A goal without a plan is just an idea.
Planning is an important phase in any business. The initial plan that you create decides the course for the product development. A product roadmap is a strategic document that allows you to set the direction of the development. It lets the stakeholders know what you are building and the reason behind building it. Simply put, it is a high level summary of your vision towards the product.
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is more than a shared document — it is a literal map that lets you translate your product vision on paper and your employees/stakeholders to see it clearly.
With a product roadmap, all priorities become apparent. This makes it easier for any team to not just finish what was assigned to them, but to also take up a task without worrying about dependencies.
Product roadmaps are more than mere timetables — more than the ‘what’, they focus on the ‘why’ of the product as well, integrating key insights from user personas and market research as well.
A tool for collaboration, sure, but also for swift onboarding as new employees get an immediate sense of everything associated with the product.
Source – Venngage
A product roadmap ideally should:
- Tell the vision and direction of the feature
- Let the internal stakeholders know the status
- Help understand how the feature might evolve in the future
- Facilitate communication on planning
- Ensure every person working on it has a common goal
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to failBenjamin Franklin
Strategic Planning helps build great products. It helps you define what you would like to achieve by telling your team what is needed of them. It aligns your team around what the product will achieve and how it will help you pursue your business objectives.
A sustainable product involves inputs from multiple teams such as sales, support, design, marketing etc. Every team plays a vital role in taking the product closer to the customer. A great product with a terrible user interface might end up being a failure. A proper strategy must be in place to ensure that everything goes as per the plan. Strategic planning helps you zero down on your target audience and how to shape your product for them. It helps in identifying the gaps in your plan at a high-level.
Clearly explain why your product exists and your approach to running it. This could be a mission statement, tenets, or principles. The important thing is that you believe in them, and by pinning them at the top of every roadmap it will be clear if what follows in the roadmap doesn’t match your principlesIan McAllister, Director of Product Management at Airbnb
Planning is the crux of the product life cycle. It helps you define the product and its key requirements such as features, design, use cases, flow and release dates. To define this strategy, you need to have 3 major components – vision, goals and initiatives.
Vision: Your vision is to find out the place of the product once it is released – market opportunity, competitors, target customers etc. You need to define the existing problem and the solution in your vision.
Goals: Goals are time-bound objectives. What is it that you want to achieve in the next 6 months, how will your product develop after that. Different departments have different goals. The sales team might want to increase revenue by 40%, the marketing team might devise plans to pitch the product to a different market segment, support might look at reducing the tickets by 10% in a month.
Initiatives: Initiatives are what you do to achieve these goals. It sets a mark on how the goals can be fulfilled. For instance, if the support wants to reduce the tickets by 10%, they need proper documentation or a self-serve portal. Here the portal or the documentation is the initiative.
Defining Product Goals
Good planning without good working is nothingNapoleon Hill
You need to know what you are building to build it. Every organization will have a different product vision and a goal to achieve it. These goals will drive the initiatives in your product roadmap. As a product manager, you should ensure that your roadmap is not just a list of features but the value that it will bring to the company. They should relate to the strategy of the product’s long term vision. It should be easy to understand, achieve and measure.
Product goals are deeply tied to a metric. Here is an example:
Goal: Increase sales by 40%
Metric: $80M revenue
Now, you have the goal and a metric to measure the goal. How the metric is achieved is called as an initiative. Going by our example an Initiative here includes,
- Creating features that customers need
- Increasing support
- Repositioning the product
- Having a long lock-in period: This exhausts all the resources that you have. Also, with technology changing rapidly, by the time your product is out, it would demand new technology. It is best to have an agile workflow, where you develop the features as an ongoing process.
- Prioritizing features: While idea generation is one aspect, prioritizing the features and bucketing them is another. As a product manager you need to choose the features and give adequate weight to them.
- Finding the right metrics: You need to find the right metrics to rest your case. You should understand the stage in which your product is, the audience for your product and then quantify your efforts while setting the metrics.
How to build a Product Roadmap
Eventually, everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.Charles Eames, Designer
Everything has a process and so does building a roadmap.
Set a Goal: Set constant evolving goals. Identify what you want to build and how you want to do it. Most importantly, when do you want to do it.
Assign tasks to teams: When it comes to a product, there are a lot of teams that will be working on it. You need to segregate your work and assign tasks to teams parallelly. Each of these teams might have a roadmap of their own. By doing this, each of the teams involved in this process gets adequate time to work on it.
Monitor and Update: Have weekly sprints where the team updates the tasks that they have completed and what they can take up next. Updating constantly helps you identify dependencies across teams and how to overcome them.
Adjust plans and priorities as needed: Although you have a plan in place, there are many instances where you might have to override them. Adjust your timelines such that the items in your priority bucket list goes out first.
Start with a template: Templates are perfect for displaying releases in a single view. They provide a strategic overview of your vision and plan. This helps teams across the organization align their bandwidth accordingly. It also helps other teams know what they are working on.
Examples/Templates of Product Roadmap
Product Development Roadmap
A product roadmap is the base of any organization. It helps in illustrating the team’s strategy. It has a list of all the features and demonstrates how they will evolve over time.
Timeline: A timeline gives you a visualization of how the product will evolve over time. It is tightly coupled with time. It outlines a set of goals that need to be completed within the said time frame. It allows you to organize tasks under various buckets and see where each team is stuck. It is a good approach to identify dependencies across teams and solve them.
Source – Roadmunk
Swim lane: A swimlane organizes tasks based on the state in which they are. It focuses more on completing the work and not at doing it within a time frame.
Portfolio roadmap template
A portfolio roadmap is for organizations that has launched multiple products in the market. They help in visualizing the status of their entire chain of products.
Timeline: This illustrates how each of your products will grow within a specified timeframe.
Swim lane: This helps you quickly visualize the progress of your products.
Product launch roadmap
Sometimes you might have a great product, but if your launch doesn’t give you the breakthrough you need, all your efforts are going to go in vain. Launching a product is one chance that you get to develop your relationship with your customers – old and new.
It can be a blessing if you plan and nail the positioning. It can be a curse if you don’t have the answers to your own questions. While you are launching the product, you need to set the expectations clear with your customers.
You need to be transparent when it comes to the problem you are solving, the idea behind your creation and how does it compete with other products.
A product launch roadmap helps you plan and document your market strategy and visualize how they should progress over time. It spans across multiple departments in your organization such as marketing, engineering, development, sales and support. It acts as a visual communication tool among different teams to organize their tasks before the product hits the market.
Timeline: This helps you visualize what are the tasks that each team should take up and when.
Swim lane: It is a grouping of the tasks each team should perform before, during and after the launch.
Product Roadmapping Software
Product Roadmaps needn’t be physical at all.
Plus, as someone developing a product, you should use one too.
Here are a few tools that can help you frame and manage your product roadmap.
A product management platform that scales up as per your needs, monday.com is essentially a ‘Work OS’ that lets you create the kind of workflow you want for your unique organizational needs.
With its intuitive UI, onboarding is hardly a problem and they have a plethora of customizable templates for every stage of your product’s development.
They integrate with 40+ tools and have a variety of views that you can switch between: Kanban, Gantt, or something else, you name it.
No talk about collaboration can go further without mentioning Trello at least once. A pioneer in the space of Kanban data-visualization, they have an in-built butler that helps you with task-assignment and whatnot.
What’s more, being a part of Atlassian’s suite, you can guarantee that you enjoy a wide range of integrations, from Jira to Confluence.
An in-house favorite, Notion takes clean interfaces to the next level with its black-on-white aesthetic.
Combine that with their limitless flexibility to basically function as anything — a document, a spreadsheet, a mini CRM — and you have one of the most powerful tools in your hand.
Notion is free for personal use, so you can easily see what the hype is all about.
P.S. With templates for every need and task, setting up Notion for your workspace would probably take no time.
With its sheer number of integrations (JIRA, Trello, Github ~), you can be sure that you can get your product roadmap up and running quickly.
It comes with the standard palette of what goes into a product management tool, but it also lets you create custom scoring and weighting options, something that is quite important for feature prioritization.
They also have something called a Priority Poker that lets stakeholders independently reshuffle their tasks around without affecting the actual roadmap.
Fun and powerful.
Product managers play an important role in crafting the product roadmap. They spend all their energy in giving life to their ideas. Every product lifecycle is important, but the most challenging of all is development. This is the bridge between your idea and your customers. If your customers are not able to understand your product, or if they presume it to be difficult, you have already lost the battle.
At Crayon’d, we understand that products are for people. While you have a great idea, we help you bring them to life. Our human-centric design and top notch tech drives your ideas to reality. If you have read until here, it means that you are looking at developing a great product. Take a look at our website and we promise you, you wouldn’t regret!