What is a Product Roadmap?

by Sean Boyce
product roadmap

Whenever we’re deciding to go somewhere it’s always helpful to have a map.  I find it easy to take for granted the convenience afforded to us through technology.  If I’m driving somewhere and know where I’m going I’ll enter my destination address into google maps just in case there is any trouble on my route.  This simple step has saved me countless hours wasted stuck in traffic.  When developing a product it is even more important to map your course.  A product roadmap will organize your company’s collective effort to help make your business successful.

What is a Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap is a plan that matches your business objectives to your technological solutions to help you meet your company’s short and long-term goals.  A product roadmap enables you to put your vision into an action plan.  Your product roadmap will keep everyone honest about what they should be doing at any given point to ensure the company achieves its long term goals.  As we discussed before it’s much easier to get where you’re going with a map.

When Should I Create a Product Roadmap?

Yesterday.  It doesn’t matter if your product is only an idea or if you’ve had a product in the market for years, a product roadmap is a necessity.  Your team needs to be on the same page so everyone is rowing in the right direction.  If you don’t have a dedicated product manager (at least part-time) then it is even more important to have a product roadmap.  This is because it is impossible for a stakeholder at the company to do their job AND be a product manager.  You should create a product roadmap ASAP.  

Who Should be Involved with Creating the Product Roadmap?

Every product stakeholder on your team.  Creating a product roadmap is an incredibly valuable group exercise to go through.  The collaboration often leads to strong team building.  There may be some push and pull initially, but this is to be expected and it is important to get everyone on the same page.  Different expectations and assumptions often lead to confusion which impacts productivity.  So all of your company stakeholders should be involved in creating a product roadmap for your company.

How do I Create a Product Roadmap?

I prefer the old school method of paper and sticky notes, especially if your team is more than just you.  Building the product roadmap is a great collaborative exercise to go through.  It helps for the team to understand how everyone else thinks.  So create one with your whole team in person if you have the ability.  If you don’t, there are plenty of tools on the market today to do so digitally and/or remotely.  The company Aha! has a product roadmap building tool that they offer.  Their tools are paid, but they come with a free trial.  ProductPlan is another company that offers solid product roadmapping software and has a free trial.  Worst case you can always use Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Project.  The latter is more focused on creating a gantt chart, which is helpful to set a timeline for your product roadmap deliverables.  

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How often should I update my product roadmap?

Monthly to quarterly.  Some organizations will change frequently enough that a monthly update will be helpful, but for most companies a quarterly update to the product roadmap is sufficient.  Even though you may be updating your product roadmap quarterly that doesn’t mean you don’t need product management help on a regular basis.  The roadmap is a guide to follow, but someone needs to make sure you are following it successfully.  That is the responsibility of a product manager.  Find more out about that here.

A product roadmap is an invaluable tool for an organization looking to make their product successful.  Without one it is difficult to remain productive and efficient with your progress.  A product roadmap also helps keep your team on the same page.  As the team grows so does the importance of ensuring everyone is rowing in the same direction.  

If you’d like to learn more about product management or talk more about the services I offer as a product management consultant please feel free to reach out to me at sean@nxtstep.io.  Keep disrupting.

 

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