A product manager wears many hats and is responsible for a multitude of tasks. To prepare myself for a product manager position, I wanted to investigate some aspects of their work and write articles to better understand these concepts. This article is a synthesis of my research from various websites describing what a product roadmap is. Feel free to leave comments about your thoughts on what you agree with, what you don’t agree with, and what I could improve on.
🗺️ What is a Product Roadmap?
- A product roadmap is a visual tool that communicates the short-term and long-term goals for a product, how it will be achieved, and how it aligns with the product vision; it’s commonly referred to as “The single source of truth”.
- The product roadmap is a culmination of customer ideas, feature requests, internal input from employees, features on backlogs neatly organized in (usually) a timeline format; it helps the organization be on the same page when discussing a product.
- Although the format of a roadmap can vary depending on the audience, the objective is that a stakeholder can read the roadmap and understand the “What, Why, Where, When, and How” of a certain feature.
- Product roadmaps are also heavily different depending on the maturity of the company; startups tend to focus on short-term goals with quick timelines, enabling them to be scrappy whereas mature companies are focused on long-term objectives with spaced out timelines.
🔎 What is a Product vision?
I mentioned product vision a couple times above, but what is a product vision?
- In short, a product vision statement describes what you hope your product achieves in the long term. Every feature you develop should reflect the product vision.
- Companies write product visions to help them develop excellent roadmaps, assist with decision making during prioritization, and align the organization.
The following, are a few famous examples:
“To provide access to the world’s information in one click” — Google
- Google has multiple search, map-related, statistical, and business-oriented tools that allow users to access information in differing ways.
“Apple strives to bring the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals, and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software, and internet offerings” — Apple
- I pulled this from Apple’s Product Feedback page and I like this because it mentions their target market along with their vision. It’s no secret Apple has a massive emphasis on user personalization, especially after watching WWDC 2022.
“To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information” — Disney
- Everything from Disney+ to Disneyworld provides users with unique entertainment experiences that are unmatched to other entertainment outlets.
🚀 Why is a Product Roadmap important?
There are two major benefits of a product roadmap:
- It keeps every functional team on the same page, aligned with the product strategy making it easier for collaboration and showing each stakeholder the necessary information they need to understand the product.
- Product roadmaps are visible across all teams and have timelines with the person/team responsible for each feature; this holds them accountable to meet their deadline and share ownership.
👥 Who is the Product Roadmap for?
Earlier I talked about how the appearance of a product roadmap can differ based on the maturity of a company, but it also depends on who the intended audience is. These audiences can be broken down into four buckets.
Engineers / Developers
- These roadmaps should describe the features from the perspective of the customer so the developers can understand not only the “What” but also the “Why”. It’s important to be specific to leave little room for error due to miscommunication.
- With agile methodologies increasing in popularity, these are generally shown in sprints.
- Internal roadmaps catered to executives should emphasize the high-level goals and how the overall theme relates to the product vision. It’s important to show progress on current tasks and quantifiable metrics.
Sales / Marketing Teams
- These are the teams that are trying to sell your product to customers, thus, it’s important to outline new features and customer benefits that the teams can use to create an effective marketing or sales campaign.
- The customer-facing roadmaps need to excite users about upcoming features or products to either: acquire new customers, or retain current customers with existing.
- Although these are mostly done through conferences and presentations, it’s still important to create an outline on paper before executing on the idea.
🏗️ How do you build a Product Roadmap?
Research + Information Gathering
- Understand the company’s product vision and ideate metrics that indicate success towards that vision; this could be something like “Increase revenue by 15%” or “Add 1000 users by end of month”
- Next comes multiple stages of user interviews, looking at the backlog items, and analyzing usage data to understand which problems are actually worth going after; it’s helpful to also ask employees about their stance on what problems to solve.
Create Themes & Prioritization
- After assembling a list of problems, identify high level themes. “Improve Shopping Experience” or “Customer Loyalty” are some examples. A timeline can also be set at this stage; usually shorter timelines for startups and longer timelines for mature companies.
- The hardest part is knowing how to prioritize which problems to tackle first. I came across multiple frameworks, but the two that stood out to me were the RICE and MoSCoW method.
- Lastly, identify success metrics that ensure that the hypothesis is correct and the features being developed are working. These are also selling points when presenting the roadmap to higher executives, showing quantifiable stats they can follow.