BUILD THE ROADMAP
You might do these activities on your own or with the team. If working with the team, work in a collaborative space and document outcomes!
Steps for building a product roadmap:
- Define the strategy. A product strategy is how you make the case for your product. Strategy is more of the ‘why’ we do something than the ‘what’. Most companies fall into the trap of thinking about Product Strategy as a plan to build certain features and capabilities. This isn’t a strategy, this is a plan. The problem is that when we treat a product strategy like a plan, it will almost always fail.
Setting a product strategy is not easy and nearly impossible to provide a one-size-fits-all guide. However, we can help get you and your team started on creating an effective product strategy with these few tips:
- Identify your target audience
- Understand the problem
- Define your product vision
- Define the current state and future/target state
- Define success metrics
- Map to a Project Strategy Canvas (template here). Below is an example for Uber created by Melissa Perri:
- Review and manage ideas. If you haven’t already, run the Ideation play to generate ideas. You should have a good list of things you want to do that will deliver value for the product and align to a vision statement.
- Organize into releases/timelines. Time to run the Prioritizing Work play if you haven’t already. You should have a great idea of which ideas will deliver the highest value at the lowest cost. Group those into themes and a timeline of delivery.
TAILOR THE ROADMAP
Before spending time creating the perfect roadmap, think about the various audiences and uses. You may need a summary roadmap for Executives, a feature one for Sales and a detailed sprint level roadmap for Development. You can help persuade stakeholders by customizing and presenting a roadmap tailored to their particular interests.
Here’s are some common internal stakeholders and the information they typically want in a product roadmap:
- Company executives and upper management: All of the elements outlined in your product strategy, plus any data regarding market size.
- Marketing: Product features, how your product will compare to similar products on the market, and your product’s potential for generating sales.
- Sales: Release dates and specifics about the benefits and advantages the product provides to customers. Remember: instead of promising hard release dates, display general timelines.
- Engineers and developers: Requirements, deadlines, sprints, and specific tasks.
You do not necessarily have to create multiple versions of your roadmap for each group of stakeholders. Instead, you can use a flexible online tool to highlight the information that is most relevant to a particular party.
My favorite tool for Roadmaps is Atlassian’s Roadmap tool:
This tool allows custom views for Executives and Development teams. It can be organized by sprints, themes or numerous other categories. It is a real time view of your product progress and future state.
SHARE THE ROADMAP
Sharing your roadmap has several benefits. Aside from encouraging team engagement and gaining upper management support, your roadmap communicates all the progress you’ve made and sets expectations for next stages. Whether you choose to share your roadmap using spreadsheets, PowerPoint, or with a cloud-based software program, sharing your roadmap is an important step to ensure accountability among your team, and keep everyone up to date.
How to Present Your Roadmap in 4 Steps
- Know your audience. To executives, the roadmap validates your product’s usefulness to a market that aligns with the organization’s strategic direction, and also proves that it enhances the company’s position. To your development team, your roadmap demonstrates progress and fosters inspiration. And to other internal departments—sales and marketing—your product roadmap sets expectations about product benefits, its comparisons to other similar products, and the potential for conversions.
- Focus on the narrative. An effective product roadmap will do more than ‘tell:’ it will also present a simple, realistic visual representation of your vision and how it is tied to company’s goals. Additionally, your roadmap should be easy to understand and persuasive.
- Stay high level. Don’t get to caught up in the details, stick to the main purpose and strategy. Win over your audience and get them onboard with your vision. Often meeting participants will want to dive into the details and start solutioning. Remind them this is to get a shared understanding of the overall roadmap and there will be future meetings for solutions and detailed strategy. Be sure to keep your word and schedule follow-up meetings!
- Add some metrics to the message. Be sure to answer, “How will we know if this works?”. It should be easy for your audience to understand what the goal line is and when you have crossed it. Good goals are SMART:
Want more information on creating a product strategy? See this article by Nick Babich.