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6 Central Elements of Successful Product Roadmaps

Product managers are the members of your staff responsible for putting a product roadmap together. They set the path that guides a team with a vision while offering strategic direction. Using a roadmap can help get executives on board and make sure everyone has the same goal.

Product Roadmap Basics

Understanding the basics of roadmaps is important when you use this process. It is a complicated but important process to work through to make sure you catch all the elements needed to set your strategic direction when creating a product.

What is a Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap is a visual rundown that is done at a high level to map out the path of a product offering over time. It explains the details around why and what you are going to be producing.

Why is a Product Roadmap Important?

Product roadmaps are a way to make sure that all teams are on the same page when it comes to product priorities. They involve taking a high-level view of the product and figuring out where there needs to be an emphasis while also aligning priorities with vision and strategy. A product roadmap allows for feedback and consensus on the plan and lets everyone in on the process. It looks at all areas of the product journey so any gaps can be identified. Roadmapping a product produces a flexible, adjustable document that can change if company focus or market conditions need it to.

Who is Responsible for Making a Product Roadmap?

Usually, it is the product manager who is responsible for building a product roadmap. They put it together based on the vision and strategy of the business and then listen to the other teams involved in the production. It is an adjustable piece so input can be used as needed.

6 Key Things to Include in a Product Roadmap

Since your product roadmap and product plan has 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. 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.

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 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 time goals. 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 around what is being measured.

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

Product Roadmap Tip #1: Get Early Buy-In

Your product map needs to include all the internal teams who are going to be part of the project. You want their support during development so you need them to buy into your roadmap. The product roadmap should also meet their interests, not just the interest of your team. Make sure to include the following:

  • Execs and Upper Management – Provide them with your product strategy and data around appropriate markets.
  • Marketing Team – Give them insight into product features and how the new product is going to measure up to similar items on the market. Let them know about the product’s potential to generate sales.
  • Sales Team – Make sure the roadmap has general release dates (but not hard dates) and the benefits that the product will give their customers.
  • Engineer & Development Team – List the needs, deadlines, and tasks that need to be done. You can use a product development roadmap just for these teams if needed.

This is all part of one roadmap so use roadmapping tools that let you highlight info for each team but on the same timeline.

Product Roadmap Tip #2: Share the Product Roadmap

Once you have the roadmap set then it’s time to send it out to the teams. This gets everyone engaged and helps in getting upper management to agree with a go-ahead. It shows all the progress you have made in the planning process and what your next steps are. Sharing makes sure everyone is aware of the plan and that the teams have accountability and are kept up to date.

Product Roadmap Tip #3: Don’t Get Bogged Down In Features

David Dean, Agile PM at IBM, explains,

“Don’t get bogged down in features. Focus on the goals and getting buy-in on those first. Next, work with your team to identify the three features that will get you to your goal for this release. Write yourself a post-it reminder to reign in the conversation when it inevitably goes down the rabbit hole of features. We are all guilty of getting caught up in that fun burst of creativity. Just remember this is a roadmap, not a backlog.”

He summed up by saying,

“Focus on the goals and getting buy-in on those first. Next, work with your team to identify the three features that will get you to your goal for this release.”

Final Thoughts

Creating a product roadmap is important and helps you get your ideas and products into production. Whether you use basic products or actual product roadmapping software, you can create a map that works for all departments. You can also subscribe to The Product Manager Newsletter to get further insight into product management. The more tools you have, the better your product roadmap will be.

Related Read: 10 Best Free Product Roadmap Tools For Product Managers