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What is a Product Roadmap?

Whether they’re launching a new app, clothing line, or technology, product managers use a product roadmap to keep their teams working toward a common goal. These product roadmaps are visual tools, usually built inside software, that detail the vision and planning of the product.

Product roadmaps serve a number of functions:

  • Keep stakeholders aware of what will happen and why, inspiring further investment
  • Define common goals, where it is okay to adapt to new ideas, and where it’s essential to stick firmly to the plan
  • Show milestones, timelines, deadlines, and important steps of the product’s lifecycle
  • Get customers excited about what’s to come
  • Cohesively unite long-term goals with short-term assignments 

A product’s roadmap is a tool that expresses its vision, goals, and lifecycle, while also uniting groups to work towards a common goal. Product roadmaps display a product’s “what” and “why” to facilitate cohesive teamwork.

This article will describe the various types of product roadmaps, what they include, and the different software used to build them.

What should a product roadmap include?

Product roadmaps are used by all teams from engineers to sales, so they need to contain a wide range of topics. Product roadmaps include:

  • Vision: What will the product turn into at it’s peak? What overarching themes apply to all parties?
  • Goals: Roadmaps illustrate how short-term goals build up to achieve long-term objectives. Each relevant team/party has its own goals and projects to work towards.
  • Stories: What about the product inspires people? Roadmaps must communicate their vision in a way that excites and motivates people.
  • Timelines: When will new products and features be released? Timelines can range from weeks to years, and it is not necessary to add strict dates. 

Types of product roadmaps

This list isn’t all-encompassing – product roadmaps can be categorized and defined in more than one way. Here are a few types of product roadmaps to think about:

  • Internal: Internal roadmaps hone in on projects, timelines, and development. They may include minor bugs that need fixing, sales angles, or branding techniques. Internal roadmaps are great for transparency and communication.
  • External: External roadmaps are for customers and stakeholders. They show new upcoming features to entice new customers, appease existing customers, and notify the public that improvements are coming. External roadmaps are intended to increase sales and investment. 
  • Market/Strategy: Roadmaps for high-level executives and decision-makers focus on more big-picture ideas. They touch on the product’s market and audience, technological advances that may require adaptation, and how to achieve overall success. 
  • Technology/Adaptation: Technology roadmaps could be one of two things: a visualization of tech features the product will offer, or a short-term, project-based guide for tech and IT workers. Regardless, this type of roadmap focuses on nitty-gritty, tangible details.
  • Platform: Platform roadmaps cover and address how cross-platform products grow and benefit customers. The goal is to convey how the products will work together effectively and add value as a unit. Dealing with multiple platforms and technologies means timelines will be longer, and likely to span years. 

Product roadmap software options

Before choosing where to create your roadmap, consider what features are imperative to you and your team. Which manner of management would work best (Agile, Scrum, Kanban)? Below are a few product roadmap software praised by product managers.

Roadmunk offers state-of-the-art roadmap templates rooted in collecting and improving from customer feedback. Roadmunk is user-friendly and provides template categories like IT, Agile, Marketing, Software, Product, and Project. The system is visually appealing and allows for adaptations “rooted in real user needs.”

Key Features:

  • Advanced feedback collection
  • JIRA integration
  • Interlinking between ideas within the roadmap
  • Separate accessibility for stakeholders

Product plan is known for facilitating team collaboration and goal alignment. Their easy-to-build templates empower team members to make important decisions. Their long list of templates includes Customer-Facing, Multi-Product, and Content Calendar.

Key Features:

  • Unlimited roadmaps and viewers
  • JIRA integration
  • Team collaboration and commenting
  • Private link sharing

Monday.com is an intuitive program great for teams of all sizes. They make planning easy by offering customizable workflows, color coding, and tasks with due dates. It also has automations to make task sequences run smoother and more efficiently.

Key Features:

  • Integration with Outlook, Dropbox, Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc.
  • Custom dashboards
  • Gantt charts and Kanban view
  • Top-notch security

Product roadmap tips

  • Use dates deliberately

Because a product roadmap sets broad visions and goals, including dates can be unhelpful at times. Dates are useful on internal-only roadmaps because they set firm deadlines for people to work towards. This guidance is necessary for these types of long-term projects. Avoid using dates on external roadmaps, or ones given to sales teams. Keep timelines open for those. 

  • Know when to make changes

Economies and markets are dynamic, and sometimes roadmaps need to be flexible and change with its environment. Every few weeks, evaluate your roadmap and make necessary changes – keeping in mind the age of your product. You don’t want to make huge changes that will uproot months or years of work toward a specific vision. Know when to make changes and when to stick to your story.

  • Avoid clutter

If you have a separate roadmap for internal and external use, only add information relevant to that particular group. Roadmaps already have a lot of ideas on them – don’t clutter it by adding small, specific notes. Certain short-term projects or customer stories can go in the backlog, not on the roadmap.

  • Focus on visions and goals

In an ever-changing environment, your product needs to be agile, so that market changes or technological advances won’t completely destroy your plan. Focus on goals and create features that achieve said goals. For example, if one goal is to increase customer engagement, there should be a handful of features dedicated to the goal. If something environmental changes, the features can be adjusted. 

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