the theme.
Suppose the theme for a theme-oriented roadmap is to “improve the shopping experience” in an e-commerce store app. An epic under this theme could be “virtual fitting rooms” or “one-step checkouts.”
The epics under a theme are often nested in order of priority to let the product team know what it needs to do first.
An outcome-oriented roadmap isn’t much different from a theme-oriented roadmap, except that it has a level higher than the theme.
The “outcome” of such a roadmap is something the team is expecting to achieve as a result of its product development. Stakeholders mostly prefer outcome-oriented roadmaps because they’re less concerned about individual features of the product and more interested in the end result.
Creating a successful roadmap takes proper planning. Before you build a roadmap, you should know your business’s goals and the strategic initiatives you’re trying to fulfill.
The components of your product roadmap will also depend on the intended audience. For instance, the executives want to see the strategic importance of the product team’s efforts.
Meanwhile, the customers are interested in the product’s features and functionality.
Your strategy answers the “why” of the product. Why are you building the product? What is it expected to do? What is the scope for product improvements? You need to set the initiatives and goals for the product along with showcasing how they support the organization’s overall objectives.
The strategy should also cover crucial information, such as:
Once you’ve set the strategy for the Agile product roadmap, it’s time to prioritize product features based on certain criteria. You can use any method for this. Two of the best ones are OKRs and MoSCoW.
OKRs, or objectives and key results, refer to a methodology based on collaborative goal-setting. Teams use this method to set goals that have measurable results.
When you write OKRs, you mention one objective with three to five key results. For example: We will make the shopping experience a breeze for customers through one-step registration, wishlist creation, super-fast checkout, and detailed product information.
The objective is what you want to achieve, which is an improvement to the customer experience. Objectives are action-oriented, concrete, and ambitious.
Meanwhile, the key results are the benchmarks for reaching the objective. They are realistic yet time-bound and measurable. When setting a key objective, there should be no gray area. Either you meet it, or you don’t.
The other way to prioritize product roadmap features and requirements is through MoSCoW prioritization:
Whether you showcase the roadmap as a document or a presentation, it’s important to keep its visual essence intact.
Here are some tips:
After you’ve presented the roadmap, you can circulate copies of it throughout the organization or to relevant departments. Alternatively, you can keep an updated copy of the roadmap somewhere that’s accessible to everyone, especially teams that might want to reference it to develop their future strategies.
For instance, the marketing team can benefit immensely from the product development timeline roadmap. It will help the team determine the time frame of the product launch and the steps it must take to market the product.
A product roadmap provides the plan of action for the project over a set period. It ensures swift communication between stakeholders and product teams. Because it defines the focal areas for product development and helps spell out the product vision and strategy, it’s a must-have feature for organizations.