Business Roadmaps vs. Product Roadmaps
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Frequently asked questions about business roadmaps
What is the purpose of a business roadmap?
A business roadmap captures a high-level overview of what a company is trying to achieve and when. Company leaders create a business roadmap to help ensure the success of the entire organization — clarifying where the company is headed and aligning the broader team around goals and a timeline for completion.
What should be included in a business roadmap?
At a basic level, a business roadmap should include the company's big picture goals and initiatives, along with a time frame for when the team will accomplish them. Some business roadmaps might also show an overview of how each cross-functional group in the organization is contributing to the overall business goals. Typically a business roadmap will include goals such as market leadership, market expansion, or revenue growth. Common business-wide initiatives include high-level efforts such as creating faster innovation cycles or segmenting customers geographically.
What does a successful company's business strategy roadmap look like?
A business roadmap will look different depending on the company and what it is trying to achieve. For example, a strategic roadmap for a startup or small company will likely be oriented around a single offering. On the other hand, a business roadmap for a large organization will probably be more complex — including multiple initiatives related to different products or areas of focus across the organization. No matter what type of business roadmap you are creating, remember to capture your overall strategy and plan for business growth.
What is the difference between a business roadmap and a business plan?
Business roadmaps and business plans are sometimes used synonymously. But there are some important distinctions. A business roadmap is a strategic plan for what the company is aiming to accomplish and when it will do so. A business plan is a more detailed document that captures how the organization will achieve its objectives. For example, a business plan might detail a company's strategy for developing a new product or entering a new market. You can use a business plan to define the problem you are trying to solve, summarize key details about your target customers, and explain what makes your product different than competitors' offerings. Typically, company leaders draft a more detailed business plan after creating a business roadmap.
How do I create a roadmap for my business?
Many executives create a business roadmap on an annual basis, but others opt to make longer-term plans for the next three to five years. What matters is that you understand the best practices for business roadmaps. To summarize, you should include company-wide objectives and a timeline for meeting them. Remember to keep the roadmap high-level and not tactical — you can create other types of roadmaps (such as product roadmaps) to visualize the tactical work needed to achieve the company goals. And make sure to update your business roadmap as company priorities shift. This keeps everyone in the organization aligned on where you are headed and what you are trying to accomplish.
How do you plan your future business?
It is wise to invest meaningful thought into planning any future business. Creating a business roadmap for a new company, also called a startup roadmap, can help you set your company up for success. Before getting started building your roadmap, define your vision and strategy — why are you starting a company, and what core problem will you solve? Your new business will likely center around a single product idea at first, but you can always add additional products and offerings as you grow. Creating a strong business roadmap at the beginning will help you build a sustainable company that lasts over the long term.