3 Essential Elements of Winning Product Roadmaps

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.
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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.

Ultimately, it should not include every feature in the product backlog, what makes your product different, or even 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. That's because requirements and features are generated by lots of folks, including: customers, partners, sales, support, management, engineering, operations, and product management.

So, let's say you are a Product Manager who owns the roadmap for your organization -- and you need a quick way to put it together. Is it possible for you to build a roadmap in a timely manner? Luckily, the answer is "Yes."

First, you need to understand that roadmaps can be created in different ways and to showcase different information. This information can include:

  • High level strategic initiatives
  • Releases by quarter
  • Detailed features
  • Maintenance and bug fixes

To build a product roadmap, you must know what your key business goals are and the initiatives that you will invest in to get there. Then, you can decide which features are best aligned against your goals. This requires an objective methodology to help you define high level must-dos.

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

1. 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 positioning 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 development team must understand to build and maintain a winning product.

2. Customize your releases
Select which features to highlight and choose whether to present internal or external data. 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 and requirements 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.

3. Prioritize your 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.

Product managers benefit from a focused approach that includes plenty of collaboration and planning to keep everyone on the same page.

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

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