How to Plan a Product Roadmap
November 29, 2021
Has your team just come up with the next great product? Are you looking to bring your vision to life but not quite sure how to get started?
A product roadmap is just what you need to bring your product from conception to market. Building a product roadmap can help keep you and your team on track.
But how do you create a practical product roadmap? What are some of the critical components of successful strategic planning? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know.
Product roadmaps are a project management tool frequently used by product managers and their development teams.
With a product roadmap, teams can visualize the trajectory and potential outcomes of a product strategy. Roadmaps help agile teams streamline their communications.
Using product road mapping, you aim to create a high-level visual map of your product vision and the direction you want your product to take over time. Roadmaps look at the big picture, helping you communicate both the what and the why of your product.
Product roadmaps facilitate the alignment of your business strategy with your product strategy.
A little product roadmap planning can go a long way when it comes to execution. With a streamlined process, your team is more likely to reach its overall business goals.
Your product roadmap should accomplish several different things. Keep these in mind as you begin your product development process.
First and foremost, product roadmaps should describe and align your product vision and strategy. This is a high-level, birds-eye view of what you hope to accomplish. Defining your vision should be the very first step of any product development process.
Product roadmaps should also serve as a guiding document for executing your strategy. Outline high-level steps, including essential detail, and place them in your intended sequence.
Product roadmaps are also vital to effective communications, both internal and external.
Internally, they can help facilitate discussion amongst your team on potential pitfalls and outcomes. These are especially useful for cross-functional teams to stay current on communications.
Externally, product roadmaps can help communicate to stakeholders and customers. This feature will generate excitement and interest in your product offering.
Make sure your planning tool is visual and intuitive and that it easily conveys important project information, notably the critical path, to stakeholders at all levels of expertise.
Your audience will determine the type of product roadmap you will use. In general, there are four different types of product roadmaps you may have to create. These include:
This type of product roadmap is customized to fit your team. Focus on building your map in a way that will be most effective for the way your team works.
Many development teams aim to make their product roadmap agile. To accomplish this, begin by focusing on defining the customer-facing value of the product and the critical target release dates, deadlines, and milestones.
This type of roadmap is often organized using a timeline or network of planning activities like a Gantt Chart. Specific sprints, pieces of work, and problem areas are clearly outlined and highly visualized.
When it comes to agile, roadmaps are all about objectives/outcomes over features (A) and horizons over dates (B).
Objectives and outcomes are invariably displayed as themes going down. In NetPoint®, these are organized into swimlanes (A). Horizons must be coarse, not date-based. On the x-axis, think of “now,” “next,” and “future.” (B)
The following agile roadmap in NetPoint emphasizes the ability to use quarters. On agile projects, the detail is managed in the backlog, sprint boards, and storymaps.
A product management tool that includes Jira integration, feedback monitoring, prioritization frameworks, is recommended to manage the agile process.
This type of roadmap focuses primarily on the most high-level product goals and metrics. This should be a clear outline of your workflow to help executives stay up to date on your team and the product development.
Often, these are organized by month or quarter. Details about stories and tasks are generally unnecessary.
This type of roadmap will focus exclusively on customer-facing goals. It should be used to outline new features and benefits your product can offer to the public. These are used to build sales strategies and facilitate conversation amongst sales and marketing teams.
This should be a flexible roadmap, so it’s best to avoid set-in-stone dates. Aim for projections instead so as not to set the development team up for failure.
This type of roadmap is used to engage and excite your customer base. These must be easy to follow and visually appealing to generate public interest in the product. External roadmaps should remain high level and highlight the products and features that will benefit the consumer.
Updating a product roadmap is difficult. Building one from scratch is even more challenging. Here are a few steps you can take to make it easier on yourself:
What type of product roadmap are you building? Who will use it, and what will they use it for?
These questions will help you determine how much information you should include in your product roadmap. For development teams, there will most likely be a lot of details for each step. By contrast, for customer-facing external roadmaps, you’ll want to stick to only the most high-level values.
Take a top-down approach and start by defining your highest-level goals. Work with your team to answer these questions: What is your intended outcome? How does it relate to your business strategy?
Use the answers to those questions as a guide for the rest of your product roadmap. Be sure each step in your process is aligned with your overall goal.
Define the most important steps you’ll need to take. Use a planning tool to create an execution timeline. Be careful to include just the right amount of information for your intended audience.
Many product roadmap templates can be found online. By using NetPoint® software, for example, you could maximize your efficiency. NetPoint’s graphical and logic-driven interface provides you with an organized, well-constructed, and flexible plan.
If this is your first time building a product roadmap with NetPoint, you can easily find additional instruction. Check out the NetPoint Training Guide to help you become a NetPoint planning expert.
Develop a roadmap that is resource-leveled based on the projected staffing of the development team. NetPoint® allows you to quickly load and manage your resources for roadmap tasks and is easy to update during project execution.
If you want a quality product, you’ll need a quality product roadmap. To get a well-defined, clear-cut product roadmap, you’ll need the right tools.
NetPoint® presents the resulting schedule in a visual model that can be clearly understood by the entire project team and effectively communicated to other stakeholders.
Check out NetPoint® Road Mapping Software to simplify the planning process. Careful planning using NetPoint® can help you transform your vision into a reality.