4 Steps to a Collaborative Portfolio Roadmap


A product portfolio roadmap is used to set the the strategy and timeline for all product efforts across an entire group or a set of products in an organization. This makes it possible for a single roadmap to outline plans across multiple products so that key stakeholders can understand the positioning and strategy across the company.

The portfolio roadmap provides a visual view of all the complex relationships that exist across the different products. This view shows how these relationships are linked -- which enables executives and product managers to understand how each product relates to the overall business strategy and key initiatives.

Clear visibility makes it possible to understand why certain decisions are pursued across a broad suite of products and solutions. This makes everyone's work more strategic.

Ultimately, working through a portfolio roadmap process can offer organizations much-needed clarity and objectivity at the macro level. For example, an initiative at the product-line level may be international expansion. A focus area for one product in the product line might be to expand to Denmark. By syncing the strategy from the product to the product line, the Denmark expansion initiative can roll up to the product-line initiative of international expansion.

A portfolio roadmap can also make it easier for companies to spot new product opportunities. That's because portfolio planning is often a time when the idea for an entirely new product or acquisition is born. Companies working with portfolio-level strategic goals can review their current portfolio and objectively notice gaps where new product development might help achieve specific goals.

So, now you know why product portfolio roadmaps matter. The next step is to create one -- which is not as challenging as it might seem. Here are 4 easy steps to create your first product portfolio roadmap:

Step 1: Identify your goals and strategy
The first step is to set the overall vision and identify goals at the top level of the product portfolio. This may be set at either the product-line level or company level. Identifying the vision and business goals for the portfolio helps the organization better understand the overall direction as well as the success metrics that the business wants to achieve.

Setting goals allows the organization to identify the high-level strategic initiatives for the overall product line. These initiatives are large projects which can be implemented to reach the business goals.

An organization can outline the initiatives at the top level, which informs strategy down to each product within the product line. At this point, it is important to set the strategic initiatives for each product. The product line goals and initiatives will inform the strategy, on through to each product and down through the organization.

Taking this step-by-step approach will ensure a consistent strategy, and identifying initiatives through a roadmap helps the entire organization stay in sync with the portfolio plans.

Step 2: Prioritize key initiatives
Organizations have a long list of initiatives they want to work on in their product backlog -- and many initiatives will support the goals and vision of the organization. However, it's important to prioritize which initiatives will have the biggest impact on the organization's goals.

One way is to create a scorecard defining the most important factors for ranking initiatives. Organizations can use these data-driven scores to identify which strategic initiatives matter most for achieving their vision and goals.

This evaluation period is crucial. It ensures that the organization focuses its efforts on what matters most -- not only for specific products, but across all products in the portfolio. This prioritization process may uncover that some products require more resources than others, and is a crucial step in overall portfolio planning.

Prioritization helps organizations identify the most important initiatives and set the high-level timeline in which key initiatives will be worked on. This can be used to inform the entire organization and help the team plan for the work ahead.

Step 3: Link tactical work with strategic initiatives
As each key initiative is defined, then it will be time to create features and focused releases which are linked back to the strategic 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.

It's important to map this back to the strategy to see that the high-level vision and goals are implemented through each feature or release.

Step 4: Visualize your portfolio roadmap
A typical portfolio roadmap template will include the product line(s) and child product(s). At the product-line level, it will include strategic initiatives for the product line and releases for child products.

Each swim lane will include a strategic initiative for the product line, as well as milestones for each child product's completed release over time which map to the strategic initiatives. This allows key stakeholders to see when releases will be worked on, and how they map to high-level initiatives.

A portfolio roadmap will also include strategic direction at the product level. Similar to product lines, it includes strategic initiatives for the product and releases for the product.

Organizations run the risk of building the wrong things and working on initiatives that are inconsistent with high-level goals. Product portfolio roadmaps ensure that this does not occur.

Product portfolio roadmaps allow stakeholders to understand the time frames and key activities to be completed over time. And this helps everyone achieve their key objective: to reach the high-level business goals and vision.