IT product development is quite a lengthy process, during which the market conditions shift, the development team regroups, requirements to the product change, and many other factors influence the initial idea.
Under such circumstances, it is crucial for all parties involved in the development process to clearly understand the goals, know the stages, and have a vision of what the project should be. To achieve this insight, it is necessary to build an essential strategy document — a product roadmap.
Let us take a closer look at what a product roadmap is and what its main features are. We will also consider the main types and examples of roadmaps and give practical tips on how to build them.
What a Product Roadmap is and Why You Need One
To start with, we will formulate a short and comprehensible definition for you to understand the meaning of this term.
A product roadmap is a strategy document that visually represents the product development stages you plan to go through over time. It describes the vision of the project, helping you understand in which direction to proceed and telling you what you have to do to achieve the objectives.
With a product roadmap, business owners or stakeholders understand the development timing: when you plan to implement this or that functionality. The document facilitates the planning of various additional works like marketing activities or staff expansion. Obviously, a development team also needs this document to clearly comprehend who will do certain things and why.
A product roadmap’s aim is both to show a visual step-by-step representation of the product development process and convey this vision to all stakeholders. This document provides several benefits as follows:
- You can clearly understand the development strategy or product evolution and its implementation process.
- It is a fast and convenient way to deliver this information to all parties concerned.
- The document shows scenarios planning, sets deadlines, and links them to objectives.
- All concerned can understand what project stage the team goes through at a given moment (track the progress).
- A product roadmap shows how certain functionality fits in the general project development picture.
- It promotes cross-functional collaboration and clarifies priorities.
- It allows the parties concerned to make quick and autonomous decisions.
- It provides the opportunity to manage time and other resources efficiently.
Image by Roadmunk.com
A product roadmap gives a broad overview of all aspects of an upcoming product: objectives, timeline, features, resources, etc. So, let us have a look at what the core components to include in your product roadmap are:
1. Product Vision
6. Product Plan.
6 Key Things to Include in a Product Roadmap
We cannot call all of the items listed above necessary. We have to make evaluations based on the features of a particular project. However, we can call these items the key ones and most universal ones.
How often should you update your roadmap? It depends on multiple factors. Therefore, Therefore, we cannot provide clear guidelines in this case.. All you have to do is just to make sure that your product roadmap continues to reflect the ongoing work status, as well as long-term goals, according to the changes in the competitive landscape, business requirements, or features projected.
The Most Common Types of Product Roadmaps with Examples
Each team uses a product roadmap for different purposes. At the same time, team members can clearly benefit from this document. For example, developers plan their work on new features, releases, and sprints while marketers and sales managers make everything necessary ready to launch a product or release its latest version.
Depending on the audience the product is aimed at and based on its components and development purpose, we can distinguish the following types of product roadmaps:
- Strategy roadmap. This type focuses on high-level initiatives and market conditions, providing insights on how the product development milestones relate to general business strategy.
- Technology Roadmap. That is a visual plan showing the company’s technology strategy and allowing decisions on the IT infrastructure necessary to meet business objectives.
- Features roadmap. It is a plan to implement new functions in a product. It can be executed either as a simple action sequence or using a timeline.
- Release roadmap. The document provides a list of activities to undertake to bring a product to market. It will allow you to coordinate cross-functional teams’ activities, showing what and when things are to be done and who is responsible for doing them.
- Platform Roadmap. You can build it for products released for multiple platforms (for instance, iOS, Android, or Web).
- Portfolio roadmap (multiple product roadmap). It shows planned releases for several products from the same ecosystem (group) in a single representation and how they relate to each other.
- Internal roadmaps. They are meant for a specific team or department within a company. They contain figures, detailed information on objectives, deadlines, and other similar data.
- External roadmaps. That is a “lightweight” version of the primary document meant for stakeholders outside the company, for example, investors, partners, or potential clients.
See examples of roadmaps for various purposes below:
Strategy Roadmap by Roadmunk
Multiple product map by ProductPlan
Release Product Roadmap Template by Venngage
Release Plan Roadmap Template by Productboard
Features Roadmap example by Asana
A cascade approach to roadmaps involves the sequential work execution over a long planning horizon. Agile is a method of parallel work execution over a short planning horizon. This approach is more advanced and relevant in IT.
How to Create a Product Roadmap? Best Practices and Useful Tips
A product roadmap is a job for a qualified specialist. It can be the company’s CEO, the product owner, the product manager, or a professional in the development team if you outsource your project.
Below, you can see some tips to help you build a quality product roadmap.
1. Define the goals
Formulate a clear vision of the future product to answer the question “what will you develop?” At the same time, it is better to limit the time, for instance, to several quarters or months since no one exactly knows how the market will change over several years.
2. Identify the problems that can be solved
If you understand user problems and business issues, you can set the right batch of goals, make a list of desired functions, choose the appropriate technologies, and plan work phases over time.
3. Align with your internal teams and stakeholders
Planning a product roadmap is a team effort. Different departments will use the document for internal and external needs. To avoid misunderstandings and possible disagreements, you should discuss specific points and agree on them in the process of its creation.
4. Define features and requirements
Once you know what you have to do, it is time to answer the question of how to do it. Define a list of features you are going to implement. Based on them, you will compose descriptions with specific requirements and write user stories to provide development teams with the necessary context.
Feature priorities and improvements in the product roadmap are based on multiple criteria. There are different ways to do it. For example, you can use the MoSCow approach:
5. Overlay data onto the timeline
Group features and other events according to a specific release date or other development plans. That is one of the fundamental objectives of creating a product roadmap, as it gives insight into what is waiting ahead.
6. Think of various representations
You sometimes need to create several types of product roadmaps showing different data and targeted at different audiences. We have written about that above in this article. In that case, you will need to create several representations with different detail levels and different types of data emphasized.
Summing up, here are six main steps for building a product roadmap:
✓ Define the goals
✓ Identify the problems that can be solved
✓ Align with your internal teams and stakeholders
✓ Define features and requirements
✓ Overlay data onto the timeline
✓ Think of various representations.
Use roadmap tools speeding up your work
Here is a small list of roadmap tools that might come in handy:
When you use them, you simplify and speed up your work aimed at product roadmap creation.
If you think out all the project work phases and implementation sequence for specific tasks well and correctly, your final product will fully correspond to its original vision. When you visualize the planned development process using a product roadmap, all the stakeholders will get simple and easy access to important strategic data.
Despite the obvious benefits, a product roadmap is not a necessity, and you have to make a decision on the viability of such a document based on the estimated time spent to build it for a specific project.
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