How to make a successful product roadmap

Product Roadmap

Photo by cottonbro studio

What is a product roadmap? And how do you make them impactful? In this article, we will discuss the fundamentals of a product roadmap, common product pitfalls (and how to avoid them), how to figure out the best product roadmap for your needs, and how to ensure your product roadmap gets seen and heard.

1. What is a product roadmap?


A product roadmap is a visual representation of the planned development of a product over a set period of time. It is a strategic planning tool for product teams, providing a high-level view of the product’s direction and priorities.


An example of a product roadmap.

A product roadmap typically includes a timeline of planned features, milestones, and corresponding priorities. It may also have information about the target market, the product’s competitive landscape, and the resources required to develop and launch the product. In essence, it is a multi-sided balancing act between the market, the user, and the best course of action for the product- both in development and implementation.

2. Who creates roadmaps (and who is responsible for them?)

Product managers typically create product roadmaps. The product manager who makes their organization’s roadmap must understand what the product seeks to accomplish, the business objectives, the market, and the competition.

Roadmaps aren’t just used by product managers. They used to communicate the product’s vision and goals to design, engineering, leadership, sales and customer success, and other stakeholders. This helps everyone involved understand the reasoning behind the product’s development decisions and to align their efforts toward achieving the product’s overall objectives. The product roadmap’s utility will vary from department to department, helping them with their needs.

Product team's uses

Generally speaking, they are a consensus tool for product teams. Product needs to be able to consider all department’s needs in the roadmap.

Design's uses

Helps define priorities and the time allowed for specific design challenges.

Engineering's uses

  • Clarify future product initiatives
  • Determine priorities for development 
  • Plan potential software and hardware infrastructure

Marketing's uses

To make sure the product’s message is aligned with the product plans. 

Sales's uses

To obtain feedback about potential future upgrades or initiatives.

Service/support's uses

Prepare to assist with installation or any support with the customer’s interaction with the product.

Leadership's uses

  • Manage/request funding from senior management
  • Sell and champion the vision and strategy to higher-up

3. What are the challenges of product roadmaps?

Product roadmaps suffer from a number of issues, but the usual suspects are the following five.

Unclear goals

Roadmaps require goals, clearly defined business goals that will be achieved with the product in a set timeline. Ambiguous goals can lead to misspent labor.

Unrealistic timelines

Establishing realistic timelines for a product roadmap will come down to leadership desires, company resources, and the present market.

Accurate metrics

A timeline without metrics doesn’t have much usefulness. Measuring the progress of your timeline with relevant metrics will help you know the success of the product’s goals, vision, and overall health.

Ineffective collaboration

As mentioned above, a product roadmap should be an organization-wide tool. It helps organizations with their needs and objectives. Ideally, in order to have meaningful collaboration, it is important to make sure there is clear communication. By making sure everyone understands the data and the context around the numbers, decision-making becomes much more effective.

Forces outside your control

Supply chains break down, the market takes a tumble, and a PR disaster happens in your industry. There are simply some factors that you cannot control. 

Despite these challenges, developing a product roadmap is essential for the success of any product. It provides a clear, actionable plan for the development team to follow and helps to keep everyone focused on the most important goals.

4. Which type of product roadmap is right for my product’s needs?

Jolly choices

Thematic roadmap

This roadmap type is organized around themes or initiatives rather than specific features or functionality. It allows businesses to focus on broader goals and objectives rather than specific details.

Feature-based roadmap

This type of roadmap focuses on specific features and functionality and outlines the timeline for their development and release. It is useful for businesses with a clear vision for their product and who want to track progress towards specific goals.

Time-based roadmap

This type of roadmap outlines the timeline for developing and releasing specific features or functionality. It is useful for businesses that need to coordinate their product development with specific deadlines or events.

Waterfall roadmap

This type of roadmap follows a linear, step-by-step process, with each phase building on the previous one. It is useful for businesses that clearly understand the development process and want to track progress in a structured way.

Agile roadmap

This type of roadmap is flexible and iterative, with the ability to adapt to changing priorities and customer needs. It is useful for businesses that operate in a fast-paced environment and need to respond quickly to change.

Overall, the choice between all product roadmaps depends on the specific needs and goals of the product, as well as the preferences and capabilities of the product team. Some products benefit from the detailed planning and structure of a regular product roadmap, while others are better suited to the flexibility and adaptability of an agile product roadmap. There are even situations that merit a hybrid approach.

5. How to present a roadmap?

Best presentation

Making a product road map is one thing. Making sure it is seen and heard is another process entirely. All of your efforts really won’t mean much if the points of people aren’t listening. To present your product roadmap well, follow these steps:

  1. Tailor your presentation for your audience. Make sure your overview of the product and its key features is understood. Only include terms that are relevant to them. This will give your audience a general understanding of what your product does and why it is valuable.
  2. Next, outline the key goals and objectives of your product roadmap. This will help your audience understand the direction that your product is headed in and why you are prioritizing certain features and updates over others. 
  3. Introduce each planned update or feature on your product roadmap, and explain how it will help your product achieve its goals and objectives. Be sure to include details about the timeline for each release so that your audience knows when to expect new updates.
  4. Throughout your presentation, be sure to emphasize the benefits of your product roadmap to your audience. This could include how it will improve the user experience, drive business growth, or solve a particular problem for your customers.
  5. Finally, conclude your presentation by summarizing the key points and reiterating the value of your product roadmap. This will help your audience understand the overall direction of your product and why it is worth investing in.

6. Conclusion

A good product roadmap will have a solid timeline, metrics, and goals. A great product roadmap will have this and have clear utility for the rest of the stakeholders in the organization.

The challenges that teams have with roadmaps are not about what goes into the roadmap but about how that roadmap is documented and communicated
Jeff Lash

A product roadmap is only as effective as it’s understood.

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