What is a portfolio roadmap?
Managing a suite of products is complex work. Besides keeping track of multiple dates and dependencies, you have to make sure that each product is progressing against the broader goals and supporting all the other products in the portfolio. This is why many teams rely on portfolio roadmaps to link the complex relationships that exist across different products.
A portfolio roadmap is a visualization of the strategy and timeline for all product efforts across an entire group. Portfolio roadmaps showcase multiple product plans on a single roadmap to help executives and product managers understand how each product relates to the overall goals and initiatives.
Building a portfolio roadmap brings visibility to the key areas of strategic investment across your suite of products. Seeing everything laid out in one view makes it easy to track progress and keep the team aligned on the work that matters most.
Benefits of a portfolio roadmap
When you create a portfolio roadmap, you can link strategy across products as well as up to the product line, division, and ultimately the company. Connecting the goals and initiatives of product lines and products ensures that the strategy set at the product-line level is consistent with the strategy set for each product. This provides organizations with much-needed clarity and analysis at the macro level.
For example, consider a suite of products with a shared underlying platform. If one product has an initiative to improve analytics, the company can deliver a more consistent user experience if all the products in the portfolio adopt this as an overarching initiative. Instead of each group focusing on their own offering in isolation, teams can work together to make sure that the initiatives set for each product support the initiatives set for the product line.
Portfolio planning can also spur innovation — because seeing the portfolio-level direction in one view makes it easier to notice any gaps in strategy. This can spark new ideas as you spot opportunities that could support the goals you have already established.
Below is a sample portfolio roadmap for a fictitious product line called Fredwin Software. Within the product line, there are multiple products, Fredwin Cycling and Fredwin Running. This single view presents the overall direction and links across the products.
In this example, note that there is one item that was shipped in the general "Releases" swimlane. This indicates that one product had a release that did not roll up to any particular company or product line-level strategy and needs to be addressed. This example underscores the importance of adhering to strategic tie-ins during execution.
A centralized view ensures that each product in the portfolio is working on building the right features and focused on the key initiatives that roll up to initiatives at the product-line levels. Without having a product portfolio roadmap, organizations run the risk or building the wrong things and working on initiatives that are inconsistent with the organization's goals.
How to create a portfolio roadmap
Use a portfolio roadmap to show executives and teammates a consolidated view of product plans. Here are four key steps to build your first portfolio roadmap:
Step 1: Identify your goals
Set the overall vision and identify goals at the top level of your product portfolio. You can set strategy at either the product-line level or company level. Identifying the vision and business goals for the portfolio helps the organization better understand where you are going as well as the success metrics that you want to achieve.
Step 2: Prioritize key initiatives
After aligning on goals, identify the high-level strategic initiatives for the product line. Initiatives are large areas of investment or themes of delivery that will help you reach the goals. The initiatives at the top level then inform the strategy down to each product within the product line. Taking this top-down approach ensures a consistent strategy and alignment between the portfolio plans.
Organizations typically have a long list of desired initiatives — several of which can support your goals. However, it is important to prioritize which initiatives will have the biggest impact on achieving the goals. One way to do this is to create a scorecard defining the most important factors for ranking initiatives. Use these data-driven scores to identify which strategic initiatives matter most for advancing the vision and goals.
This evaluation period is crucial because it ensures that you focus on what matters most — not only for specific products, but across all products in the portfolio. You then need to set a timeline for completion, so the entire team can better plan for the work ahead.
Step 3: Link tactical work with strategic initiatives
Once you set initiatives, it is time to determine the releases and features that link back to the initiatives. This ensures that the strategy flows on through the tactical efforts for the product, and that key features actually relate back to the higher-level strategy. Mapping the tactical work back to the strategy allows everyone to see how the high-level vision and goals carry through each release or feature.
Step 4: Visualize your portfolio roadmap
A typical portfolio roadmap template includes the product line(s) and child product(s). At the product-line level, it includes:
Strategic initiatives for the product line
Releases for child products
Each swimlane includes a strategic initiative for the product line, as well as milestones for each child product's completed release over time. This allows everyone to see when releases will be worked on and how they map to high-level initiatives.
A portfolio roadmap also includes strategic direction at the product level. Similar to product lines, it includes:
Strategic initiatives for the product
Releases for the product
Executives and team members can then dive deeper into the roadmap to better understand the key activities and when they will be completed.
Portfolio roadmap tools
A roadmap is a communication tool. Ultimately, it is only useful if it is openly shared. So, portfolio managers should share product roadmaps across the organization to ensure that everyone is in sync with the plans.
There are many different ways to manage and share a portfolio roadmap. Some teams make do with spreadsheets and static documents, but these tools are not meant for roadmapping. You must manually update and share your document as the roadmap progresses, which can be time-consuming and cumbersome work. And major confusion can occur if colleagues are viewing an outdated or inaccurate version of the roadmap.
This is one reason that many teams opt for a purpose-built roadmapping tool like Aha! Roadmaps. You can visualize your portfolio roadmap in a variety of ways and link strategic initiatives to your releases and features. It is easy to create compelling roadmaps, collaborate with teammates, and share roadmaps across the organization in real time — so everyone is aware of the direction and key initiatives for the product portfolio.
Still working in spreadsheets? Take a huge leap forward — sign up for a free trial of Aha! Roadmaps.