One of the most important jobs of a product leader is to make choices, and then rally teams around those choices. Some choices are long-standing and are reflected in the product vision, some play into the foundation of a product strategy, and many more reside in the plan to pull it off – the roadmap. All of these are important frameworks and tools. Before we dive into a product roadmap and how to use it to your benefit, let’s take a quick review of the roadmap’s parent and grandparent – the product vision and product strategy.
Product vision depicts the future the product aims to create and is used to inspire teams and customers. It’s doesn’t waver with the wind, but rather, paints a picture with color and texture of the desired product impact over the next several years.
Product strategy follows, and supports the vision through a focus on the “how,” while also remaining closely aligned with the organization’s needs and goals. Tough choices among competing priorities must occur, and in the end, you will have laid a strategic foundation that guides further decision making for the product.
Many companies have neither a product vision nor a product strategy, but rather, teams working on features that are somewhat random and without cohesive purpose. This is obviously something we want to avoid!
Now that we have some background, let’s dig into the reason you’re reading this post – the Product Roadmap.
A product roadmap is a fantastic tool to share how you plan to achieve certain outcomes over a specific period of time, supporting the product strategy and ultimately, aligning to the vision. I used the word share intentionally because it’s one of the main purposes and benefits of crafting a roadmap:
- Share the priorities
- Share the plan
- Share how the budget is being allocated
- Share the aversion to the telephone game! (This is what happens without a well-understood plan, and I’m here to tell you, it’s full of assumptions and misalignment and you do not need this in your life!)
A roadmap often includes a visual representation of the plan over time. It’s a phenomenal alignment tool to get everyone in the org, from leadership to the teams working to bring the product to life, on the same page and excited about what is to come. A good roadmap allows you to easily socialize the plan without getting bogged down in the details where you lose people! When you lose people, you lose their buy-in, and often their sign-off on the budget.
Externally, roadmaps have incredible benefits as well. You’ll typically create a customer-facing version, with a lens for painting a clear picture and confidence in the future of the product and generating excitement. In some cases, it can also be used to start conversations around gathering feedback on specifics.
This article provides background and tactics for how to formulate a solid roadmap. We are focusing on how to best use that roadmap to socialize the vision and plan. We generally rely on a presentation to wrap all of the following together:
- Ensure the product vision and strategy are understood. If it isn’t – this is where you should start so that your audience is firmly bought into the why and the goals.
- Map strategic initiatives over time in a visual format for your Roadmap
- Ensure you’ve identified themes and rolled up tactical items to higher-level outcomes (i.e. leave the nitty-gritty details out)
- Further, the understanding and buy-in by supplementing the visual roadmap with supporting content that paints a picture for key initiatives.
- For example, if your theme for Q1 is to release a mobile version of your offering, create a section in your deck focused on Q1, supported by content around the benefits of the initiative to customers, and define internal benefits as well. Take this to the next level by supporting this content with design concepts.
Key Tips and Takeaways
- The roadmap is not the starting place, it’s the culmination of collaboration, conversations, research, working sessions with your team, and more. You have to put in the hard work before putting a roadmap to print.
- Clarity is your goal
- Speak to the value of initiatives rather than the what/how it will work
- Roadmaps should be re-assessed and adjusted quarterly at minimum. This is not a concrete plan that will never change, it’s a framework and an alignment tool to debate trade-offs and keep all stakeholders on the same page.
A well-done vision and roadmap deck can be your best ally as it relates to generating awareness, gaining buy-in and budget, clarifying expectations, and generating excitement.
How Innovatemap can help
- Lead your team through workshops to clarify and align on your product vision and product strategy
- Lead your team through strategic roadmap planning sessions to align on and prioritize initiatives that map to your vision and plan
- Craft product vision and roadmap socialization decks to clearly articulate the vision and plan – for internal and/or external audiences
- Design UX concepts to bring the vision and plan to life and provide stakeholders with a clear picture and understanding of what the future can hold