The 5-step Guide to Effective Product Roadmaps

The 5-step Guide to Effective Product Roadmaps

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If you are a Product Manager, Product Owner, Head of Product or Chief Product Officer you will agree that Product Roadmaps are a nightmare and the source of many of your headaches at work.

You can either think you are using roadmaps wrongly or they are useless and you should ditch them right away. However, we believe Product Roadmaps serve a purpose, but we know the traditional implementation creates more problems than it addresses.

In our 5-step guide to effective product roadmapping you will get the fundamentals to succeed .

We will cover:

  1. The Three Embarrassing Truths
  2. Why do we need roadmaps
  3. What is not a roadmap
  4. What is a roadmap
  5. Cheat Sheet

1 – The Three Embarrassing Truths

First thing we need to do is to accept reality. We need to face the embarrassing truths about product roadmaps:

  1. Most of our product ideas are just not going to work
  2. Even with ideas that have the conditions to work it will take an undetermined amount of time to achieve the expected business value. This is what we call product-market fit
  3. The moment we put a set of ideas in a document called “roadmap” people will interpret the items as a commitment

The result is that we often ship stuff nobody wants or we cancel a development after a huge investment and effort.

To overcome these problems and truly benefit from roadmaps we need to:

  1. Understand what needs or problems we are trying to address with roadmaps
  2. Understand what an effective Product Roadmap is, so it can address those needs
  3. How to make it happen with our Cheat Sheet.

2 – Why do we Need Product Roadmaps

Roadmaps exist because they serve three key purposes:

  1. You need to know and be able to explain how you are planning to realize your product vision
  2. You need to be able to demonstrate you are working on the highest business value items
  3. There are times when you need to make time-based commitments

So, any alternative approach to traditional roadmaps needs to address these three fundamental needs of any Chief Product Officer, Product Manager or Product Owner.

3 – What is not a Product Roadmap

Before jumping into how-to, let’s be clear about what it is not a roadmap:

  1. It is not a Release Plan or a Project Plan
  2. It is not a (Scrum) Product Backlog
  3. It is not a list of features with dates

So, what is it then?

4 – What is a Product Roadmap

A roadmap is:

  1. A strategic communication tool
  2. A prototype of your strategy
  3. A statement of intent an direction

In summary a roadmap explains how you will realize your product vision.

As opposed to a (Scrum) Product Backlog or a traditional Product Roadmap which are based on outputs, an effective Product Roadmap is based on business outcomes.

It must be flexible and adaptable as there will be many different ways in which you can achieve your product vision that will be changing based on market acceptance, competitive pressure and business strategy.

So, how do we make it happen?

5 – Cheat Sheet

This is what makes up a great outcome-based Product Roadmap:

  1. Product Vision
  2. Product Objectives
  3. Timeframes
  4. Themes
  5. Disclaimer
  6. Delivery