How to develop a product roadmap
10/12/2022

How to Develop a Product Roadmap?

Table of contents:

    Product managers, marketing, sales, and other departments in an organization use roadmaps to stay aligned with their goals and plans. An efficient product roadmap helps to prioritize tasks, track progress, and coordinate work across teams.

    However, creating a useful product roadmap isn’t an easy task. It takes time, patience, and clear communication to craft an accurate roadmap that will reflect the teams’ priorities and can be easily understood by stakeholders and potential customers.

    This article will provide you with all the information about building a product roadmap, so if you were just about to develop one, read it first.

    Here’s what you’ll learn.

    • What exactly is a product roadmap and why is it important?
    • Who prepares them and how are they used by different teams?
    • How to develop a roadmap in 5 steps?

    You’ll also be equipped with tips and tricks for creating the best product roadmap ever. Let’s begin!

    What is a Product Roadmap?

    A product roadmap is a source of product vision and product plans. It’s an outline of a product's visions, priorities, directions, and progress over time.

    In other words, a product roadmap helps teams to focus on the work that matters the most, aligning the organization with short-term and long-term goals. It should show what resources and efforts are required to achieve those goals and visualize the timeline of work.

    What goes inside a product roadmap should be aligned with the already defined strategy. They usually include:

    • customer ideas,
    • backlogs,
    • feature requests,
    • internal input.

    Product roadmaps show what you’re building and why you’re building it. It should stay flexible and easily adjust to changes in customer feedback and the market.

    Why Are Product Roadmaps Important?

    Product roadmaps are a representation of your commitment to achieving the set goals. It’s kind of a promise to your team and customers that hold you accountable.

    Product roadmaps can also improve sales by helping to prioritize crucial feature releases as well as incorporating client feedback into future products. And they help to:

    • align the entire company around a shared product goal,
    • prioritize and manage product backlog,
    • provide a clear view of the development process and progress made.

    Types of Product Roadmaps

    As mentioned above, different people will look for different things in a product roadmap and use it for their own purposes. Depending on the audience, a product roadmap may slightly change to present information most suitably. There are 5 most common product roadmap types (described below).

    1. Features roadmap – showing the timeline of feature releases. This is perfect for communicating the details of what is coming and when is it coming to other teams and customers.
    2. Strategy roadmap – it’s all about the high-level efforts that will help to achieve the set product goals. It’s a perfect tool for presenting progress to leaders and keeping teams aligned.
    3. Portfolio roadmap – presenting planned releases for multiple products in a single view. Used for providing an overview of the leadership plans and how product teams work together.
    4. Release roadmap – showing the activities necessary before the product release and who’s responsible for them. It’s used for coordinating release activities.
    5. Epics roadmap – helping to plan and organize upcoming work. It’s used for visualizing work, prioritizing decisions, and communicating key focus areas.

    Who Prepares a Product Roadmap?

    Product managers are the owners of product roadmaps. They lead the research, gather ideas and feedback, and deal with translating and prioritizing those into features and a product roadmap itself. They later share it with stakeholders.

    How are Product Roadmaps Used by Different Teams?

    Product owners use roadmaps to collaborate with their teams and get an understanding of how the product will develop over time.

    Agile teams use it to keep everyone up-to-date and gain information about their day-to-day work as well as its future direction. 

    Product managers depend on roadmaps to manage the launch of a product, the introduction of new features, or any updates to existing apps.

    Outside of product management, teams rely on roadmaps for communication, visualization, and transparency. Let’s look at a few examples.

    • Customer support uses product roadmaps to stay informed about critical features and upcoming enhancements.
    • Sales get from them any functionality details as well as timing which directly impacts customers.
    • Engineering uses them to get an understanding of strategy, releases, features, and requirements to plan the development and resources needed.
    • Marketing reads it to get benefits for customers to prepare relevant campaigns.
    • Leadership teams and board members review product roadmaps to get an understanding of how product plans align with the strategy, goals, vision, and business metrics.

    How to Develop a Product Roadmap?

    The process of building a product roadmap starts with a well-thought-out strategy. Begin with establishing the product goals and initiatives, and align them with the strategy depending on the chosen features. Later on, you can visualize it all in a form of a timeline.

    When developing a product roadmap, it’s important to keep in mind the target audience as this will influence the type of roadmap you’re going to create.

    Your product roadmap will also reflect the development methodology your company follows – an agile roadmap will be more flexible to accommodate possible changes, while a waterfall one will be more fixed, highlighting the long-term commitment to the specific features.

    Let’s look at the key elements shared by all types of product roadmaps.

    • Goals – measurable and time-bounded objectives with defined success metrics. They represent what’s needed to deliver the product. 
    • Initiatives – descriptions of how the efforts will contribute to the goals. They show how features and releases relate to the strategy.
    • Features – new or improved functionalities that deliver value to users. These include capabilities, appearance, components, and performance.
    • Releases – launches of product functionalities. They often contain multiple features that are delivered at the same time.
    • Timeline – a visual representation of when product releases will occur. The time scale can range from days to years, depending on the amount of work.
    • Epics – big bodies of work that often consist of multiple releases. They break down into smaller features delivered incrementally.

    Since you now know what are the crucial elements of a product roadmap, we can swiftly move on to actually creating it. Let’s go through this process step by step.

    Define the Product Strategy

    As we already said, every product roadmap begins with a product strategy. This is the ‘why’ behind the product. It explains how the product will support the overall business goals. It’s also the time to develop a product vision, which will take into consideration who are the main customers, what they need, and how you can help them.

    Review the Ideas

    Go through all ideas from customers and customer-facing teams. Organize and prioritize them as they will help you decide what will be included on the roadmap. You can score those ideas based on the metrics that best reflect your strategy.

    Define Features and Requirements

    The goals, initiatives, and ideas you’ve prepared will guide you through the 3rd step – defining the product features. You can use a template or a tool to put those into words. Remember to add all details, and group them into epics. Everything that doesn’t fit into the 1st iteration, goes into the next one, and so on. Here, you can also try to translate the features into user stories to describe the benefits delivered from the customer’s perspective.

    Organize Everything Into Releases

    Since you have the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your product roadmap, now it’s time to think about the ‘when’. Plan the delivery timeline and organize everything into releases. Those are often organized by product launch but you can also arrange them by development capacity.

    Make It Come to Life

    The final step is to visualize everything by using a template or software dedicated to road mapping. Some of the crowd’s favorites are monday.com, airfocus, Aha!, Trello, Asana, Roadmunk, and Jira.

    Tips and Tricks for Creating the Best Product Roadmap

    Building and maintaining a product roadmap is an ongoing process. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you with that.

    • Make it easily accessible to everybody.
    • Include only as much detail as necessary for the particular audience.
    • Review the roadmap regularly and adjust it if needed.
    • Keep the focus on short-term tactics and how they influence long-term goals.
    • Stay connected to stakeholders to ensure alignment.

    Summary

    The process of developing a product roadmap consists of 5 steps: definition of the product strategy, idea reviews, definition of features and requirements, organizing data into releases, and visualization.

    A product roadmap communicates the ‘why’, ‘what’, and ‘when’ of a product you’re building and is closely aligned with the business goals.

    It can be utilized by various teams for different purposes, but, at its core, it serves as a plan of action for product development and its growth in the future.

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    CSHARK
    This article wouldn’t have been written without the engagement of our CSHARKers! It was created thanks to their expert knowledge & extensive experience. As multiple people were involved in the consultancy, creation, and verification process, we figured it’s not fair to list just one of us as an author. Let’s say it was a collective work of many great minds.