Product Roadmap Strategies
Imagine you’re trying to build a house. Once the architect is done with the blueprint, your construction manager creates a project plan. This tells you when the foundation is to be laid, the plumbing installed, the fence erected, and the roof covered. It also gives the cost and deadline for each phase.
All of this serves as a product roadmap. Think about what would happen if you didn’t have this. You wouldn’t be able to track the progress of your home and wouldn’t have a clear idea of when you’d move in.
That’s exactly what happens when your product doesn’t have a set roadmap. As a business, you need it to keep track of your product management. That’s why in this article, we’re going to share with you 15 strategies you can use to create an effective roadmap for your product.
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What Is A Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap is a document that shows the plan and vision of your product. It also outlines how the product will be aligned with overall business goals.
Typically, product managers use it to show how they plan to develop a product and what resources they’ll need to do so. This includes the vision, direction, strategy, operating costs, labor, and more.
Your roadmap shows what you want to build and what goals you want to achieve at each stage. It also describes all the steps needed to implement the plan.
It’s a particularly useful document because it helps you;
- Make strong pitches to your stakeholders
- Show the big picture to your development team
- Develop solid products that solve real problems
Strategies For Building An Effective Product Roadmap
Are you ready to create your own roadmap? Here are some tips that will help you create it;
1. Build Your Strategy First
A common mistake some product managers make is to use their roadmap as a strategy. While your roadmap can help you stay on track, its main goal is to help you achieve your vision and strategy. A roadmap is there to help you execute the strategy you already have.
So start by mapping out your product strategy. Since it includes your vision and all your existing branding, it should answer questions like;
- Who are your potential buyers?
- How do you plan to position your product?
- What are your initiatives?
- How do you plan to stand out from the competition?
It should also include how you plan to cut costs in overall product development.
Pro Tips– Consider the current state so you can track improvements.
– Clearly define what success would look like.
2. Create Processes And Stick To Them
Once you have your strategy, it’s time to set ground rules to make sure you always stay on track. For example, you could set up regular meetings to review the progress of product development. This could also be a blocker review, so you can keep track of obstacles your development team might encounter.
Another process might be your communication with your stakeholders. Should it be weekly presentation reports or just an email thread with updates? Establishing processes helps everyone on the team take more responsibility.
Pro Tips– Keep your processes short so that they don’t interfere with the actual work you’re doing.
– Make sure you get feedback during these processes for future optimization.
3. Create A Roadmap Theme
Your stakeholders are likely to forget the content of your entire roadmap, especially if it’s very detailed. Therefore, you need a theme so they can easily remember what your product goals are.
Not only does this keep your goals in mind, but it’s also a very effective way to communicate the value proposition of your entire roadmap. So think about what you’re focusing on and create a theme from that.
For example, you could announce that this quarter we’ll improve user onboarding. But you could also say that next year you’ll focus exclusively on customer retention.
Pro Tips– Focus on one aspect of the product within a time frame so that it’s easy to remember.
– Make a slogan out of it and mention it in your meetings.
4. Have Multiple Roadmaps For Different Segments
Your roadmap primarily helps communicate your product development and execution. Therefore, we recommend that you create different roadmaps so that you can effectively address the different segments to which you want to introduce your product.
An example of this is an execution roadmap for your internal teams. This roadmap will help you determine task deadlines, product release timelines, and specific tasks for each team involved, such as engineering and marketing.
You can also create another roadmap for your stakeholders. It includes the business strategy, overall metrics, performance review, and product observations. You can even add recommendations based on your findings.
If it’s a customer-facing product, you could create a roadmap for your users. Whatever you do, make sure you create a roadmap for the key segments you want to update.
Pro Tips– Don’t create too many roadmaps so you don’t lose track of what’s actually being done – three at most.
– Add only what would interest your segments the most.
5. Give Realistic Deadlines For Each Item
64% of teams give a deadline of 4-12 months for their product roadmap. But that doesn’t mean you just pick an average number for your product or company. If it’s too short, it can put pressure on your team, and if it’s too long, you tend to drag out tasks.
That’s why you should be accountable for every item on your roadmap. Ask team members for their input and when they think they can complete certain tasks.
Based on the information you receive, you can set realistic deadlines. By setting realistic deadlines for each task, you can set a more precise timeframe for your roadmap.
These deadlines should apply to your internal teams. If you’re creating a roadmap for clients, we recommend that you don’t include deadlines. That way, your customers can’t pounce on you when you run into a problem, and your competitors can’t take advantage of this information.
Pro Tips– Design the roadmap together so everyone can contribute to the timeline.
– Make sure your deadline is a concrete date and not as vague as “next year.”
6. Ensure Your Goals Are Achievable And Measurable
As with any goal, you need to make sure the goals in your roadmap are achievable and measurable. This way, you can track whether you’ve achieved them or not.
Let’s say one of your goals is to improve your customer retention. That’s vague. Your goal should be more specific, such as increasing your monthly recurring revenue by XX. If you want to attract new customers, specify by how much.
With measurable goals, you can easily track how well you’re doing. Remember, though, that they have to be attainable. That means they have to be realistic. So choose an achievable number, and don’t push your team to the breaking point.
Pro Tips– Begin by breaking down each goal into actionable steps.
– Establish quantifiable metrics that will help you track your goals.
7. Get Inspired By Product Roadmap Templates
Creating your roadmap can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never created one before. Not to add pressure, but your roadmap also needs to effectively communicate your product’s vision and goals. That means it needs to be engaging – both visually and textually.
Luckily, there are plenty of templates out there to inspire you. Whether you’re looking for a time-based roadmap, an agile product roadmap, a release plan, or any other type of roadmap, you’ll find them.
Remember that these templates are for inspiration only. Since your product is different from the templates, the steps, teams involved, and progress aren’t the same either. So use the structure as a guide when creating your plan.
Pro Tips– Search for templates by category e.g. Release Roadmap Templates.
– Look for free templates associated with tools so you can learn about the tool as you create your roadmap.
8. Don’t Bring In Your Backlog
It can be very tempting to turn your backlog into your product roadmap. After all, it’s a good way to clear the pending bugs, features, or rewrites. However, when you do this, it becomes very easy to get sidetracked.
For one thing, they’re not really a roadmap because you’ll have to do them sooner or later. But more things can come up that force you to push them further back. But if you make them your roadmap, your timeline may not be able to be met.
Plus, there’s the issue of them being the main tasks you do every day. So what then makes your roadmap unique and visionary if it’s what you’ve already planned to do before?
Pro Tips– Keep your product backlog manageable.
– Use your roadmap to discover potential blockers in product development.
9. Do Not Add Bug Fixes To Your Roadmap
Similar to backlogs, bug fixes are also an essential part of your projects. So when you present them to your stakeholders, it’s nothing special. You’d do those tasks anyway. This means that it doesn’t make sense to include them in your product roadmap.
Instead of focusing on mundane tasks, you should rethink your strategy and come up with innovative ideas that will help you develop your product.
Pro Tips– Always prioritize test code to reduce the number of bug fixes.
– Create time to fix bugs quickly as they appear.
10. Keep It Simple And Concise
Your roadmap helps execute your product development because it tells each team member what their role is. However, this can only be effective if your roadmap is simple and easy to understand.
Therefore, you don’t have to include every detail of your product plan in the document. It may look like you’re being transparent, but it’s more of an information overload that can lead to misunderstandings.
Instead, record your goals and your product vision. For example, you don’t have to include your user stories in your roadmap. You can record these details in your product backlog. Keep it as simple as possible, so it’s easy to grasp.
Pro Tips– Use a visually compelling roadmap.
– Use bullet points and short buzzwords to illustrate important points.
11. Clearly Define Requirements
While you keep it simple, you should also remember to clearly define the requirements for your project development. For example, if you’re working on specific features, you should outline the scope and determine the order of development.
Once you’ve outlined the scope of the product development phase, you should also include other operational costs. Here you can draw on your experience in developing similar products. Will you need to hire new staff, or will your current team members be sufficient? Would it be more effective to hire full-time staff or outsource them?
With this information, you will determine staffing needs and derive estimated costs from them.
Pro Tips– When defining requirements, don’t forget the needs of the users.
– Always work with other development teams to get the full scope before defining requirements.
12. Use Flexible Product Roadmap Tools
There are many different tools to help you create your product roadmap. Use these tools to develop your strategy, outline features, and visualize your plan.
However, it’s important that you choose flexible tools that allow you to easily create your roadmap. When working on a roadmap for your team and your stakeholders, you need to be able to switch between the two
Aside from flexibility, there are a few other features you should look for when choosing a tool;
- Visually appealing designs
- Easy integration with other product development tools
- A tool that makes collaboration easy
- Real-time notifications so everyone is aware of changes
- Within your budget
Some great examples include Airfocus, Asana, Craft.io, Trello, and Productplan.
Pro Tips– Use comments to provide feedback and real-time updates to your team.
– Try free trials to make sure it’s the best fit for your current needs.
13. Be Open To Saying No
Although your stakeholders are very important in the implementation of your roadmap because you report to them, they often try to contribute ideas. These ideas, while good, may not be beneficial to your current plan.
For example, if they try to add a new feature, it can throw off your entire roadmap estimate – time, labor, cost, and more.
That’s why you should be ready to say no. Stick strictly to your existing plan. But you can also be diplomatic about it. Instead of just saying no, you should explain. Explain what it would cost your team and insist that you include it in the next plan.
Pro Tips– Always keep your stakeholders in the loop.
– Create an open loop before you create your roadmap, where your stakeholders can contribute their ideas.
14. Frequently Review And Update Your Product Roadmap
Often there are changes in your roadmap. For example, there might be a new development in the market, and your product needs to adapt to those changes. That’s why it’s important to review your product roadmap regularly. Ideally, at least once a month.
If you need to make changes, you can find a way to update your product roadmap without derailing the entire project.
However, we recommend that you don’t make drastic changes, as this can affect your overall plan and schedule. If you make changes too frequently, it might seem like you don’t have a clear vision. This could also lead to misunderstandings between your development teams.
Pro Tips– You can build a prototype to validate your project idea and gather user feedback.
– Use customer feedback for actionable insights before building the full roadmap.
15. Build On Your Previous Roadmap Goals
Before you build out your product roadmap, it’s important to make your decisions based on data. You’ve already done extensive market and competitive analysis. You should also have insights into your customers and your product numbers.
Review your previous roadmap to better understand your goals, what you’ve accomplished, and where you can pick up. If you build on the goals of your previous roadmap, you’ll have a clear vision of product development.
This is a great way to track your long-term goals and vision.
Pro Tips– Track the exact metrics for the previous roadmaps to see what worked and what didn’t.
– Feed your observations into the rest of your product.
Your product roadmap is all you need to execute your company’s vision and goals. However, it all starts with building a reputable brand and a solid strategy.
That’s why we recommend including measurable goals in your plan and sticking to processes that will get you there as a product manager or company.