Editor’s Note: the following content has been validated by The Group Product Manager at Google and Senior Product Manager at Shift.
Let’s talk roadmapping, how to create a plan that can communicate and also help in execution?
One of the real heroes of the product world is roadmapping. Say you have a grand vision in mind for your product. You’ve jotted down a high-level strategy; the next step is to visualize the what and when in a roadmap.
While the initial brainstorming and launch are lauded as evidence of a PMs’ brilliance, plotting the direction should be regarded as one of the pretty epic moments. Besides, a bad plan can really damage you in the long run.
Forward-thinking product managers find roadmaps as more of a fluid guide rather than a set-in-stone kinda plan. Roadmaps continuously change throughout the lifecycle of the product, based on many factors such as shifting customer needs, and market demand.
Perfect your roadmapping skills by learning from the templates below.
An effective product strategy needs to be well-thought-out and comprehensive enough to cover all of the key elements while still being concise and focused enough to be easily communicated and understood. And one of the key ways to ensure that is by creating a roadmap.
What is a roadmap?
In a nutshell, Product Roadmaps are a path to achieving a vision. They’re the essential strategy document for all Product Managers, as it lays out your vision and the stages between where you are now and the realization of it.
Why do you need a roadmap?
As a Product Manager, you’ll need to create a roadmap (or more) for every product you work on. But the reason they are so important is that they will help you operationalize workstreams, create (and hit) timelines, find gaps that your product needs to fill, and ultimately, track your progress and efficiently communicate it with your team.
Things You Need to Know Before Building a Roadmap
First things first, you must define the cycle of a roadmap, which varies greatly depending on the size of the company.
Normally, a smaller company moves faster and may need a roadmap of around 3-6 months, while a larger company may need to plan for 6-12 months. But what exactly goes into a roadmap will ultimately be defined by your product and company’s needs.
And before even starting your roadmap, you must analyze the following questions:
- What’s Been Done?
- What did the company try already?
- How did customers react?
- Have circumstances changed that would make an old idea useful again? e.g. VR was hot in the ‘90s and now it’s technically feasible.
- What Will Be Done?
- Does the company have a broader vision they’re working towards you need to lay the groundwork for now?
- What’s the scope of your product?
- Will you need more than one roadmap? Ie if your product has several features.
- What tool will you use to create your roadmap?
- What’s the other guy doing?
- What have they tried?
- How did customers react?
- What general trends (in your industry, in society, etc.) are happening that will affect you?
As important as it is to have a product roadmap, it’s also key to make sure that your audience can easily understand it. Giving too much or too little detail can make it easy to brush aside, or even too scary to read.
“Anything that’s required for the project to succeed”
You just need the right amount of detail and some visual appeal to get through the door from key stakeholders, and we got you covered. Outlined below are some of the most important elements to highlight in your product roadmap:
- Product vision: On your roadmap, the vision is your destination
- Goals & OKRs: These should be concrete and measurable. This means choosing the right metrics, which will help make your goals data-driven.
- Timeline: this is essential. But a roadmap is never just a list of timelines.
- Task descriptions: There is no need to exhaust the list of action points and allocate each one to teams or individuals. But you should pinpoint what is to be done, starting with general functions and finishing with specific ones. This will help clarify priorities, responsibilities, and time allocation from the get-go. Some of the things you’ll need to keep track of are:
- Engineering tasks
- Design tasks
- Legal tasks
- PR tasks
- Status markers: these will help to keep the whole team up to date on when certain actions can expect to be completed, and what’s currently being worked on.
- Data, data, and data: While you do not want to draw your roadmap with numbers, you should be able to justify each decision with the right sort of data. Why is this function a priority? What can we gain from doing this last? You should have information to back that up.
Check out three different formats from Coda and Mural.
On Google Sheets
Copy Coda’s template and ship products seamlessly.
Build resilience into your Product Roadmap with this template created by MURAL
- Always have a roadmap that meets your team’s needs.
- Include cross-functional collaboration as needed in the roadmap.
- Don’t make it engineering only.
- A roadmap is much more than a list of deliverables.
- Update your roadmap regularly
- Knowing what not to include
- Make it user-friendly
Need more templates?
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