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  • Writer's picturePrem Sundaram

How to Create a Product Roadmap

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

You can create a product roadmap very easily with some great software and with the right guidelines regarding product roadmap methodology. Let's find out how!


Are you ready to bring your product vision to life and catapult your business to new heights? Look no further than a well-crafted product roadmap. A product roadmap is not just a plan; it is your strategic compass, guiding you through the intricacies of product development and ensuring successful execution.


In today's fast-paced business environment, having a clear vision for your product and a roadmap to achieve it is crucial for success. A product roadmap serves as a strategic framework, guiding businesses and product teams towards their objectives.


Planning the Roadmap for a new Product

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of creating a product roadmap from start to finish. From defining your product vision to prioritizing features and setting realistic milestones, we've got you covered. So, let's dive in and unleash the power of a meticulously designed product roadmap that drives growth and propels your success.


What is a Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap is a strategic tool used by companies to outline the direction and vision for a specific product or service. It provides a high-level overview of the product's goals, timeline, and key milestones. It will help an organization to successfully progress the existing product or service, and maps out a plan to introduce new products and services to the market.


A product roadmap is a visual representation of the product strategy, outlining the future direction, goals, and milestones of a product or service. It defines the overall vision and provides a clear timeline for product development, aligning cross-functional teams and stakeholders towards a common purpose.


The purpose of a product roadmap is to communicate the product strategy to stakeholders, align the development team, and provide a clear roadmap for future releases.


Differentiating between product, feature, and release roadmaps is essential. A product roadmap outlines the overall strategy and vision for the product, while a feature roadmap focuses on specific features or enhancements. On the other hand, a release roadmap details the timeline for delivering specific releases or updates.


It is crucial to align the product roadmap with the company's overall business strategy. The roadmap should support the company's goals, objectives, and market position. By aligning the roadmap with the business strategy, companies can ensure that their product development efforts are aligned with their overall objectives.


A product roadmap is a strategic document that outlines the vision, direction, and progress of a product over time. It shows the high-level goals and milestones that the product team wants to achieve, as well as the features and initiatives that will help them get there. A product roadmap can help communicate the product strategy to stakeholders, align the team on the priorities, and plan for the future.


Why are Product Roadmaps Important?

Product roadmaps are vital for several reasons:


Communicating Vision: A well-crafted product roadmap ensures that everyone involved understands the product strategy, fostering collaboration and transparency. This helps the sales and marketing teams for instance to get better visibility into what's coming down the pipeline, and also provide input to the process based on customer feedback. This allows for good team communication and participation.


Prioritizing Roadmap Elements: It helps product teams prioritize features and functionalities by determining which ones are essential for meeting business goals and customer needs.


Navigating Uncertainty: Roadmaps provide a sense of direction in an ever-changing business landscape, serving as a guide even when faced with unexpected challenges.


Aligning Stakeholders: A roadmap helps align stakeholders across various departments, and externally too, keeping everyone focused on a unified vision of improvement.


Product Roadmap Example

To illustrate the concept further, let's consider a hypothetical software company developing a project management tool. Their product roadmap might include the following key elements all on the same map:


Milestones: Launching a new version with enhanced user experience and advanced collaboration features.


Key Features: Implementing a mobile application, integrating with popular collaboration tools, and introducing AI-powered automation.


Release Timeline: Delivering major updates in a 'Later' v2, with regular smaller releases to address user feedback.


Some or all of these items can be on a roadmap, how they are seen is up to you. The items you place, the columns and rows you choose, are up to you to decide based on the audience and the goal for the roadmap.


Key Steps to Build a Product Roadmap

Here are some steps to create an effective product roadmap:


Define Product Strategy: Establish clear goals, identify target market segments, and understand customer needs to form the foundation of your roadmap.


Prioritize Features: Determine which features are critical for achieving the product vision and rank them based on their impact and feasibility. You might choose to prioritize them based on user request, revenue potential etc. (These are 'Impacts'). You can also organize them on how hard they are to do (feasibility). What gets on your board may also be impacted if you are using agile software development methodology - being flexible and responding to customer feedback.


Set Realistic Timelines: Break down your roadmap into smaller, achievable milestones and establish a timeline that considers development cycles, resource availability, and external dependencies.


Foster Collaboration: Involve cross-functional teams and stakeholders, seeking their input to ensure their perspectives are considered and goals are aligned.


Review and Iterate: Continuously evaluate and refine your roadmap as new insights emerge or market dynamics change, ensuring its relevance over time.


Product Roadmap Template

To assist you as a Product Manager in creating your product roadmap, you can utilize various templates available online. These templates provide a visual framework that enables you to organize your roadmap elements efficiently, making it easier to communicate and track progress. Some software tools provide 'out of the box' templates. There are also many examples of roadmaps online. Here is an example I created a while back:



Example Roadmap

You can see that this roadmap has timeline on the top. Notice how I mixed Actual month dates e.g. August 2019, with 'Soon and Later'. I felt that gave nice balance of action and planning mindsets.


I also created a variety of 'swimlanes' to better visualize and organize my roadmap items. Not all roadmap software can do this and I highly recommend using tools that can. Here I have themes such as the Core App or Infrastructure, but also mixed in 'Revenue' and 'Stickiness' as other themes to be developed against. What would you choose?


Software Tools to Create a Product Roadmap

As an information management software consultant I have developed many roadmaps and used many different applications to create road maps ranging from simple Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel all the way through to specialized applications here are three applications that I think you might want to check out.


Trello

Trello is a project management tool that can be used for planning and roadmap. It is built on the idea of full visibility across tasks and projects and the ability to reorganize them according to your priorities. Each Trello card stands for tasks, notes, projects, clients, etc. that you can visualize. It's very simple to use, we use it for many task ourselves, and is easy for new users to learn. Many companies use Trello to lay out their product roadmaps and make them public so they can be informed of the construction progress. However other companies may feel their roadmap is too confidential for potential competition to see!


Trello Roadmap (Courtesy of Trello)

Trello can help you build an effective product roadmap using simple but powerful prioritization techniques. You can use Trello to label task cards based on priority or use the sort order within a list to determine importance by card position. However, prioritizing and organizing with Trello is hard. It does well to be a simple tool but the task cards are only able to listed in one long list per each column. This means that you can't have 'lanes'. The good news though is that it is free and is a great way to start.



NoteDex

NoteDex is a flexible notecard system where you can organize notes and ideas into projects. NoteDex has a powerful project and card 'Organizer' view where you can view cards in various layouts - including views perfect for laying out a Kanban style roadmap. The nice thing about NoteDex, unlike many other apps, is that it can do views with cards laid out in both columns and rows so you can create powerful 2D roadmaps. This is a feature not available in Trello, and only found in other more expensive roadmap softwares - and often their monthly cost is more than the one-time cost of NoteDex!


You can share your roadmaps with users for free, no extra cost, and create more detailed task cards than possible in Trello.




Stories On Board

Another tool we like is called StoriesOnBoard. It's not that well known but they do a great job of having a planning board to allow software planning. They have a visual kanban canvas, and also allow to define rows for different versions. It's very focused on the terminology of software development, unlike say NoteDex or Trello that are more generic.


StoriesOnBoard - Visual Roadmap Software

StoriesOnBoard allows you to layout tasks in rows and columns like NoteDex. Unfortunately it's export functions are not great but it does have integration with Jira. If you are looking for a more powerful system then we suggest to go with this, but it comes at a price. It's about $40/month as a software as a service and if you share a board those users can only view. You have to pay for more users licenses for them to edit. Unlike say NoteDex or Trello which do not charge for additional users to edit a board.


Conclusion

A well-crafted product roadmap is a powerful tool that helps define and communicate a product's vision. By outlining key objectives, aligning stakeholders, and providing a clear direction, product roadmaps become the foundation for successful product development and team collaboration. By following the steps outlined above and leveraging available tools, businesses can navigate the complexities of the market, adapt to change, and drive product success. It's not just the programmer or product manager responsibility!


You should check out the three product roadmap software tools we mention. In summary, Trello is simple and easy but views are limited. StoriesOnBoard is the most sophisticated but comes at a price. NoteDex is perhaps the best middle-choice option, with low cost (a one-time lifetime price of $49.99 is currently available at time of writing) and can give 2D views for your complex roadmaps to plan, organize and communciate with your colleagues.


Prem


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