5 Guidelines for Your Next Product Roadmap

How you create your product roadmap will differ completely from another product manager. People have strong opinions about what a product roadmap should—and shouldn’t—include. Rather than try to offer a definitive picture of the perfect product roadmap, let’s look at a few elements that all roadmaps include. Here are 5 guidelines for your next product roadmap to help you create a successful product.

 

#1. Flexibility

Change happens. This is one constant you can count on with your new product. Priorities shift, features get scrapped and new ones added, or the market can take a turn that will affect your launch. Whatever challenge you face, keeping your product roadmap flexible will save you headaches and effort/time in pushing through changes.

The key to providing flexibility is to focus on your high level priorities and objectives over the long-term and only get into the detail for the short-term tasks. Your short-term priorities are less likely to change significantly than your longer term ones. You’ll be in a better position to take a high-level view of the project as a whole.

 

#2. Corporate strategic initiatives

Base your product roadmap on your company’s strategic initiatives. When you base your new product on helping your business achieve its goals, you’ll get more buy-in. You’ll also align your product’s launch with high level company initiatives.

This is not a contradiction to being flexible. You can change priorities in light of new information, but your roadmap’s focus should also be aligned with your company’s goals and vision. By maintaining this high-level focus throughout, you’ll make better business decisions, especially in the face of peer pressure. You may have a sales manager pressing for new functionality to sell the product, but weigh your decision against the benefit to the strategic goals and initiatives. If the new functionality doesn’t support long-term success, you can more easily say “no.”

 

#3. Collaboration

You won’t create your best product roadmap ever without collaborating with a variety of stakeholders. Executives, end users, engineers, sales and marketing teams, external vendors, your customer support services, and more should all weigh in. Most important, however, is talking to your end users or customers.

This doesn’t mean you include every single suggestion. It does mean you consider a broad range of input to consider your product from every angle. When you collaborate, you get diversity in outlook that will help create a more rounded product. It also helps your team feel less like “order takers” and more like a creative part of the process

 

#4. Visuality

Create eye-catching, visual representations of your product’s high level vision, strategies, milestones, and goals for your product roadmap. If you have a never-ending PowerPoint presentation of bullet points ad nauseam, that’s a backlog, not a roadmap. Color-code your product roadmap and show only high-level initiatives so people can understand at a glance what you’re proposing and what you want to carry out.

A highly visual product roadmap is easy when you use the right visual roadmap software. And it will force you to truly consider what the most important initiatives are that will help you achieve your strategic goals and vision.

 

#5. Customization

You’ll have a variety of audiences you’ll want to share your product roadmap with, so customize roadmaps with what your audience wants to see. For example, executives like high level strategies, milestones, and budget projections. Your product team wants to see the pressing tasks coming up and how they fit into the big picture.

Again, this is where a roadmapping software platform comes in handy. You can create your product roadmap and offer individual URL access to different audiences. This allows people to drill down to the level of detail they most want to see. You don’t have to create 10 different roadmaps for your audiences; let the software accomplish that for you.

 

Conclusion

In essence, your product roadmap is how you communicate your strategies, vision, and projections to everyone else. When you keep the above 5 guidelines in mind during planning and creation, your roadmap will be off to a good start.

Not only does your product roadmap help you make better business decisions, but it helps you monitor and track every aspect of your new product. Everyone can quickly see from your product roadmap where the project stands and what’s left to accomplish.

 

Danny Ball

Co-founder & CEO at Hutwork. I’m working hard every day to ensure visual planning is at the forefront of today’s fascinating ideas. Click here to check us out on twitter.

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