What Sets A Good Product Roadmap Apart From A Great One?
A roadmap is just a document that shows you which features are planned to be developed at what time, right?
Of course, you know that’s not even half of it, but that’s probably how you coworkers and other stakeholders see it.
To you, a product roadmap aims to create a foundation of your product’s collective vision and strategy. This document enables your whole team to focus on the long- and short-term goals, priorities, and progress you intend to achieve regarding your product.
As every good product manager knows, such a roadmap is not a definite and unchangeable document. It serves as a base timeline but is more of a visualization that helps in communicating with your stakeholders.
But how can you clarify that for those people seeing a roadmap as a simple spreadsheet with features and dates? Let’s be honest, a lot of roadmaps are not much more than that. Creating a simple roadmap is not nigh-on impossible. But building a product roadmap that incorporates your company’s vision, your values, and ideas, the visualization of your strategy, and your goals all in one dynamic, easy-to-understand document is something that sets apart a good product manager from a great one.
Since we here at Userwell know that you are a great product manager (I mean, otherwise you wouldn’t be here) we have gathered together the most important things you need to know in order to make an awesome roadmap.
Table of contents
- The Perfect Roadmap
The Perfect Roadmap
1. Focus On Outcomes, Not Features
Since a roadmap is widely viewed as a list of planned features it is easy to slip into tunnel vision and only think on output rather than outcome level. To avoid that always ask yourself “What are the driving reasons behind this feature?”. After all, the outputs aim to improve your product. So, why not communicated the aspired outcomes and improvements in your roadmap and provide a more clearly focused and durable document.
2. Align Your Roadmap To Your Company Strategy, Vision and Goals
To align those three parts in your roadmap, you first have to define for yourself what your strategy, vision, and goals are.
Here are a few general things to keep in mind:
- Your vision is the reason why you created the product.
- Your strategy is how you execute your vision.
- Your goals should be clear, specific, and measurable.
A well-executed product roadmap unites those three things visually in a way that everyone in your company understands. To achieve this, it is important to think about the long-term benefits you want to offer to your customers. The easiest way to define your product vision is by taking your company’s vision and strategy and adapting it for your purpose. This way you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and you can be sure that you don’t miss the target.
If you can answer the following questions with your product vision and strategy you are on the right track:
- What do we want to achieve long-term/mid-term/short-term?
- What are the current market trends?
- Did we consider the technological trends and what are they?
- Is our companies business model represented?
- Where do we stand in relation to our competitors?
- What makes us stand out?
As soon as this base is established, you can derive your product goals and phrase them into scheduled milestones.
3. Customer Feedback
Even though you are aware of what is currently going on in your market segment and you are aware of tech trends it might not be clear what objectives you should focus on for your roadmap. Even though many stakeholders in your company might say that they know exactly what your users want, they might just be clouding your vision.
So, why not just get your insights from the source – your customers. Who else knows best what they need from your product?
With tools like userwell, you can gather, analyze and prioritize the feedback and ideas your users have for the improvement of your product. This way you make sure that you build a product your customers use and love.
4. Gather The Right Team
Even though this seems rather obvious, it can sometimes be tricky to gather the right team for your road-mapping process. The right team can save you time, not only during the creation process but also throughout the development process.
Only assemble stakeholders that can and want to contribute to the process. If you have stakeholders from outside your product team, it is best to include them for the prioritization phase after defining what outcomes you want to achieve. For this part, a very diverse (but not too big) team can be an asset. This way it is more likely that your roadmap will be clear for everyone in your company.
5. Prioritization – Please Your Users, Not Your Coworkers
Once your team is assembled and on board with the vision and strategy, the prioritization part comes in. We now know what team is ideal for this phase, but where to begin?
Listen to insights and inputs from your colleagues and other stakeholders. This also (and maybe most importantly) includes your customers. Use the market insights you have and your knowledge about your target group. Factor in your available capacities and important and already set milestones, like planned marketing events.
Not everyone will likely agree on the importance of some outputs with a diverse group. While some might say it is more important to fix bugs others might say that new features are more valuable. Defining priorities is the most difficult part of a roadmap. It will be neighing to impossible to please everyone, so try to always come back to your vision and the outcome-focused approach. In the end, your users need to be pleased, not your stakeholders. So, look into the feedback of your customers. It will be very resourceful to solve this conflict.
It is always nice to have a visually aesthetic document to look at, but the importance of visualization goes way beyond that.
Let’s be real, a product roadmap is a huge document with a ton of information. Some of the information might be more relevant for you and your product team, while other details are extremely important to everyone.
And this is why the visualization of the roadmap is a key factor of the whole process. Your product strategy, vision, and goals have to be clearly evident because your stakeholders might not know about them beforehand.
7. Communicate Your Roadmap Right
The last thing there is to do to assure that your roadmap isn’t just like any other roadmap is its communication.
The best way to communicate your product roadmap is by setting up a meeting in which you and your team present the document to the rest of the company. This way is preferable to sending out a mail because you can answer questions on the spot for everyone to hear them.
Make sure the roadmap is accessible to everyone so they can come back to it at any point in time to check what objective comes next or to reassure themselves about the vision and strategy of your product.
8. Keep Your Roadmap Up To Date
Plans can change and unforeseeable things can happen. It is therefore important to keep your roadmap updated. Especially in times of change people will come back to your product roadmap as a guideline. If the document then isn’t adapted to the change your stakeholders will lose interest and maybe even trust in the roadmap concept and all the hard work you put into making your roadmap this awesome document will be for nothing.
Make your company understand that it is time to dismiss the idea of the date-based spreadsheet that only lists upcoming features. A great roadmap can be so much more than this.
It enables your sales department to step up its game by introducing upcoming features. Marketing knows exactly what improvement to communicate and when. Engineering knows when they are needed and what for and support can let customers know in advance about feature releases and updates.
Focus your roadmap on your vision, strategy, and goals and make them visible at first glance. Don’t let stakeholders cloud your improvements, but rather rely on your users to know best what they need. Communicate the document and clarify open questions throughout your whole company and always keep it up to date.
And that is all you need to get from a good roadmap to a great one.