How to build your first product roadmap

How to build your first product roadmap

What are product roadmaps: 

Product roadmap is a strategic document that provides the vision and direction of your product along with the plan for executing the strategy.

Why create one:

Describes the vision and strategy

Plan to execute the strategy

One stop document to get alignment with all stakeholders

Helps communicate plan to all 

Facilitate discussion of options and scenario planning

How to create one:

You can use existing templates or create one from scratch, though scratch takes a lot of time. I usually leverage the existing template used by the org for product planning and leverage the same to create my product roadmap. 

Note the difference between a product roadmap and a product requirement document. The product roadmap starts at the 10000 ft level overview of the product and defines the vision and the goal of the product. A well defined product roadmap should include themes, epics, stories, milestones and features. 

Questions such as why are we building the product, what are we trying to accomplish and how does the product help the user will be answered in the product requirement document. If you need help writing PRD then refer to my other blog post where I show how to write your PRD and also provide a template reference.

The product roadmap follows a Top Down strategy. Roadmap provides a neat template to help align with stakeholders especially the executives who need to sign off /give the go ahead for your product. Articulating the product is easy with a top down strategy. Product roadmap should stay high level and not go down to explain the feature set or the list of requests. Care should be taken to ensure that the product roadmap doesn’t become a project timeline.

Roadmap will evolve over time. A MVP would have a simpler roadmap compared to a mature product due to the increase in features, releases and complexity.

Roadmaps go through lengthy analysis between stakeholders including business partners, engineering teams, legal, finance, marketing, sales and legal. As a product manager you have to meet with all stakeholders and deal with considerable compromise and deliberations, before narrowing down the features. Not every feature requested needs to get in the prioritization roadmap. The questions to be asked include,

  • Does the feature requested add value to the customers
  • Do you have data to back up that claim
  • Who will be owner for this request
  • Does the request fit with the product vision

Customer obsession is an important requisite for any PM and hence features requested from a customer should always make it into your product strategy. 

Security and scalability features should also be addressed in the product roadmap upfront so that these don’t come to bite back later. Security features found later can mess up your product release timeline. Product slippage due to security issues or scalability issues is poor planning.

How to create feature prioritization:

Prioritization can be done via different methods such as the Objective-Key result method made popular at Google. Objectives and key results, or OKRs, are a model for setting business goals and trackable outcomes. The “O” represents objectives (high-level goals) and the “KR” represents measurable key results.

We will follow the MoScoW prioritization method. The acronym, MoSCoW, stands for 4 different categories of initiatives: must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and will not have at this time.

Here is an example of a product roadmap below. Contact me at [email protected] and I will email you the free template. 

Note: 

  • In the age of agile development, however, a roadmap has become much more of a living document. The roadmaps have far shorter timeframes and need more frequent adjustments to accommodate changing priorities and market opportunities.
  • The PM needs to keep the roadmap updated and current. The PM also needs to confirm that the stakeholders are always looking at the current roadmap to avoid any confusion.

Every company is different and every product team is different. Try the product roadmap template and the strategies provided here and customize them to your culture and goals as needed.

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