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Building a Product Roadmap

Product Roadmap Foundations

A product roadmap gives product stakeholders the information they need to coordinate plans. A product roadmap has no value if stakeholders aren’t aligned in advance.

Product roadmap definition & purpose

Product Roadmap - A long-term development plan that gives product stakeholders the information they need.
Product roadmap allows for planning and coordination of activities.
Product roadmaps provide predictability to the process.
Product stakeholders:
Customer-facing groups
Investors, board, sponsors
Architects, engineers, and designers
Human resources
Forces leadership team to clearly articulate business goals and strategy for achieving them.

Product roadmap template

There is no one format
The format is less important than key stakeholder support
Milestones are important so stakeholders can coordinate
It is not meant to be a complex document. Should be simple and easy to digest.
See template attached:
Product Roadmap Templates.pptx
44.2 kB

Roadmaps in agile organizations

Can you use a product backlog as a roadmap? No, a product backlog is a list of features/small tasks. A roadmap is milestone focused.
you need a product backlog and a product roadmap.
Each milestone will become a list of tasks in the backlog.
The product roadmap only has new functionality.
Estimate the dates of the product milestones

Roadmaps for early-stage startups

Don’t plan development far into the future
In the early stages, there is no product strategy
Learn about the market and customers. Validate the hypotheses.
Market fit - Strategy based on market and customer knowledge
How do you know if you have product-market fit? If you have active and engaged customers.
Until you get there, you should have hypotheses and a list of development projects that will validate these hypotheses.

Laying the Groundwork for Your Product Roadmap

The importance of process when developing a product roadmap

Product stakeholders must be aligned on the roadmap
Product Development Purpose
Serve the business
Support overall strategy
Win customer adoption
Generate revenue
Creating Alignment
Include stakeholders early
Ask for and address feedback
Send updates

Why product roadmaps fail

Successful Product Roadmaps
Sound strategy
Full supported
When a roadmap fails, it’s because one of the above is missing
Leaders often use their intuition and persuasion to build a roadmap
Channel their energy into the process.
Do not let this person’s intuition dictate the roadmap
Intuition can be faulty
When there is no alignment, there can be a lack of support
How to prevent this:
Spend time with leaders at the beginning of the process
Ask for underlying thoughts
Explain the importance of including others
Estimate development time

Select your stakeholders in developing your roadmap

Business leader
Sales leader
Product development leader (CTO or VP of Engineering)
When working across groups, use the sales leader as your business leader.

Customer research to inform your product roadmap

Customer knowledge is the primary currency of a product manager
Questions to ask:
What decisions do your customers need to make?
What problem are they trying to solve?
What options are available to them today?
Common ways to conduct customer research:
Initiate a research group
Ask your customers yourself (survey)
Participate in sales or customer service meetings
Direct qualitative customer research yields more insights.
Reach out to a handful of customers directly (email, phone call, etc.)
Watch them use your product
Why did they decide to use your product?
What were their other options?
Do they plan to continue to use your product?
What changes would they make?
Five customer conversations is usually enough

Start with product strategy when building your roadmap

Who are your customers?
What are their needs?
What features does our product have?
How well does our product meet customer needs?
What are the competing products on the market?
What functionality do they have?
You can’t evaluate the quality of a roadmap without understanding the strategy.
Product Strategy - Describes how your company will achieve its business goals with its product.
Questions a product strategy should answer:
What are your goals? How will you measure success?
Who are your target customers?
What customer needs are you trying to meet?
What benefit do you provide your customers?
Who are your competitors?
What differentiates you?
Your business leader should feel like the owner of this strategy.
Discuss your strategy with product stakeholders.

Product Roadmap: Decision-Making Alignment

Identify key milestones for high-impact product roadmaps

Product Milestones
Start with your own research and thinking
Reread your product strategy
Research the market and your target customers
Try to imagine major product changes
Milestone can be effective in different ways
Record the strategic objective the milestone supports
Meet with each of your stakeholders after brainstorming milestones (1:1)
Review strategy
Ask which milestones support your strategy
Ask for feedback

Estimate levels of effort in your product roadmap

Estimate the development capacity of your team
Typical development capacity makeup:
25% bug fixing
20% product maintenance
20% engineering
Whatever is left over is capacity for development of roadmap features (35% capacity)
Estimate the development time for each milestone
Capture in a spreadsheet
Remind everyone that these are time estimates that are subject to change
Screenshot (5).png

The first draft of your product roadmap

This is a rough first draft that is likely to change

The approach:

Sequence your milestones
Schedule milestones
Look at your highest priority milestone
Choose the second highest priority milestone
Identify high-priority milestones that can be completed together.
Identify lower priority milestones for the second time period.

Screenshot (6).png
Screenshot (7).png
Does it implement your product strategy?
Is it feasible from a development prospective?

The product roadmap meeting: Getting input and alignment

The purpose of the product roadmap is to align product stakeholders around the development plan that your roadmap represents.
Run this meeting in close collaboration with your business leader

Meeting Structure

Explain the goal
Quickly review product strategy
Review the development capacity of your team
Walk through your product roadmap strawman
Ask the team what they wish was different
Modify the roadmap directly in the meeting so consequences can be scene
Show the team the tradeoffs
Think about future success
Align the team with the decision (business leader makes final decision)

Common Challenges in a Product Roadmap

Evangelize the product roadmap

Build alignment inside and outside your organization

Steps to take:

Create a short presentation that shows key elements behind the roadmap and rational
Top-level objectives
Target customers
Competitive advantage
Create a product roadmap diagram
Include a rational slide
Schedule one-on-one meetings for those not in the first meeting
Check for alignment
Roll out the roadmap in a all-hands meeting (10-20 mins w/ public QA)
Always present as a team effort

Maintain the product roadmap

These are dynamic roadmaps
Update your roadmap when you learn something new that makes the old roadmap outdated

New Information

Customer needs or desires
Competitor information
Development time or cost
Try to understand the reason for the change


Three steps for building your product roadmap

Spend time with your customers (chapter 2)
Build your roadmap and share it (chapter 3)
Keep your roadmap relevant
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