What is a Product Roadmap? Definition, Examples, and Templates
Product managers and product teams easily get lost in their attempt to create and follow a roadmap. Both members of your product team and external stakeholders tend to ask questions about the business goals and specific features of the project.
Questions such as “What’s the actual plan?” can cause product managers to panic especially when there are no time-bound objectives and a clear roadmap.
One way to keep your internal teams and key stakeholders on the same page is to create a product roadmap that reveals the big picture. The product roadmap is an essential part of any useful product management strategy.
An ideal agile product roadmap should have defined success metrics, communicate the product plan, help track progress, and ensure roadmap alignment across the entire organization. Good product managers know that creating an agile product roadmap requires time especially if there are multiple teams or multiple products involved.
Many product managers tend to focus on deadlines and multiple features when building a roadmap and in the process miss out on the product vision. There is nothing wrong with setting key dates and focusing on major releases. However, focusing on them excessively can make you disconnect from your overall product strategy.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about building a product roadmap that includes the input of your product team, sales team, internal stakeholders, and other key players.
What is a Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap is an outline, representation, or visual timeline of the evolution of a product and product strategy over time. Just like an agile roadmap, this type of roadmap is a visual tool that shows:
- Product managers and other relevant stakeholders how a product is expected to develop in relation to features and technical requirements
- And how the product and its evolution process align with the overall business strategy.
Product roadmaps do not remain the same throughout the product’s lifecycle. Improvements such as new or improved functionality are made based on market shifts and customer requests.
Nonetheless, what remains important is that items on the timeline align with the product strategy and show relevant individuals what is expected from the product in the short-term and long-term future. They show the problems to be solved and product goals to be met over time.
With product roadmaps, agile teams and other teams are kept focused on the same goal, know where priorities lie and are guided in their daily work activities. The development of future project plans on the product is facilitated as product managers are given enough context to work with.
Who Uses Product Roadmaps?
Roadmaps are dynamic in form and have a lot of uses, both internal and external to your company. The audience of a product roadmap is determined by the type of roadmap it is. There are different types of product roadmaps in form of a portfolio, strategy, releases, and features roadmaps, among others. Who makes use of them?
The Development Team
The development team makes use of internal roadmaps that guide how meaningful work is done by them. Within agile frameworks, these roadmaps show timelines split into agile sprints as well as the exact points on the timeline where each work item exists and problems are expected.
Roadmaps for the development team show where priorities lie in implementing certain features and the product strategy, milestones, critical accomplishments, and when certain parts of the product are due for delivery or release.
Senior executives also make use of internal roadmaps, with these roadmaps showing how the product strategy and supporting teamwork contribute to the overall business goals and objectives.
Roadmap presentation for senior executives is not typically detailed as its aim is just to show executives' overall progress towards meeting goals set for the product as well as the company.
They are usually represented within timelines split into monthly or quarterly periods. These periods then represent points for review and units for measuring the progress of agile development, other strategic initiatives, and teams involved.
Roadmaps for sales teams present information concerning the expected improvements on the product to boost sales. With this roadmap presentation, your sales personnel have details on new features based on customer needs, benefits, and market shifts. They make use of these details in sales conversations for customer success.
Unlike internal roadmaps, hard deadlines are typically non-existent within a roadmap for sales personnel. This is because they just contain details on customer expectations without considering other factors in the product delivery process.
Yes, customers also have a product roadmap of their own. This is an external roadmap different from the internal roadmap that contains your product goals, product features, related features, key releases, and important tasks.
Customers roadmap is typically the features roadmap that keeps customers informed about what to expect from the product in the future. This roadmap usually contains content that is easy to read and visually appealing, with the main goal to keep them interested in the product through future promises that problems are solved and more benefits reaped from the product.
A roadmap for your customer should include the actual value of the product, monthly active users, clear customer benefits, and the final product. Try to avoid including user stories in the roadmap. Your marketing, customer support, and engineering team members also make use of roadmaps.
Why Create a Product Roadmap
Creating a roadmap is crucial for many reasons and the many benefits it offers to your product management and delivery process.
1. Product Visibility
A product roadmap presents you with full visibility into your product strategy, showing you every step in its implementation and filtering any unnecessary detail in a product’s development process.
2. Keeps Your Goals Aligned Across Cross-Functional Teams
Many organizations have a large or cross-functional team to work with during the product life cycle and evolution. A product roadmap helps to keep everyone’s goals aligned and guides all work processes towards attaining the same outcome every step of the way.
Roadmaps are great tools in setting priorities straight, contributing to effective product delivery, and aligning goals and work processes even further.
3. Better Understanding of Key Decisions
With product roadmaps available to everyone, decisions are also understood better. Rather than having certain team members in the dark and confused, everyone knows why certain decisions are made and how they contribute to the future plans for products and the company overall.
4. Provides Visibility into Product Progress
Product roadmaps provide stakeholders with simplified visibility into progress made and help every member of the team in making decisions faster. Decisions are also more relevant to important goals in the product lifecycle and expected end products are more easily developed.
5. Clear Understanding of the Product Development Lifecycle
Overall, creating a product roadmap is important as it helps to align goals, priorities, and gives a general understanding of where a product is and where it is meant to be in its development lifecycle and according to strategies developed for it.
How to Build a Product Roadmap
The roadmapping process involves you following careful steps to make sure that every important detail is included in it. These important details are determined by the audience of the roadmap, with roadmaps for senior executives and customers, for instance, having less detailed information than roadmaps for your development teams, and so on.
Creating your product roadmap involves you identifying goals to be met as well as the methodologies required to meet and KPIs used in measuring these goals. You use these goals to also identify features and releases in creating a comprehensive roadmap.
1. Establishing Goals
Establishing goals covers identifying why the product exists and how its development eventually contributes to the overall future objectives of the company. Determining your goals first makes every other process easier to go about.
Understandably, since the relevance of product goals is determined by how they contribute to overall business objectives, then these overall business objectives have to be very clear and understood by every important personnel. Establishing your short-term and long-term goals for the product then becomes easier.
Goals relate to why the product exists and who the product is expected to serve. You recognize the product vision and how this vision serves relevant customers and their needs. Establishing goals also helps you come up with an implementation strategy for product development.
2. Identify Problems
While developing your product strategy for meeting these goals, you want to identify all problems to be solved through the product. These relate to problems your customers face or are expected to face with the product. This way, you have an idea and plan on how customer satisfaction is maintained during the product life cycle.
How do you identify these problems? You get data and information from the following:
Competitive analysis is most useful where the product is a new one and you want a roadmap that immediately puts you on the right track. With in-depth competitive analysis, you study your competitors’ business strategies relating to the product and identify the problems they face with it.
You additionally know how they solve these problems, the level of competition facing you, and how much of the market share you stand to get.
Either through direct surveys or reviews spread out across multiple channels, like your sales and customer service conversations, you want to know exactly what your customers identify as problems. These problems may come in the form of complaints or feature requests from customers.
Through them, you know which may be solved within product roadmap timelines and the level of user satisfaction to expect from each product version release.
This includes data on your customers’ behavior while making use of the product. Data from software products are easily gotten through this than from physical products.
Identifying these problems helps you in creating your strategy and makes sure customer needs are progressively satisfied every step of the way. Doing this also helps to facilitate discussions in the next stage of product roadmap creation.
3. Review Ideas And Align Stakeholders
Although collaboration is one thing you want to engage in from the very beginning, there is a dedicated point before the product roadmap is finally created where important decisions are made.
Everyone decides whether all proposed goals and problems are relevant and are then aligned in attaining these goals and solving these problems where they are approved. The processes in attaining goals and solving problems are also collaboratively developed.
Relevant personnel here include the product manager, senior executives, and the team. Stakeholders are important for deciding on goals and, within the team, individuals having direct contact with customers are important for deciding on problems. The product manager maintains close relationships with these personnel and gets full perspective in creating plans.
Product managers then make prioritizations and identify KPIs for measuring progress. Prioritizations are made using two popular prioritization frameworks: the simpler “Value vs Effort” and a more complex RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort) framework.
Regardless of the framework, prioritization is determined by the magnitude of goals or problems and how fast they can be met or solved.
You also identify KPIs for measuring progress towards meeting goals and solving problems. One way to do this is by making use of objectives and key results (OKRs).
4. Define Your Product Features
Define the features that help take care of the problems you have identified. Based on the product, your development team then decides on these and has enough context to build the appropriate solutions.
5. Create a Framework for Release
Organize your product features into multiple releases. Features within releases are determined by how fast they could be developed or how your sales strategy aligns with them. You also set dates for these releases so that work is as fast as required.
6. Visualize The Roadmap
Visualize and present the product roadmap using product roadmap templates from product roadmap tools such as Monday.com, ClickUp, Teamwork, and ProductPlan. The visualization option you choose depends on your audience and the purpose.
Tips for Building, Using, and Communicating Product Roadmaps
When building and implementing roadmaps for cross-functional teams, you need to avoid making the common mistakes that product managers make such as failing to update the roadmap, putting epics and user stories on the product roadmap, lack of data, and developing it without the input of other stakeholders.
1. Keep Information Relevant
You do not want your product roadmap to be overwhelming or underwhelming. Your audience should understand every necessary detail presented to them. Maintaining only relevant information within your product roadmap ensures these.
For your senior executives and customers, they go through it as fast as necessary and for your development team, they have as much information as required to work. For example, you know when to show dates and when not to.
2. Always Keep Relevant Stakeholders Close
Stakeholders play important roles in making decisions, determining success, and giving approvals, so you want to ensure that they are all kept within the product roadmap building and implementation process.
Collaborations with stakeholders ensure that everyone is not just aligned towards the same goals but goals and through processes that prove entirely satisfactory.
3. Make Provisions for Short-Term Strategies
Your product roadmap is expected to show how the product develops in the future. This does not mean that you leave out short-term strategies and processes. You want to determine the most important of them, based on how they contribute towards long-term goals and include them within the roadmap.
4. Flexibility is Key
During the product life cycle, it is expected that there are market shifts due to competitor activities, customer demand, and changing priorities. Due to this, roadmaps are not rigid visual tools that stay the same throughout the product life cycle. Ensure that relevant stakeholders expect changes to it and these changes are easily applied when necessary.
Changes are typically not known before a need for them occurs, so keeping the roadmap flexible to changes is important. Product roadmapping software helps with this.
5. Give Everyone Access to Roadmaps
One theme that recurs as we repeatedly talk about product roadmaps is alignment. You want everyone’s focus aligned to goals for the product and problems to be solved by the product, as well as processes and changes towards achieving these. Keeping access to roadmaps with a group of individuals does not help you achieve this.
With roadmaps, you want every single individual important to the product development lifecycle to have access to them. To make sure alignment is secured, you also ensure that these individuals make use of them. Without doing this, your roadmaps will not serve their purpose.
6. Keep Track of Performance
KPIs help you keep track of your performance. Ensure that you make the most productive use of them. KPIs and other factors determine the changes you make to the roadmap.
You know where your progress is at and have raw data to measure how far you are from meeting goals. Ensure you use them for future estimations for other products.
In addition to all these, one piece of advice remains important: make use of product management tools and templates.
Why Use Product Roadmap Software
From physical notepads and display materials to random software programs like PowerPoint, visualizing product roadmaps may be facilitated through a host of mediums. However, how efficient is their management?
1. Better Options Than Other Random Software Programs
Product roadmaps are not rigid plans or timelines created at the beginning of a product’s lifecycle as they do not stay the same throughout. They are prone to changes and improvements, which means they go deeper than visualizations. Making changes to these physical display items and PowerPoint presentations, among others, prove to be very stressful.
Even a lot of product management software programs do not have the comprehensive host of tools and features to cover the management of your product roadmaps. This is where dedicated software comes in.
2. Helps You Effectively Manage Your Product Roadmaps
Making use of roadmap software equips you with dedicated tools and features to manage your list of roadmaps. You create custom roadmaps, integrate your product development process into them, and get timely updates on the status of work.
A product roadmap tool undoubtedly offers you all the appropriate collection of features you need without under equipping or overwhelming you.
Product Roadmap Template
Talking about product roadmaps and their existence as visual tools, it is only necessary to show you what the different types of product roadmaps look like.
1. Strategy Roadmap
A strategic roadmap is also called the objectives roadmap. This is a type of product roadmap template that displays less detailed information on the product life cycle. A strategic roadmap focuses on displaying the timeline of a phase in the product’s development journey, as well as the strategy through major events, goals, and milestones within this timeline.
2. Releases Roadmap
Releases product roadmap templates come in two forms: a release plan and a release timeline.
The Release Plan
Here is a release plan product roadmap template showing features to be released and improvements to be made on the product over its development lifecycle.
As you see, there are no time constraints on these releases as these roadmaps just present a list of what is to be expected from the product on every version release. They help you manage milestones.
The Release Timeline
A release timeline product roadmap template brings time constraints and deadlines into the mix. They show work items within the product release plan, the periods they are to be completed, and when the product version is to be released.
3. Features Roadmap
The feature product roadmap template is a detailed view of when each feature within each release is expected to be completed.