Business Roadmaps vs. Product Roadmaps
June 11, 2020

Business Roadmaps vs. Product Roadmaps

by Brian de Haaff

Roadmaps make strategy work. This is particularly true at the business level. Roadmaps are useful for visualizing the plan for how the organization as a whole will achieve the company's longer-term vision. Business roadmaps also have a unique relationship with product roadmaps — one that is important for both executive and product teams to understand.

Successful businesses are powered by great strategy at both the business and individual product level.

We have seen more company leaders looking to Aha! to help drive organizational success with business roadmaps. Strategic planning at the company level — setting a timeline for goals across the business — is essential always, but especially during challenging world events. Roadmaps are flexible enough to allow executive teams to visualize plans for growth, share with the broader team, and update as things change.

It would be easy to assume that business roadmaps should guide the direction of or even overlap with product roadmaps. This may seem so within small organizations that are largely centered around one product. In these companies, business and product planning are often the same. The product roadmap steers the ultimate success of the company.

But for most companies, the executive team benefits from creating higher-level goals and initiatives for the entirety of the organization. These plans supersede what any individual product team will be working on. And the larger the enterprise, the more teams and products there are to manage and support.

It is important to understand how business and product roadmaps relate to one another.

The right balance puts your company in the best position to be successful. Here is a breakdown of what should go into each roadmap and where the two harmonize:

Goals

A business roadmap contains broad goals that are focused on the success of a company as a whole. Business-wide goals typically focus on revenue growth, market expansion, hiring and development, and cost-saving process improvements, for example. Supporting those business goals is part of the strategy set within each functional group across the organization.

A product roadmap contains measurable and time-bound goals that are specific to a product and its users, such as increased adoption of certain functionality or product-specific revenue. Product managers typically align product goals with one or more business-level goals.

Initiatives

The initiatives within a business roadmap are high-level focus areas that help the organization achieve the company goals. If a company's goal is market leadership, the executive team might set an initiative to create faster innovation cycles. In many cases, the leaders within each functional group, such as the VP of product or the VP of marketing, heavily influence the business initiatives relevant to their department.

The initiatives within a product roadmap are themes of work that will help achieve the product's goals. Product initiatives include work that directly impacts the customer, such as new feature sets or performance improvements. In larger organizations with many products, it is not uncommon for these initiatives to be relevant to that specific product and its users only.

Timelines

Business roadmaps are typically created annually. Some organizations might build longer-term roadmaps that visualize three- or even five-year plans. While business roadmaps might include key milestones such as entering a new target market as part of a geographic segmentation initiative, they generally do not include timelines that visualize tactical work.

A product roadmap typically includes timelines in the form of releases, which are containers of work that must be completed to launch new customer experiences. These can happen weekly, monthly, or even less often for complex products. Releases are often presented via a Gantt chart that shows phases, milestones, and dependencies that must be met to deliver the work on schedule.

Everyday work

Business roadmaps rarely capture day-to-day work. Generally, incremental units of work are planned within roadmaps at the department level. But business roadmaps might visualize cross-functional work at a very high level, showing how each department is contributing to overall organizational goals.

A product roadmap captures the nitty-gritty work that a product team needs to complete within each release. Product-level work is typically defined in the form of features and requirements that are then developed by the engineering team. This work should always move product goals and initiatives forward, which helps achieve business-wide goals.

Roadmapping is valuable for any team that wants to visualize a plan and take action.

Most organizations benefit from effective roadmapping at both the business and product level. This requires deep thinking about goals and initiatives at every level of the organization.

How do your business and product roadmaps relate?

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Brian de Haaff

About Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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