What is a product roadmap?
Product roadmaps offer a detailed visual plan for organizations to use to outline future areas of development, focus and improvement, chronologically organized.
In other words, product roadmaps can be used to guide the overarching direction for a product or service, coordinating all of the different steps, inputs and outputs through the development process. Just as every journey begins with the first step, every product begins with an idea. Product roadmaps help to take your vision and turn it into something that customers want to keep coming back for.
Finally, product roadmaps can be created for different audiences. These can include roadmaps for use internally among engineering and development teams, versions with a high-level view for executives to support oversight and even simplified models to share externally with customers.
Why are product roadmaps important?
Product roadmaps are important for two reasons: short-term organization and long-term prioritization.
In the short term, product roadmaps can be used to outline tasks, track progress toward development goals and coordinate activities across cross-functional teams. Product roadmaps can also offer a consolidated view of a product from start to finish and then throughout its ongoing lifecycle so teams can build consensus and communicate within teams. Product roadmaps can also be shared, in limited views, with users, helping to build transparency and demonstrate how your company is working to integrate customer feedback into the product.
Over the long term, product roadmaps can be used as a planning tool to show not only the evolution of a product but the offerings across a company’s product portfolio. Product roadmaps can also be used as part of a company’s strategic planning efforts, helping to guide conversations about future product investment and prioritization, ensuring these decisions align with an overall corporate vision.
How do I get started creating a product roadmap?
While you may have a vision or idea for a product, you first need to make sure it aligns with your future intended audience. To help with this process, consolidate customer, market and financial data to help shape and anticipate questions, needs and goals for the product. From there, there are generally five steps to creating a product roadmap:
1. Define the Vision
This is the “why” or the goal that you want to achieve with the launch or update of your product or service. Include the features that are differentiators, the target audience and how you plan to go to market.
2. Organize Ideas
Develop a scoring or ranking system to organize your or your customers’ ideas, which can help to make the process less subjective.
3. Define Product Requirements
Identify the key requirements that design and development teams need to build toward. The features are the “what” behind your product’s user experience.
4. Create a Timeline
If it’s a new product, identify the testing, marketing and release criteria, and target dates. If it’s an existing product, organize the release of new features around release or version updates.
5. Select a View
Each roadmap should have its own specific target audience. Tailor the ultimate view to meet the expectations of who needs to see it and the information they need to have.
As the roadmap comes together, this can be a lot to corral, so many companies lean on product experience software to organize their information and juggle multiple products.
Still don’t know where to start? Find a sticking point in the process? Here is a product roadmap example framework to help you visualize what we mean.