The product management guide

Aha! helps product managers get their mojo back

Introduction to Creating a Product Roadmap

The purpose of a product roadmap is to communicate direction and progress to internal teams and external stakeholders. It shows the high-level initiatives and the planned steps to get there. It should not include every feature in the product backlog, or a list of specific engineering bugs. The roadmap is a product management document and should live separately.

Creating a product roadmap should be a continuous process throughout the lifecycle of a product. Requirements and features should be generated by lots of folks including: customers, partners, sales, support, management, engineering, operations, and product management.

It is up to the product management team to determine the priorities and make sure the roadmap is aligned against the business goals.

An example of a product roadmap

A product roadmap is a plan that matches short-term and long-term business goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals. Roadmapping is the exercise of building a product roadmap. Roadmaps can apply to new products or services or existing offerings.

Roadmaps can be created in different ways and to showcase different information including:

  • High level strategic initiatives
  • Releases by quarter
  • Detailed features
  • Maintenance and bug fixes
Image of a product roadmap

Building a product roadmap

To build a product roadmap you must know what your key business goals are and the initiatives that you are going to invest in to get there. Then you can decide which features are best aligned against your goals. This means you need an objective methodology to do this.

Here are some steps to determine which features to add to your roadmap based on what will have the biggest impact to the business:

Define your strategy

Product managers must establish a “goal first” approach and a true north for where their product is headed. This vision defines your outlook for the product, where it is headed, and what your team will build. And all amazing visions have their customers in mind.

A strong product vision is supported by details of who its customers are, what customers need, and your go-to-market plan. It captures the essence of what you want to achieve — the crucial information your team must understand to develop and maintain a winning product.

Customize releases

Select which features to highlight and choose whether to present internal or external data on each release. The external release date can be different than your internal release dates. It can also be rounded to a broader timeframe to be less precise (e.g. show releases by quarter).

For customer views, you can show the theme of the release and key features in which they will be interested. Internal stakeholders will want to understand the strategic importance, conveyed through goals and initiatives. You can also create views for specific customers, allowing your audience to see roadmaps that are relevant to their specific business objectives.

Prioritize features

As a product manager you have likely attended many meetings where everyone argued over which customer requests should get prioritized. Customer requests should always be ranked against your strategy. Scoring ideas takes subjectivity out of customer requests.

Each product can have a unique scorecard comprised of metrics that reflect your strategy, but make sense at a feature level. You can fully customize the metrics, scale, weighting, and complexity used to add quantification to your features. Build your scorecard in relation to your goal-first product vision. This ensures that your scorecard reflects what matters most to your product line and business. Once you create and implement your Scorecard, you have a more objective way to prioritize features on your roadmap.

The best way to consider customer requests is to design a goal-first roadmap that ranks these requests against your goals. All ideas should be considered against your strategy and those that will have the biggest impact should be prioritized.

Share your roadmap

Communication and transparency are essential to building great products. They're also a must for keeping entire organizations aligned with your strategy. When you have the view you want, save it and/or share it with key stakeholders. Some software allows you to take nearly any view and publish it via a PDF or secure web page. Now you can proudly share your product plans and roadmap, easily keeping everyone up to date.

Everyone wants to see the same data—but each team wants to see it their own way. Product managers benefit from a focused approach that includes plenty of collaboration and planning to keep everyone on the same page.

Now it's time to build the perfect roadmap, share your plans with the team and build what matters.

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