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Perfect Product Roadmap: How to create the most promising roadmap?

You probably heard people saying: "No Roadmap Survives Contact with Reality". Let's review the key stages of making a perfect roadmap that will survive business challenges and product development impediments.


Why roadmap is important?


Properly developed roadmaps help guide organizations towards plans and strategy execution. Roadmap supports understanding of how KPIs or product vision will be delivered.


Note, that roadmap is not a Gantt chart and definitely not a project plan. This means that your roadmap should be flexible enough and ''alive''. Roadmap supports project plan and helps in delivery.


Tools to create a roadmap


In fact, there are many options what tools you can use to create a roadmap, let's review some of them:

  1. Interactive Product Roadmap Tools - such as Jira, Monday.com, Craft.io, and many others

  2. Kanban Board - you can use Jira, Trello, or even Notion Kanban boards to reflect your roadmap

  3. Spreadsheets - are simple and effective


RoADMAP stakeholders


Let's review who are key ''users'' of the roadmap and who will benefit from it:

  1. Product Team - roadmap helps align short and long-term goals for the development team. Also, the roadmap will help the engineering team to make better ''technology'' decisions knowing long-term goals.

  2. Customers - a roadmap for customers will rely on informing people about the product they want to buy, so the primary goal is to engage with your user persona. The roadmap for customers will have unique objectives and requirements, as not only your customers will see it, but also competitors or investors.

  3. Senior Management - roadmap for senior management or executives should help understand how you are going to achieve business goals and KPIs.

  4. Stakeholders (Sales, Marketing, Customer Care, etc.) - a roadmap for stakeholders is needed to align on information communication.

Note that in most cases you would need different roadmaps for every group of recipients.


What is not a product roadmap?


Roadmap is not a project plan - too much effort dedicated to planning, estimation, and design reduces the time available for development. Roadmap should represent strategy and priorities. Roadmap should say what problems you want to fix or what results you plan to accomplish.


Deadlines for specific features this is the project plan goal. In the past, roadmaps looked like Gantt charts with hard deadlines. However, in the new development reality knowing all product deliverables upfront and making deadlines for it in most cases fails, which causes frustration for management and customers. The roadmap should tell the team what they need to concentrate on - priorities.


Note that the project plan is created from a roadmap, not vice-versa.


what to include in the roadmap?


There are 4 key components to have in your roadmap:

  1. Product Vision - specify your product's vision and what you aim to achieve.

  2. Objectives - those usually are features that you are planning to deliver to solve the business problem usually divided by Themes.

  3. Timeframe - timeframe can be short-term (e.g., monthly) or long-term (e.g., yearly). A timeframe serves to inform stakeholders about when particular work will happen and helps to understand priorities.

  4. Disclaimers - make sure you add any possible disclaimer to your roadmap, such as ''roadmap is subject to change or delay'' or that roadmap is ''internal use only''.


Below is an example of how all 4 components are placed on product roadmap:



Can you make changes to the roadmap?


Your business environment changes so should your roadmap. If your competitor just released a product and your customers resign from your product, or recent law changes will cause legal issues - would you stay to the roadmap created months ago? Of course not!


The roadmap should be reactive to any risks or issues around your business. There is no one recipe for everything and no roadmap for months or years ahead that will solve all problems upfront. Your roadmap must adjust to current needs to survive.



How far roadmap should be planned?

  • For product discovery - months

  • For product growth - quarters

  • For product maturity and stability - years

However, if the above is too complex for you, start with using Now, Next, and Later as in the example above.



How Often roadmap should be updated?


The rule says that the roadmap should be updated based on your timeframes. Let's say your roadmap is on a monthly basis - so it should be reviewed and adjusted every month.


Even though it is important to review the roadmap and adjust based on business needs, any changes to the roadmap should have a strong rationale behind them since your stakeholders don't want to be surprised every month with a completely different strategy for the product.


And remember, whatever changes you are making, communication is key! Make sure to inform your stakeholders and senior management about the strategy you choose to reach company goals.

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