Creating a clear product roadmap is a challenge that every product manager faces on their journey of creating a clear product strategy.
Product roadmapping is necessary to communicate the company’s desired outcomes for the future.
However, according to research, many companies nowadays struggle with designing a product roadmap that is in line with today’s highly dynamic market conditions.
The goal should be to create an agile product roadmap which is flexible enough to see through the ever-evolving product — and, we can help you do that!
In this blog post, we’ll:
- Cover the product roadmap definition,
- List 6 key components to include in your agile product roadmap,
- Explain why creating a product roadmap is essential for product management, and
- Provide practical examples of 5 effective product roadmaps.
So, keep reading to learn more.
Table of Contents
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap represents a document that maps out the vision and direction of product development.
It is a high-level strategic plan that describes the likely development of the product over time.
To put it simply — a product roadmap is a map of how a company plans to manage its product strategy.
To be successful, a product roadmap should be:
- In line with the company’s vision of the product,
- Adaptable to change according to the current demands on the relevant markets, and
- Followed as a guideline, not as a strict rule.
What is the focus of a product roadmap?
The best product roadmap is one that focuses on the following 6 components:
- Product vision,
- Product goals,
- Time frames,
- Product features, and
- Status markers.
These are the general elements of a product roadmap and can give you an overall idea of how to start creating it.
Of course, the elements can be further adapted and specified to fit different products and product roadmaps.
Component #1: Product
Of course, a product roadmap doesn’t exist without the product.
A product is a good, service, platform, application, system, etc., that is created to meet customer and business needs — and, usually, it is for sale.
Example of a product: A piece of entertainment equipment, such as an Xbox, or a PlayStation.
Component #2: Product vision
The product vision represents what your team wants to achieve in the future when it comes to the product.
Product visions are long-term.
Having a clear product vision further leads to easily creating a clear product roadmap because it provides a concrete idea your company should strive for.
Example of (Instagram’s) product vision: “To capture and share the world’s moments”.
Or, you can use the following pattern for your product’s vision:
For [our target customer], who [customer’s need], the [product] is a [product category or description] that [unique benefits and selling points].
Component #3: Product goals
Unlike a vision, goals are more of a short-term category.
They are clearly measurable, and they include concrete actions needed to make the product vision a reality.
These actions might be, for example, achieving certain milestones.
Example of a product goal: “Make our company’s PC microprocessors a category leader in sales revenue by the year 2025”.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
If you want to learn more about how to set goals, read this blog post:
Component #4: Time frames
A time frame is a time within which a certain goal should be achieved.
However, dates should serve only as guidelines, not as a strict rule — considering a product roadmap is a flexible category itself.
Example of a time frame: “Launch integrations with Google by December 25”.
Component #5: Product features
A feature is an actual physical property or functionality of a product.
It represents a distinctive characteristic of your product.
A product roadmap communicates features for your product’s next release and gives stakeholders insights into product changes that are occurring.
Example of a product feature: “Introduce mobile notifications feature”.
Component #6: Status markers
Status markers are used for tracking the progress of your work.
It’s important to include them in the roadmap to mark potential milestones and product developments.
Markers help team members stay informed about how things are progressing.
Example of a status marker: “Completing a group of features — In progress”.
Why do you need a product roadmap?
So, you might be wondering what exactly the purpose of product roadmaps is.
There are several good reasons why you’ll need a visual representation of your product development.
Reason #1: To define the product development strategy
By visually representing your strategy and how you plan to manage product development, you’ll increase your chances of making the product strategy a successful one.
By having a clear product strategy, you have a direction to follow and a purpose to strive for.
Reason #2: To serve as guidance for the strategy execution process
You’ll hardly get anywhere without having something to guide you.
So, in the same way a map helps you not to get lost in an unknown city — a product roadmap helps you reach the desired destination of your product strategy.
Reason #3: To keep everyone aligned with the ongoing plans
A good product roadmap serves as a channel for both internal and external communication.
Product roadmapping is not a one-way street where you can just create the roadmap and execute the plans, especially not in an agile environment.
It’s quite the opposite — you need to have an open dialogue between teams and stakeholders.
This way, you can discuss and prioritize your plans, and gain important feedback on the overall strategy.
With a flexible product roadmap, you’ll be able to steer product development in the right direction — no matter the circumstances.
Reason #4: To identify any potential problems and remove them
Having a roadmap helps you not go astray during the product development journey.
Having clear routes planned out, you’ll know exactly what task you’re going to do next — which keeps you from taking wrong turns, such as prioritizing unnecessary tasks.
Reason #5: To allow different teams to coordinate
Managing a team can get quite complicated, as keeping track of all information on each individual’s tasks and responsibilities can be challenging.
With a product roadmap, you’ll keep every team member on the same page and reduce potential misunderstandings.
5 examples of effective product roadmaps
Now that we’ve established why product roadmaps are important, the next question naturally arises — How do you create a product roadmap?
And, what does an effective product roadmap look like?
When it comes to creating a product roadmap, our advice is to use a project management (PM) tool.
With a PM tool such as Plaky, you can easily customize your product roadmap and keep everyone on track.
Most importantly — you’ll get a visual overview of your product roadmap and all the tasks you plan to tackle.
If you’re still not sure what a product roadmap should look like, we’ve prepared a few examples.
The 5 roadmaps every product manager may find useful are:
- Feature-based roadmap
- Sprint plan roadmap
- Now-next-later roadmap
- Kanban roadmap
- Objectives roadmap
To better understand these roadmaps, we’ll further analyze them below.
Example #1: Feature-based roadmap
A feature-based roadmap is the most popular kind of product roadmap — and not without a reason.
Roadmaps that focus on tracking new product features are pretty concrete and practical and using them helps stay in the loop with the latest product developments.
Along with that, with specific release dates, you’ll prioritize the key releases and keep stakeholders informed of the product developments.
However, as features are an unstable category — considering the continuing changes in customer demands — a product manager needs to create a flexible roadmap — which is one of the key characteristics of a great product roadmap template you can fill out and customize as you want.
Within a template, whenever the demand for certain product features changes — the product feature roadmap may be adapted in accordance.
So, due to its inflexibility, using a document with a list of features and deadlines is a thing of the past.
With a feature roadmap created in a PM tool, you will provide excellent guidance for your team members and stakeholders.
Example #2: Sprint plan roadmap
As its name suggests, a sprint plan roadmap is all about sprints — short and repeating blocks of time within which certain tasks are completed.
Sprints are excellent for breaking down complex projects into manageable tasks.
Sprint plan roadmaps focus on delivering the planned item/feature faster and with better quality, as the product team works jointly to finish all upcoming tasks.
You can even include several shorter sprints in your sprint plan roadmap — that way, the delivery may take even shorter.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
If you want to learn more about deliverables in project management, read this blog post:
Example #3: Now-next-later roadmap
Now-next-later roadmaps are great for agile teams working in fast-changing environments, as these kinds of roadmaps focus on tasks rather than deadlines.
These roadmaps won their name thanks to the way they handle task prioritizing, which includes having the following groups of tasks:
- Now (as in “should be done as soon as possible”),
- Next (for tasks next in line after the “Now” tasks are finished), and
- Later (for tasks that should be done eventually).
Now-next-later roadmaps are more flexible, considering that “Now”, “Next”, and “Later” are more relative time frames — especially when compared to the more deadline-focused approaches to product roadmaps. This means that you can always move one task from the “Next” column to a “Later” column, to adapt to the occurring market changes.
Due to their flexible nature, now-next-later roadmaps are excellent for planning the more long-term product goals and strategies.
Example #4: Kanban roadmap
Kanban roadmaps enable product teams to divide tasks into smaller chunks and group them into separate boards, such as:
- Backlog (tasks that need to be completed as soon as possible),
- In progress (tasks currently in progress), or
- Planned (tasks that should be dealt with eventually).
The key trait of Kanban roadmaps is its delivery-focused approach where the exact dates are out of the picture.
In such roadmaps, product delivery is susceptible to change at all times and team members stay focused on finishing specific tasks.
Example #5: Objectives roadmap
Objectives roadmap serves to present the wider perspective of planned product activities.
Having an insight into the bigger picture of what’s about to happen next, you’ll keep both the team and the stakeholders aligned with the recent developments.
You’ll stay on track with task statuses and approximate dates on when — for example — a new feature is planned to be developed or launched.
Conclusion: Effective product roadmaps are crucial for implementing an effective product strategy
In conclusion, whatever your product strategy might be — it’s crucial to have a good roadmap at your disposal.
Not only will a good product roadmap keep stakeholders aligned, but it will improve team collaboration and strategically guide you towards your desired destination.
A great roadmap implies the roadmap being flexible — and, apart from the actual product, includes these key components:
- Product vision,
- Time frames,
- Features, and
- Status markers.
Though it isn’t easy to create the ‘perfect’ product roadmap, there are tools to help you along the way — these are project management tools that offer easy-to-use product roadmap templates.
Using them will facilitate the process for all team members and increase the chances of success in the long run.
All in all, keep an open mind when designing your product roadmap.
This means — be ready to make changes on the go and swiftly adapt to the ever-changing market demands.
✉️ Can you think of any other examples of product roadmaps? If yes, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may include your ideas in this or any other future blog posts. And, if you liked this blog post and found it useful, share it with someone you think would also benefit from it.