a roadmap is a strategic plan that defines a goal or desired outcome and includes the major steps or milestones needed to reach it. although we at productplan generally discuss the roadmap as a strategic tool for guiding the development of products, it can be used for all types of strategic initiatives. when it comes to understanding the role of the roadmap, perhaps the most important concept to remember is that it is a strategic document, not a document that captures all of a plan’s details. a backlog is essentially a to-do list of the tasks required to complete a strategic initiative, ideally arranged according to priority. roadmap planning is often the process of creating a high-level strategy out of a collection of backlog tasks and ideas. many managers confuse roadmaps with the documents or software applications used to compile all of the details to complete the initiative — the individual assignments, the personnel responsible for each task, meetings scheduled to discuss specific issues or milestones, deadlines for completing each element of the project, etc. but the tool for this will be a project management tracker, such as trello, pivotaltracker or jira.
1. a high-level plan, defining an overarching strategic objective and capturing the major steps planned for achieving that objective. a list of features alone will not capture or articulate the strategic thinking behind building a product in a specific way. what does a list of features communicate? this is why a strong product roadmap requires a clear and concise strategic rationale for including any feature or epic. as a result, they have defaulted to treating other forms of documentation fundamental to the process — a backlog, a project-management tracker, or a list of the features — as the roadmap itself. for this reason, we recommend that for any strategic undertaking — whether overseeing the development of a product or updating your organization’s it infrastructure — you use a purpose-built roadmap tool. perhaps the most valuable benefit of a dedicated tool is that its clean, visual display will allow you to clearly document and share your strategic reasoning.
a product roadmap is a high-level visual summary that maps out the vision and direction of your product offering over time. there will always be more things the product can do and better ways to do it. layers of abstraction are a must for roadmaps, particularly in the early stages of a product’s lifecycle. product managers must quickly convey the thought process behind the roadmap to secure buy-in. roadmaps are the result of lengthy analysis, consideration, and deliberations.
now, instead of trying to convey a vision and plan for a single product the roadmap must do so for lots of them. keeping roadmaps current is one of the biggest secrets to success. for this audience, aim to secure buy-in for the product vision and to maintain support and enthusiasm throughout its development cycle. when designing a product roadmap for customers and prospects, the focus should be entirely on the product’s benefits to them. to make sure a roadmap is well received, product managers must lay the groundwork for success. the items on a roadmap should be improving the metrics the organization values and moving kpis in a positive direction.
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