The (fiscal) year is coming to an end and most of us are recharged coming back from the holiday season. It’s the time of the year when product managers are the busiest, emotions run high and frustration sets in. It’s time to make the roadmap for the next year.
Within the organization Roadmaps are a fearcly debated topic. It’s not the principle of a product roadmap; it’s the misunderstandings they bring.
Google “What is a product roadmap” and you will be treated with a variation of definition (classic):
1. A high-level visually summary that maps out vision and direction: What is a Product Roadmap?
2. A high-level, visual representation of the direction your product offering will take over time: What is a Product Roadmap? | Customer Success Software | Gainsight
3. Plan for how your product is going to meet a set of business objectives: Product Roadmap Examples and Definition | Aha!
I like to call product roadmaps as a strategic document or in Gibson Biddle words “The roadmap is an artifact — an expression — of your product strategy”.
Reading Gibson Biddle’s artilce on The Product Roadmap
When I share a roadmap, I express confidence about the next quarter’s projects but highlight that the content and timing of the subsequent quarters are highly speculative. There’s lots of near-term learning that will cause plans to change.
This is extremely important. The classic mistakes we all make is try to set the roadmap in stone at the beginning of the year or if you are flexible enough we try to put in delivery dates for each item.
Having such a roadmap is important. Keep in mind, its the one thing that you can share with your customers to let them know if the direction your product is headed works for them and how by how much.
Remember, a product roadmap is NOT a project plan, its not permanent and most importantly its not a list of features or requirement.
For your product roadmap to express your product strategy focus on outcomes, understand your audience (your stake holders), keep it simple and stupid (KISS), state your product vision and most importantly keep it updated.
I personally follow Gibson Biddle’s quarterly format for my roadmap. Focus on themes its always helped me in aligning teams behind a common goal. It allows for healthy discussion and alignment and it helps to keep the teams focused.