A product roadmap shows internal teams and external stakeholders where a product is going. It can be a high level strategic roadmap showing key initiatives for a CEO. Or perhaps a detailed, features-based roadmap showing each item of a release with its current status for a customer.
No matter how you want to visualize your roadmap, it takes time to complete. That's why many product managers use templates to save time and standardize the planning process.
This has not been easy for software product managers. Product roadmap templates were historically found in offline tools like Excel, PowerPoint, Google documents, and Visio. The problem? These programs were never intended to be used for portfolio management, much less as a home for several template variations.
That is why most product managers will tell you that using these tools for their roadmap planning is inefficient at best and painful at worst.
None of them offer sample templates that are scalable or easily sharable across an entire product portfolio. And the ones that are available online are usually limited to a certain file type or PPT format.
Over the last several years, cloud-based tools have emerged that are changing the way visual product roadmaps are built. This means that for the first time, product teams can utilize software designed for roadmapping. This software includes pre-built templates and examples that showcase various types and formats.
Here are three common examples that every product manager should use:
Portfolio roadmap template
A portfolio roadmap is used to manage and visualize updates across several businesses, divisions, and/or product lines. It visualizes the complex relationships that often exist between different products. It also helps product teams and stakeholders clearly see the business value that each product delivers.
Portfolio product managers need the visibility that portfolio roadmaps provide. The more products and product lines a team manages, the more difficult it is to stay in sync. And the larger the product team and business, the harder it is to understand how each product relates to the overall business strategy and key initiatives.
In this template, the portfolio roadmap provides clear visibility into the product and technology investments that are being made. They help teams and stakeholders see connections and major initiatives across the product portfolio. Most importantly, they also help everyone understand why certain features have been prioritized.
Releases roadmap template
A releases roadmap helps product teams visualize phases, milestones, cross-functional releases -- and how all of these work together across their product line. Using a releases roadmap template is especially crucial if you are managing a suite of products that often are released on the same date. You need a way for multiple product teams to work independently. At the the same time, you also must be able to visualize how all individual product releases relate to each other and support the higher level release management system.
Features roadmap template
The features roadmap helps you show how each feature (also called a user story) will enhance high level goals and initiatives. This template also acts as your roadmap timeline for the product. It allows you to show when features will ship as part of each release. And depending on which information your audience needs, you can show or hide different goals and initiatives.
The features roadmap is the most detailed of all the product template examples mentioned here. This is an ideal view for helping you show how each feature drives unique value for its product line and business.
The best roadmap templates are not one-size-fits-all; a three-person startup has different roadmap needs than a multinational corporation.
Product managers need many different ways to visualize their work, show what is coming next, and explain why their team is building specific features. Most crucially, PMs know that they must customize their roadmaps based on who is viewing them.
The information that Marketing wants to see will likely differ from what the CEO wants. That is why product managers should use several roadmap templates that they can rely on.
The more specific your roadmap is, the more clearly you can visualize where your product is headed. Product managers often use one template since they believe that "there are no flexible roadmapping tools that work for everyone." Luckily, this is no longer the case.
The right examples help product managers tailor their roadmaps for specific audiences -- without spending hours on editing. They can use the hours they earn back to lead high level product strategy -- and put their teams on track to building lovable products.