An outline is necessary when making and marketing a new product or service because there’s a lot to consider — the latest tech, your target audience, time of year, consumer patterns, and of course, the economy. Each of these factors can disrupt the development of a new product if you’re not ready for them, resulting in undesirable repercussions down the line (delayed release, spending well over your original budget, decrease in consumer demand, etc.). 

The best way to organize your goals and objectives for a new product, then, is by making a product roadmap

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What Is a Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap is a tool used to visualize the lifespan of a product, from conception and development to release to the market. Though mostly used by software companies and tech organizations that develop new technology, product roadmaps are useful for any industry. The roadmap is a general overview of all aspects and factors of a forthcoming product, including: 

  • Timeline 
  • Goals
  • Features
  • Resources

However, your roadmap will be useless if it doesn’t also function as a project management tool in two ways: 

  1. Enables you to make progressive objectives and build rough timelines for your product.
  2. Improves communications with your stakeholders, so they have a place to offer their ideas, product goals, and progress.

Why are Product Roadmaps Important?

It’s clear that product roadmaps are useful, but why are they important? 

The answer is simple: when creating a product roadmap, product managers are establishing a healthy process and culture for their business to follow and meet their goals. The intentionality and focus behind a product roadmap help to make the organization’s goals, ideals, and actions clear to its own team and their stakeholders. When creating a product roadmap, a company is also doing the following: 

Creating Alignment and Enthusiasm for a Product Strategy

The importance of a product roadmap really comes from it being a successful visual tool. When your whole team can see and understand the product vision, it creates product strategy literacy across your company. This means that everyone on board understands why product roadmaps are important and can contribute to the creation of future product maps and strategies.

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Providing Advantageous Visibility

When you’re working with a great product roadmap, it provides executives and stakeholders visibility into the product’s lifespan: what’s happening, what changes are being made, what goals are being met, and how the strategy is moving along. With such a clear view of what’s going on, confidence is inevitably built because stakeholders can rest assured that you’re doing what needs to be done for future success, progress, and profit. 

Facilitating Team Collaboration and Clarifying Company Priorities

Product roadmaps are important because they also clearly demonstrate the process of product prioritization. In other words, teams are encouraged to collaborate and focus on problems that may be hindering a product’s progress and work together to solve them. When the team comes together, there’s a better chance of an issue being resolved quickly, efficiently, and permanently. 

Providing a Line of Communication

Finally, a product roadmap is important because it opens the modes of communication and keeps them accessible. This means there are ongoing conversations on the why, how, who, and what of the product work to be done. This further creates alignment in the culture and helps the whole team understand the vision, goals, and overall direction for the product. 

Scenarios Where Product Roadmaps are Required

If you’re wondering whether your company needs to invest time in creating product roadmaps, the answer is likely yes. Product roadmaps are important and useful for every industry that outputs products or services to help solve a consumer problem.

Whether you want to create a new technology or software, are offering a service, or you just want to streamline product strategy, a product roadmap is a great tool. Every good and service in development needs a strategic direction and framework to ensure the vision of why the product is being developed is maintained and executed.

How to Create a Product Roadmap

There are various templates available for building the right product roadmap for you. But before you get to that point you have to follow these five main steps

  1. Define Your Strategy: Your strategy is the driving force behind what you build. To get your roadmap started, you need to set the vision, goals, and initiatives for your product or service. Then, define how these facets will support your overarching business objectives. Include details such as who your target audience is, what they need, how you’ll market to them, and what problem your product will solve. 
  2. Review and Manage Your Ideas: One of the forces behind product creation is customer requests and needs. For some businesses, you may get so many requests that you aren’t sure where to start. When this happens, it helps to rank and score ideas using metrics that reflect your strategy. A product roadmap will take this information and lay it out in an easy-to-understand visual that shows which ideas will have the highest impact and success. 
  3. Define Requirements and Features: The features are your “what” of the product roadmap. This step is all about identifying which features will best support your strategy. Once you have these defined, you can build features and requirements into user stories so that development teams know how to implement the best strategies and solutions. 
  4. Organize Releases: Once you have features sorted, you can now organize them into themes. When all your features are organized, you can begin laying out the timeline for releases, which can be grouped by theme, launch time, or development capacity. 
  5. Choose a View and Share: Finally, when you create a roadmap, you must choose what information will be most accessible and what level of detail works best for your product. Guide yourself by asking what the purpose of your roadmap is, who needs to see it most, what information is most important, and what time frame works best to meet your goals. 

Product Roadmap Examples

Product roadmaps have different functions and uses depending on your organization and product, which means there are different types of product roadmaps you can create. The most common product roadmaps include: 

The Portfolio Roadmap

This map shows your planned releases for various products all in a single view. It’s a useful format to use when showing executive, advisory boards, and internal teams the strategic overview of your map. 

The Sprint Roadmap

A sprint roadmap is all about being delivery-focused for sprint planning. This means using sprint plans to help align development teams with their forthcoming work so that everything is up to date and on track. Sprints can be anywhere from a single week to a longer timeline, so a sprint roadmap takes the timeline given and plans it all out for optimal success. 

The Releases Roadmap

This roadmap indicates what must happen before a release can be brought to market – i.e., what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and who is responsible for that deliverable. This is extremely useful for collaboration between in-house cross-functional teams. 

The Features Roadmap

This roadmap shows the overall timeline for when new features are to be delivered. It’s useful for communicating finer details to both internal teams and even customers.

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