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A product roadmap definition is a guiding document, showing where you’re going, what needs to be accomplished, and what priority the various parts of your project have. Beyond this though, it can be a statement of truth for your entire operation and how you plan to achieve your goals. This is a flexible plan but with solid communication of the tasks ahead of you, helping to streamline project management, keep everyone informed, including investors or shareholders. A product roadmap can work wonders for both your internal teams and those on the outside.
Key Elements of a Great Product Roadmap
What is a product roadmap? Well, the details and specifics will depend on your product. However, in essence, it will communicate which features you're planning to implement, along with when and how this will be done. These are the main universal elements of a great roadmap.
Top-Level Product Roadmap View
The roadmap you see above is your helicopter (or 360) view on a product management process. It involves all areas, aligning your milestones with product, design, development and marketing activities. Top-Level product roadmap view is aimed to gather all involved parts of a product and define how all the product elements should be developed.
Features Release Roadmap
A product roadmap will include the plan and timeline of your features’ release, accessible to a large team or everyone at a small startup. A project management roadmap sets out a timeline for these features and shows when they'll be done, this is really useful for showing your schedule to outside investors.
The features on your roadmap will be everything you plan to produce for your product. This shows your team everything that needs to be done, and when, and how they interlink.
Prioritise Roadmap Elements
This is one of the biggest differences between a roadmap and a random collection of ideas. A great product management roadmap spells out the priority of features in an instantly understood way, along with a timeline for these priorities. If someone in marketing needs to know what details of feature progress, the roadmap can give them this information instantly to simply communication.
Setting criteria for features can give accuracy and transparency. Even a free product roadmap template can incorporate custom goals for each of your features. This gives everyone a quantifiable picture of development.
A roadmap isn’t set in stone, it needs to grow and change as your project does.
Why Should I Create Product Roadmaps?
Now you know what a product roadmap is, you might be wondering why you actually need one. A simple product roadmap has a lot of benefits for a business or start-up:
Consistency and Planning
A roadmap offers a really easy way to achieve a consistency of goals and planning for even diverse teams. It is a reference document that lays out the goals, timeline, and priorities for everyone involved. This saves a lot of endless communication over where each team is in their work, where they’re going to next, and other headaches of product management.
Great for Agile Teams
If you’re working in a particularly agile team or bringing on-board new investors and collaborators frequently, a roadmap can almost serve as a product bible for them. It gives instant information about your feature’s current position, where it is going, and the overall flow of your project.
Plan User Research Activities
As a product manager, you’re receiving a ton of feedback and feature requests from your users and peers. When these requests are transformed into hypothesis/tests, your product & prioritization roadmaps will help to prioritize and put those requests into the development timeline. All with quick and simple communication of how they affect your feature planning.
The Big Picture
A simple product roadmap keeps investors or shareholders focused on the big picture and how it is developing, this is key to avoid the common short term worries from them.
Why Do Product Roadmaps Really Work?
Product roadmaps are more than just another planning document. This is what makes them actually work:
Brings Everyone Together
A great roadmap moves everything into one plan of action, with everyone on the same page. Everyone from feature development teams to shareholders can access the same up to date vision of where the project is at the moment.
Clarity and Openness
A great product management roadmap can give your entire team clarity on what features are coming. On top of this, it provides complete openness. The clarity on direction frees up your team to make progress, rather than having to deliberate about what is next. With openness you have access to all necessary information, saving a lot of time wasted on communication and ‘checking in’.
They Scale With You
As your product grows in scope, so does your roadmap. When usability testing adds more features to your workload, they can be slotted into the roadmap as your product grows in scope.
It Quantifies Each Stage of Progress
As you make progress through your product roadmap, it will reflect that progress. By setting goals or a timeline, you can get clear data on how progress is going that is available to everyone involved.
What are the Hidden Traps of Product Roadmaps?
Roadmaps can achieve a lot when they’re successful, but they’re not a magic bullet. If you want to reap the rewards of you’ve got to avoid issues when learning how to build a product roadmap. There are some common pitfalls that you need to avoid.
A roadmap is an agile and living plan, not a stern set of commandments to follow. The roadmap can scale alongside your plans and react to delays, changes in priority, growth in your team or business, and even a complete pivot in your plans.
No Agreement on the Plan
Sometimes, project managers simply translate their thoughts into a product roadmap template and leave it at that. This isn’t going to work. This is a document that is going to be guiding development for your entire team and showing the results to shareholders and investors. Essentially, you need consensus in the creation to ensure consensus in its implementation. Those using the document have to agree on the content and priorities, or it could be ignored entirely.
Lack of Progress
Creating a product roadmap is only half the battle, the rest is keeping it up to date. Keeping your roadmap flexible and ensuring it is always correct with your currents plans and progress is essential. Otherwise, it becomes a relic of old plans, wasting space on a hard drive.
Product Roadmap Template and Sample
Creating the document doesn't have to be a complex process. Simplicity is at the heart of keeping it functioning. These templates and product roadmap examples are a great starting point to cut down on that irritating time spent formatting such a document, allowing you to get on with actually fleshing it out with your product’s features and goals.
Product Roadmap Google Spreadsheet
There are advantages to using this platform for your roadmap. It allows as many users as you need constant access, and being hosted online it will always be up to date with any revisions or changes made.
Product Roadmap Excel Template
A product roadmap template in excel is another way to present your work. This offers some advantages when it comes to the data and quantifiable goals you’ll need to use. This template is a great starting point, remember to share the file and ensure it is always up to date.