Creating effective roadmaps!
A product roadmap is a visual representation of your product.
Essentially roadmaps are the ‘’road that leads to your end product’’!
What is a product roadmap?
Creating a product isn’t just happening in one night, it requires strategy, a plan and patience; that is the reason why roadmaps are widely used. A product roadmap is a visual representation and planning strategy of your product. It includes goals, resources, timelines, lists of priorities and indicates what each department is responsible for developing and the progress they are having. Usually the roadmap is created either by the product manager or the product owner and they are the only ones who can make changes. Additionally it provides internal teams and stakeholders the state you are in and sets clear expectations of how the product will develop in future time. Basically it answers the ‘’what’’ and ‘’why’’ in stakeholders and helps all the teams involved explain and understand the business strategy.
Why is it important?
Because it saves stakeholders and everyone involved time, just by looking at the roadmap they can understand who is responsible for a specific task at any given moment. A well made roadmap can be extremely motivational for your team as it helps to transform the ideas to actual products. Essentially roadmaps are the ‘’road that leads to your end product’’ as they solidify your vision.
What to include in the roadmap?
They are measurable objectives that have success metrics associated with them. The vision and critical accomplishments required are included in the roadmap. Goals and product vision start the process of building a roadmap so that the further planning can continue.
Set the strategy you want to follow that aligns with your vision, once you have made your decision, move forward and stay consistent. This is how you build your product and showcase to the stakeholders the benefits it is going to have for their business and the overall plan. Furthermore it gives stakeholders the explanation of ‘’what’’ and ‘’why’’ of the strategy without focusing on the product’s features.
Talk to your sales and customer team to determine your end users needs, preferences and any future requests. You can also get in touch with people who already use your product and understand what they consider vital. After your research you can gather your information and set your priorities for the product’s functionality and main features.
Features provide information about improved functionality that results in value for users. They can be associated with capabilities, performance and components.
Metrics are the data that determine the product’s success, whether the goals that we set have been met or not and what features need updating. You should make sure that everyone on your team understands what metrics are, so all parties involved measure the same things.
Epic is usually a larger body or bigger user story that can be broken down into smaller features and can get delivered incrementally. User stories are basically your user’s wants and needs and it defines a new feature from their perspective.
Roadmaps usually include dates that show when the goals should be met. It is a visualization of the product’s release, the time scale can range depending on the amount of work involved.
Release is usually a launch of a new product. It contains multiple features that get delivered at the same time. A release roadmap includes the tasks that need to be completed before the final launch in the market and who is responsible for each of them.
Main elements of product roadmap
- Lanes (lanes are high level categories and include different teams, areas of responsibilities etc.)
- Themes (they are the major theme of your plan and usually contain projects, epics and everything that you are planning)
- Bars (they are high level items or initiatives under the appropriate theme)
- Timelines/Dates (sometimes it is preferable not to include specific dates, either because you publish your roadmap to a broader audience or because you wouldn’t want to miss a dateline and lose credibility. Usually they include initiatives under months and quarters.)
- Legends (it is a communication tool that your audience can quickly view and understand your roadmap,they are presented with different colors, eg. Priority>> high/medium/low.)
- Percentage ( a well developed roadmap should include information about the status of initiative; is it done or under development etc.)
Mistakes when building your roadmap
- Not stating your theme clearly
Just because the basis of your theme included in your roadmap is clear to you right now doesn’t mean that it will always be like that. So it would be wise to state your goals clearly in the roadmap
- Not including evidence that support your strategy
Evidence of success behind your goals must be clear in the roadmap so stakeholders can see behind the motives.
- Setting strict timelines
Roadmaps should be flexible so avoid giving exact dates and strict timelines. Give your team time to adjust, a general idea of time is alright ( eg.3/2021). Specific dates go when you figure out your release plan and launch dates.
- Not considering left out items
Your roadmap should be consistent and presentable, so do not worry if you have left out some features or services, this is inevitable! But keep in mind that you may have to mention some of them to your stakeholders or add a few of them on the roadmap in time.
Use the right roadmap tool
There are a variety of roadmap templates available, (you can find them on sites like craft.io, aha etc.) and each one of them serves a different purpose. For example a marketing strategy roadmap is different from a visionary one. The choice of your roadmap should reflect your target audience and be tailored to them. The right tool will give you control of the visualization. Most roadmaps come with features such as color, fonts and templates so you can customize them and create an appealing result that helps you communicate the process.
Most roadmap programs are detail oriented so you can include or exclude any information to fit your audience. You can alter your roadmap to present relevant data for your team, stakeholders, partners, in real time. The right tool would make it way easier to share it to the parties involved. Additionally, you must stay flexible in order to make any necessary changes. Remember, your roadmap should be clear, compelling and stand out!