Product Roadmap 101 for Product Managers

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.

Earl Nightingale

If you were to go on an adventure, you would make a choice between having a plan or being spontaneous and freestyling through your journey.

However, if you are a product manager, you better not be spontaneous and randomly make decisions.

As a product manager, you shouldn’t like surprises. On the contrary, you want things to go as planned and you want to plan for success.

Without a roadmap, you wouldn’t have self-awareness and believe me it wouldn’t be as fun as going on an adventure.

There are some must-follows when you determine a product roadmap.

Here’s everything that you need to know about creating a successful product roadmap!

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a visual plan that displays the direction, priorities, and progress of a product or a project. It helps different internal teams communicate the goals of the business.

It also includes long-term and short-term goals and actions with their deadlines and often suggests the details on accomplishing those goals and their projected results.

Product roadmaps differ in the structure according to the audience they are made for:

Roadmaps for the product teams include exact technical details and deadlines, for the management, they would offer an interaction of short-term goals with a long-term vision and for the customers, they would include brief descriptions of the goals and the easily understandable timeline.

Who uses product roadmaps?

Who uses product roadmaps?

Product roadmaps are initially used by product managers and product owners. After they establish a product roadmap, however, all of the internal teams of the company including sales, engineering, design, management, and operations actively use, benefit from and adjust to the provided product roadmaps. Participation of every department is necessary for a successful implementation of the product roadmaps.

The benefits of product roadmaps

According to Nielsen, only 15% of all launched products every year manage to be successful. The remaining 85% tend to fail and be forgotten. To make it to 15%, you have to set your goals and determine your timeline.

Engaging with your team and your customers and stakeholders on these goals and deadlines is the number 1 key to the success of a product. And that is where a product roadmap becomes crucial.

There are many benefits of a product roadmap that covers these issues :

  • Helps set your goals and timeline straight,
  • Helps your team see the big picture,
  • Promotes communication and teamwork,
  • Gives your customers and stakeholders details about your progress,
  • Makes it easier to follow your progress.
Product Roadmap Tool Example - Aha!

What are some good product roadmap tools?

There are various ways of making a product roadmap. The most basic would be making a physical one on a board or a piece of paper. But a physical roadmap lacks the interaction, participation, and collaboration an online one would offer.

Another basic way would be using Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint to create a roadmap. But the most efficient and advantageous way to create a product roadmap is through online tools that are designed solely for roadmapping.

Some good product roadmap tools include:

All of these tools offer online collaboration, wide access and simple interfaces that are as easy as dragging and dropping. They offer different ways to manage individually, so checking all of them out to see which one suits your company would be a smart move.

10 suggestions to create an efficient product roadmap

Just making a product roadmap is never enough for it to contribute highly to your product’s success. A product roadmap also has to be efficient for you and your team to benefit from it.

Here are some tips to help make your product roadmap the most efficient it can be:

#1 – Determine your priority

At the start of the product roadmap’s making, define your ultimate goal and during the rest of the making process, all of your choices on the structure of the product roadmap should be according to this goal.

#2 – Understand your audience

Determine who you are making this product roadmap for, as a slight difference in the audience can change the whole structure of the roadmap.

If you are making a product roadmap for engineering, include every technical detail and the reason behind them with all the requirements and strict deadlines. For sales team including the benefit the customers will receive at each step of the roadmap is crucial, and for the customers and stakeholders give general information with interesting visuals on the exciting topics and opt not to give too many details, as it can be hard to understand for people with no background on your field.

#3 – Give the necessary details

To avoid complications and misunderstandings in your team and among your customers and stakeholders, give all the details on goals and timeline you think are necessary to help understand your product roadmap clearly.

#4 – Make often reviews

To make your product roadmap work perfectly, you have to constantly check your progress and see if you are going to be able to make your goals.

 Product Roadmap - Getting feedback

#5 – Get feedback from your team

During your regular checks, ask your team if they are pleased with the timeline and the pre-determined long and short-term goals. Ensuring that your team goes along with the roadmap unanimously is a key point for obtaining solid teamwork.

#6 – Get feedback from your customers and stakeholders

Success comes along with pleasing the customers and stakeholders. You can successfully follow a roadmap with your team and deliver all the goals you promised right on time but if these accomplishments don’t interest your customers and stakeholders, they mean no value.

Changing products has never been easier to do thanks to a globalized market, so keeping your stakeholders and customers on board all the way is a challenge.

To ensure they are pleased with your progress, constantly check with your customers and stakeholders and always listen to their feedback.

#7 – Make sure that your team is participating

Getting feedback from already participating team members is easy, the real challenge on product roadmaps team-wise is obtaining a %100 participation rate.

Some members of your team might ignore the roadmap and focus on short-term goals they are supposed to be doing currently. How this harms your progress is, when they make choices along the way, they choose the options that are the most beneficial to the goal they currently have. These choices may not benefit your number 1 priority, the long term goal you build the roadmap on and will hurt your timeline by making you spend more time on fixing them.

So, constantly checking to see that all your team members are participating in your product roadmap is crucial to accomplishing goals without error.

#8 – Be ready to make changes

The progress will not go exactly as you planned it on your roadmap, and extreme incidents can force your goals to desynchronize with your timeline. In these cases, minor updates on the product roadmap that fixes these goals to more suitable timelines will be necessary.

You have to be ready to make changes.

#9 – Stay away from changing your roadmap too much

Minor updates on extreme cases are okay, but changing your product roadmap too often might be the reason you fail. A product roadmap that changes constantly, having delays on the goals and releases might make your customers and stakeholders jump ship, eventually leaving you with no support.

A loose roadmap with no certain deadlines might also make your team care less about the goals. You will see more pleased customers and stakeholders, and a team that cares about the deadlines by avoiding unnecessary changes and being strict.

Product Roadmap suggestions - be consistent

#10 – Be consistent

The one thing that will help you be successful in not just your product roadmap, but in every field of business and life is consistency. Even if you fail to overcome challenges and face plenty of setbacks, you are likely to be successful when you stay consistent with your timeline and make every detail you promised for real.

Your customers and shareholders will trust you and be pleased if you keep accomplishing goals on time over and over again. With the trust of your backers and an efficient roadmap, success is inevitable.

Conclusion

Product roadmaps are important for your company’s success. 

Developing a great product without a roadmap is the same as taking a road trip without a map: if you’re fortunate, you’ll make it to your destination, but you’ll more likely end up in a run-down motel. 

You’ll also have to stop a few times to ask for directions from people who have no idea what kind of trip you were planning. 

Unlike road trips, product roadmaps are focused on the ultimate goal rather than the journey.

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you write a product roadmap?

You should start with gathering ideas, then, define strategy, features, and requirements. As you gather and organize all this necessary information, you should define your strategy. After going through all these steps, you should know how to present them to the ones who are concerned. 


What is product roadmap agile?

Some think that having a roadmap prevents product teams from being agile. In order to not lose the ability to make agile decisions, you need an agile roadmap.


What is a product roadmap template?

A product roadmap template helps you better visualize your product plans. Visualizing your roadmap is crucial in comprehending your goals and strategies. 

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Alican Bektas

Alican is the Product Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that helps teams scale user onboarding and boost user engagement.