Roadmapping is not easy. Every company demands different types of Roadmaps, and every PM has their own flavour. Here is a step by step process to create roadmaps so you can influence anyone in your company like a true Jedi.
So what is Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap is a tool used by PM’s to communicate the what and the why of a product. A great roadmap helps PM’s achieve the following:
1, It ensures the product team understand what they are working towards, by aligning the product to the company’s short term and long term goals.
2, It enables effective allocation of time, money and people, by communicating expectations, priorities and schedules.
3, It sets a basis for prioritisation discussions and provides a focus for your company.
Roadmapping sits in the Product Strategy phase of a Product Management
It’s very different to a Product Backlog. Product Roadmaps defines the “Why” are we doing it, and the Product Backlog defines “What are we building”
The Product Roadmap is one of the most important tools PM’s use to influence stakeholders
From idea phase to develop phase, to launch, iterate, steady-state, and the decline phase. Your roadmap is used across the whole product lifecycle.
You are constantly using your roadmap to influence other departments and align their efforts to your product vision. You need to make your Roadmaps visible, easy to digest and includes just the right amount of details.
3 Steps to create an effective roadmap
Pro Tip: Roadmapping is Not Simply the Act of Creating a Roadmap
The process of getting to the Roadmap is just as important as the Product Roadmap itself.
Step 1: Understand the company goals & priorities first
What you should do:
- Set up 1 on 1 meeting with all the senior stakeholders (CEO, GM’s, Leadership teams)
- Ask what their high-level goals are for this year in your 1 on 1 meetings
- Use OKR’s or SMART Goals as a framework to tease out these goals
- Mention you’ll document these and prioritise with the wider leadership teams in the coming weeks.
- Document these goals in a roadmap tool like Aha, ProductBoard, Product Plan, or Trello
Now that you have everyone’s ideas, goals, and a backlog full of great initiatives, it’s time to prioritise.
The outcome is to create your initiatives/themes roadmap.
Here is what you should do:
- Set up time with your leadership teams to prioritise the goals for the next few months
- Share the goals and initiatives that are required to be prioritised before the meeting. Make sure everyone understands them, people don’t like surprises.
- Use prioritisation techniques like MSCW or Kano methods to rank and score ideas.
- Each of your initiatives should have clear SMART goals or OKR attached to them
Once you have created your Initiatives Roadmap, it’s time to create your Product Roadmap…
Step 2: Prioritise Products, set Vision & OKR’s
Based on your company’s goals and initiatives, you may have multiple products and features which can achieve these goals.
Here is what you should do next:
- Validate each of the product ideas using data and insights. (This is probably a blog post on its own. I’ll link to it once its written it up. But in the meantime, check out this video by Steve Blank on Customer Development)
- Once the product ideas are validated, work with the leadership again to prioritise products based on how likely you’ll achieve the goals defined in your initiative roadmap.
When building your roadmap, here are some other common data points that are useful to include:
- Links to initiatives/themes/company goals
- Progress updates (% completion or # of tasks done)
- Broad timelines
- Relative Impact (High, Medium, Low)
- Initiative owners
Then products are broken down into a Feature Backlog, which goes into a Release Roadmap.
What you should do at this stage:
- Work with the delivery team to break down the products into feature sets. (This depends on what delivery framework you use, Agile or Waterfall or Mixed.)
- There are many ways to scope out product features but a common practice agile teams use to break down work is Feature Mapping. (This is a post on its own again, but check out this video in the meantime)
3. Lastly, once the Feature backlog is created, the features will need to be scheduled into your go into your Release Roadmap based on how the sizing of the features and how many developers you have in your team. Work with the tech lead on this.
And this is how everything ties together:
Initiative Roadmap = High-level goals and milestones your company wants to achieve.
Product Roadmap = The products that will help the company achieve its initiatives.
Release Roadmap = High-level timelines on when to expect each feature of your product will be released to the market.
Lastly, here are some tips & tricks to govern your roadmaps
- Don’t promise on dates. Software development is unpredictable. Use high-level timeframes e.g Q3, H1, 2021, July 2021.
- Put your roadmap in a public place so everyone in your business can see your priorities
- Shipping is about learning, focus on the initiative and iterate
- Review the roadmap after every feature release
- Set a regular meeting with your team to review the roadmap (once a month or quarter)
- Make sure your roadmap is balanced with long term projects and small wins.
- It’s a map… be adaptive to change