Product roadmaps function as a high-level summary that crystalizes your product vision, visualizing your product development over time. When properly constructed, a product roadmap can be an incredibly useful resource for your different teams.
As the single guiding document that all teams can reference, a well-designed product roadmap can provide clarity to the stakeholders, the sales team, the marketing team, the product team, and every other team within your business.
From a product management standpoint, what makes product roadmaps such a unique resource is that they’re constantly updating and evolving with the needs of your business. That being said, these roadmaps have a variety of moving parts.
The process of building a product roadmap, can quickly become an overwhelming experience due to its complexity. With that in mind, we can start by focusing on the foundation of any valuable product roadmap: the planning stage.
Product roadmaps provide the maximum amount of utility when they are tailored to specific audiences. Through the lens of product management, your roadmap should be developed in such a way that you’d be able to prioritize specific, relevant details depending on both who you’re sharing this with, as well as the kind of information they need.
A stakeholder might need to see the big picture and review a roadmap that shows how the product meets company objectives, while your sales team might simply want a product strategy focusing on how to turn prospects into customers. Meanwhile, the development team and marketing team have completely unique needs as well.
The more clearly you can define your audience, the better you can serve their needs.
Here is some thinking on different audiences to consider for your roadmap. Not all of these will be relevant for every company, and likely not all of these need a dedicated roadmap. But it is a helpful exercise to think through each of these groups and consider how they can be best served by a roadmap, what their needs are, and how to thoughtfully present a roadmap that moves their work forward.
The tension that comes from sales trying to close deals based on roadmap items that don’t exist is as old as time. The fact is, the best antidote to this is a well-documented roadmap.
Giving marketing teams better visibility into upcoming progress helps them better prepare for the launch. When marketing teams can see what’s coming up, they get a head start on building content and sales collateral to support the changes.
Customer support and customer success teams are on the front lines, working with real customers on a 1-1 basis. They are often the first place a customer goes with questions about upcoming features and functionality. And an inconsistent, unprepared answer to these questions can create a terrible experience for customers.
BizDev teams maintain relationships with strategic partners and other companies in your product’s ecosystem. And they are often the best conduit for facilitating high-impact partnerships and integrations.
Everyone likes to complain about "top-down" meddling of the product vision and roadmap. The best way to head this off is to show the C-Suite that there's already a thoughtful, detailed vision being executed upon.
For obvious reasons, a major audience to consider is your actual customers. These are the folks who will most be impacted by upcoming change. And the ones who stand to cause the most damage to your business if they're unhappy.
An easily-overlooked cohort is potential customers. Seeing what's coming up and a healthy development cadence can make the difference for a prospect who's on the cusp of a buying decision.
When building your roadmap, the first folks you imagine probably aren’t in departments like legal, HR, and finance. But when big product developments shape the course of the business, ramifications touch every team. It's worth putting thought into these other teams and what their needs may be.
Take a look at Buffer’s public product roadmap and you can see they’ve broken down their categories (platform, mobile apps, publishing features, etc.) The easiest way to clarify your product vision and determine your product strategy is by breaking your product down into its major themes and organizing them from highest priority to lowest.
The purpose of a roadmap index (often also called a "readme" section) is to provide a brief summary outlining the product roadmap’s key objectives. Beyond that, your index should outline your roadmap goals, and all the unique phases of your product roadmap.
A roadmap index should provide readers with a high-level understanding of the project, introducing them to the roadmap’s major concepts before they dive in.
When presented with a detailed product roadmap, there’s a chance that your team may feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of everything needed to accomplish their goals.
To avoid this problem and ensure they excel, and to ensure steady, measurable progress, it’s best to take large project goals and break them down into small, actionable ones. We can look at GitHub’s public roadmap and see how they’ve created a series of small goals by quarter.
Within every strategic theme in your product roadmap, you should provide a summary detailing what tasks should be handled before moving on to the next theme. Smaller goals aren’t just easier for your team to manage, they also provide clarity upon review if some initiatives aren’t being accomplished within a specific timeframe.
The process of visualizing your product roadmap is exceptionally useful, particularly when looking to communicate this information across different teams. By creating a timeline of both your project roadmap and goals, you can clearly show which steps will need to be taken, and how long each phase should take.
From a product management standpoint, it’s important to consider your product roadmap as a living document, meaning it’s constantly subject to change. As you move forward along your project’s timeline, it’s vital that you’ve established a system for noting any updates made to your product roadmap.
Ideally, your product roadmap should outline the exact dates when sections were last updated. Your team should be able to clearly observe the updates, in order to remain constantly up-to-date and avoid potential confusion.
It’s easy to think that you’re essentially finished once you’ve built your product roadmap, but this is just the beginning of the long-term product success process.
If you’re serious about maximizing the value of your product roadmap, you’ll need to analyze your roadmap, track key metrics, and make the necessary improvements for long-term growth.
If you’re viewing your product roadmap as a living document, there’s a good chance that your performance expectations won’t always line up with the reality of your team’s execution. Not only is this perfectly normal, but it’s also a healthy part of the product roadmap process.
Sometimes you may introduce new features that force you to re-evaluate your product roadmap. Maybe a product launch went poorly, or specific features are being removed.
When problems arise, changes are made or there are incidents where the product roadmap goals haven’t been met, it’s important to ask whether the situation was anticipated or not, and which resources will be needed to resolve the issue.
If you look beyond Slack’s public roadmap, you’ll find a changelog page dedicated to updates on how certain initiatives change as time goes on. Updating your product goals is a natural part of long-term growth and critical if you want to build the best product possible.
As you progress through the product roadmap, you’ll want to track key metrics and regularly consider whether or not the short-term goals you’ve established are both being met and moving your teams through strategic themes efficiently, within a specific timeframe.
Arguably the most useful aspect of the review stage is the feedback you’ll receive from both customers and your team members.
By considering user stories, your customers can help you understand if the output envisioned by your product roadmap is properly serving users and meeting customer needs. Internally, feedback from internal teams can help you identify processes that may be inefficient, redundant, or otherwise not serving your strategic goals.
The process of developing your own product roadmap can quickly become extremely complex, with everything from agile to scrum to epics, complete with unique product roadmap templates for each. Ideally, this guide should help you understand the basic building blocks of what an effective product roadmap looks like.
While the product development process may be complicated, LaunchNotes helps you create dynamic, shareable roadmaps that build excitement, eliminate uncertainty, and function as a single source of truth for product plans and progress.
If you’re ready to elevate your product roadmaps, you can try LaunchNotes for free right now.