The 6 Principles of Strategic Product Roadmapping
April 14, 2020

The 6 Principles of Strategic Product Roadmapping

by Brian de Haaff

Strategy is not optional. I wrote this just a few weeks ago in a blog post about recent world events. The context was how to make clear decisions when the future is cloudy. I explained how I approach rationale evaluation of the unknown while acknowledging that it is not possible to predict the future. But while longer-term strategic thinking is important in challenging times, having a plan and taking action is mandatory.

When there are many paths you can take, you need guardrails to keep you focused on the destination.

Roadmapping personifies your vision — smashing it up against the reality of time, skills, and resources. And that process demands hard decisions. Choosing what to move forward with also means choosing what to leave for later and what to leave behind entirely.

Many companies are reassessing strategy right now in reaction to challenging world events. Leaders are making choices about what stays on the roadmap and what goes. Others are realizing that they do not have an actionable plan that reflects the world and markets today and need to invest in one.

Roadmaps are a forcing factor — driving clarity and alignment. There is no time to wait.

Because everything you assumed during your planning at the end of last year now needs to be weighed against a new dynamic reality. You want to vet your strategic plan by forcing yourself and team to build a well-considered roadmap:

Goals
Start with goals — you have ambition to honor and objectives to meet. To orient everyone’s thinking around making a real impact on the business, share goals transparently and make them the backbone of your roadmapping process.

Customers
You would not be in business without customers. So they need to be a central part of your decision-making. Are you talking with customers? Asking them for ideas and feedback in a structured way? Do you have personas that help the team align ideas and opportunities against the actual end user?

Investments
Based on your goals and your customers’ needs, you likely have a sense of the major areas that you will invest in over the coming year. Are there any misalignments? You want to be sure that people vet the amount they want to spend against the goals and outcome.

Timing
There is one absolute truth — time exists. When do you want to deliver what you have planned? You do not need to have detailed work-back timelines, but you do need general time frames for your roadmap. Whether you plan in months, quarters, or yearly halves, set those boundaries.

Resources
You need to have the right people with the right skills and the right tools. Gauge where you might need to commit new resources to better achieve. Look for ways to build up needed skills either through retraining or hiring. And identify what will help your teams work better together, such as roadmapping software, new policies, or finding experts in needed areas to join your organization.

Collaboration
Delivering a new customer experience requires seamless collaboration between teams across the organization. Are your teams set up to succeed? Who needs to work together and in what cadence? Where are there gaps that could hinder progress? The right workflows and processes are critical here.

A roadmap is a plan for action — the process of strategic roadmapping magnifies how well prepared you are to succeed.

A global crisis will certainly force you to look upstream and re-chart your path. But roadmapping is essential to any business that wants to grow in a meaningful way. If your organization is working hard — but aimlessly — without a real plan, now is the time to stop and invest that energy in developing a strategic roadmap.

How are you reevaluating your plans and updating your strategic roadmap?

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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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