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A good product roadmap helps you see the big picture, align with your development team on product goals, and get stakeholders’ buy-in. Whether you are creating a new product or prioritizing new features, having a product roadmap will help take your strategic planning to the next level. This article will help you learn how to create a product roadmap for your next product.

The Product Roadmapping Process

Agile product roadmaps often go awry when they’re not built properly. No matter the approach you choose for your roadmap, there are some general principles that will ensure your roadmap is of high quality.

The steps to take when building a product roadmap, generally speaking, look like this:

  1. Communicate organizational/product goals to your team: Help facilitate the creation of the product roadmap, avoid dictating it to your team. You can start by ensuring you have an in-depth understanding of the company vision and customer needs. 
  2. Establish a plan of action with your internal team: Facilitate several sessions with your team to determine how your new product is going to help the organization/product reach those strategic goals.
  3. Create a draft roadmap: The draft should align with your team’s product development methodology and approach to meeting the organizational goals. Keep your roadmap at the right level of abstraction, avoid going into too much detail on specific features that are or aren’t being addressed.
  4. Ask for feedback from team members: Share it with your team and sit on it for a few days to let everyone process. Once that period has passed, ask for feedback from the team one more time and make adjustments as needed. 
  5. Present roadmap to stakeholders: You should have the confidence to present because your team has aligned the roadmap with the organization/product goals, which should, in turn, please your stakeholders. 

6 Key Things To Include In A Product Roadmap

Since your product roadmap and product plan have to span a lengthy timeline, many key factors should be included. Product features need to be highlighted along with vision and strategy.

1. Product Vision

This is critical as it sets your company on the path to creating a specific product strategy. It is the vision of what is desired and the potential that it has to be a great product. This initial vision doesn’t have to be the final one but it starts the process of building a product roadmap so that further planning can continue. This spells out what you want your product to be at the end of the project.

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2. Strategy

This is the case you build for your product. You want internal and external stakeholders to know the overall business goal of the project. Explain how this product is going to benefit the business and blend with the vision already set out. Once these things are aligned, the roadmap is used to keep this strategy moving forward and staying consistent.

3. Requirements

You need to get information to outline your needs. Talk to your sales team and customer service group—they know how your end-users feel about current products, what they are looking for, and any feature requests. This, along with careful documentation with appropriate product requirement software, helps you determine the features that need to be prioritized with future product releases. Engage with those who already use your products by reaching out to user experts. After these two groups, use your personal experiences. You know your product’s functionality, features, etc., and what is vital for users.

4. Product Plan

This is the strategy that outlines how your business is going to make sure the vision for the product is met. It is the way the plan is going to be executed as the project moves forward. Prioritize and set specific goals on this timeline. It needs to be broad so you can still have innovation and flexibility but there does need to be some general timeframe and milestones to hit. Plot initiatives on achievable timelines quarterly or monthly. General dates are helpful but do not write them in stone.

5. Markers

These are important when it comes to keeping everyone in the loop about timing. While you might not have exact dates, knowing where the markers are to track the progress of the work is essential to keep moving forward. Markers can be adjusted as needed but showing where they are set allows people to check on timelines when they need to.

6. Metrics

Make sure all teams know what the metrics are and that everyone is measuring things in the same way. Everyone needs to be talking in the same language so there is no question about what is being measured.

Related Read: 12 Key Product Success Metrics (+Examples)

What Shouldn’t You Put Into A Roadmap

There are many things that could be tempting to include in your roadmap document, perhaps even some that are being requested by your key stakeholders and/or customers. It’s important that you remain objective, advocate for the product team, and don’t set unachievable expectations for them. You want your product team to be happy so that everyone else is happy, so leave these things out of your product roadmap document:

A Strict Timeline

Set the expectation early and often that a roadmap is not the same thing as a timeline. A product roadmap communicates the strategic direction the product is taking; it’s directional. Giving a general idea of time is okay (e.g., Q1 2021), but avoid giving exact dates. That’s a release plan and comes once you’ve nailed down the product launch and release dates. This ultimately gives the team the room they deserve to deliver the desired results.

Non-Value Items

You don't need these in your strategic roadmap. These items can include things like technical debt, DevOps work, bug fixes, etc. Hopefully, you’re avoiding a feature roadmap (though there can be a time and place for that as well), so this probably won’t be a problem.

It should always be assumed that a certain degree of your team’s time is being put into these non-value features. If one of your outcomes is to improve the performance of the app, then naturally your team will work on improvements your customers may never see (e.g., non-value features), so showcasing what exactly that work is within your roadmap isn’t important.

Product Roadmapping Tools

One of the easiest ways to create a product roadmap is to find a tool that helps you set it up. There are countless tools on the market; some product management tools like Jira and Aha offer preset product roadmap templates.

To save you research time, here’s a list of the best product roadmap software and a quick overview of what they are best suited for. 

Create Your Own Roadmap Today

Now that you have an idea of what to include in your product roadmap, you can implement it in your product development process and start establishing a clearer overview and syncing up with your entire product team.

For those who still find this task daunting— which is totally understandable! — take a look at some product roadmap templates here and download one to get you started.

By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The Product Manager. Following six years of experience in the tech industry, she pivoted into the content space where she's had the pleasure of working with some of the most brilliant voices in the product world. Driven by insatiable curiosity and a love of bringing people together, her mission is to foster a fun, vibrant, and inspiring community of product people.