In a nutshell, a product roadmap is an essential visual summary that lays out the vision and direction of a project or product(s) ideation. A product roadmap lets you know what your product can offer over a period of time and let you pivot to provide what your customers need as you develop it. That being said, you need to understand that creating a product roadmap is a multi-step process. Necessarily it is a process because you first need to set your strategic plans as well as product vision.

It does not matter if you have some experience in the past creating the roadmap or do not have any experience. It is, however, essential that you make one. A chief goal is to keep you focused! Built correctly, a roadmap should apply pressure on you to complete projects on task if you are otherwise not careful. You need to realize that the stakeholders of your company including the customers have the right to review the roadmap and will very likely influence priorities.

You should never look at the product roadmap like an operation to-do list. It is necessary for you to know that it is a strategic document that you design to assist you in developing a plan for your product. It can also assist you in putting your team on the path in carrying out that plan.

As a product manager, you might be thinking that you can jot down the themes, plan, and the best features of the product. Yes –  you need these things in preparing the roadmap. It is critical for you to realize the fact that an overly simplistic plan can lead to several other problems. You need to work on specific guidelines if you want to prepare a good roadmap.

First Determine the ‘Why’ for the Product

You first need to ask several questions such as why you are developing this product during this particular time. What kind of specific attributes it needs to have and who are the customers that are going to benefit using this product.

These are the fundamental strategic questions that you might need to ask yourself and your crew. You need to review the ‘why’ information each time you are planning to create a new product or planning to update the existing product. If you cannot answer these critical questions, it is useless to spend any money or resources developing the product. Generate enough data to back up your decision making

It is startling to note that most of the product managers with significant experience and talent in some cases skip this crucial step. It might be because they think it is okay to follow their gut feelings rather than putting across the answers on a sheet of paper.

No doubt, their assumption is that it takes much more time to create the roadmap than just starting. product managers who think it is okay to rush forward in creating the roadmap often end up missing crucial elements of their project.

Plan Carefully

You need to realize the fact that this first step is going to be beneficial to you if you plan carefully. It can make a significant impact to your product during the development phase and eliminate unnecessary efforts. And, it will serve you well beyond the product’s launch. Your product can be successful if you with your team put efforts to determine your products core purpose for existing in the first place.

Not to mention that having a defined core purpose might also assist you in marketing the product over and above cohesive decisions. At the end of the day, you need to sell the product and having a product roadmap your stakeholders can believe in can be an important part of that process.  With the right tools, you can also get their support as well.

Second Determine Your Target Audience and Tailor the Product Roadmap

Now, this is another thing that product managers forget when preparing the product roadmap. The product roadmap you present to the stakeholders, engineers, marketing team and customers cannot be the same. As you know, particular priorities are different for each one of them. You need to make the necessary modifications to your roadmap to ensure it is apt for each of these groups.

It is necessary for you to understand the fact that your stakeholders do not need to see information that is irrelevant to them. Some information might be relevant to the marketing or development team.  The stakeholders want to know more about how the product roadmap can assist in increasing the market share.

A development team might not need the information that is not relevant to them. Instead, the development team might require information such as the technology you want the developers to use and the time-frame that you have set for the product development. You want your sales team to draw from the roadmap the insights on how they can convince the potential customers to purchase the product.

Try developing a product roadmap using a dynamic tool that your team use for documents such as a spreadsheet. Allowing yourself to create various versions of the roadmap. You can change the priorities of the roadmap for each version to ensure it is relevant to your audience.

Third Build Your Actual Product Roadmap

Once you have completed the first two steps and have found the right roadmap tool, you need to actually build the product roadmap.  Reflect on the essential elements of the roadmap we described above.

(1) First, determine the dominant theme of the product.

(2) Create a swimlane it is necessary for you to create a swimlane on the product roadmap with its themes

(3) Since you now have a series of themes, you need to begin to layer them in epics.

Add details:

you might have to layer the specific features as well underneath each epic.

Question yourself several times to understand the value a theme brings to a roadmap. You also need to know how it works in conjunction with other themes that are on the roadmap.

An important note: Your Product Roadmap Should Be Flexible

he next most important thing that you need to keep in mind. You need to be ready to make significant changes to the roadmap in the future. These changes might happen because of several factors. It might be because of resource level change, or competitors strategic moves, the date of your product release or development. You need to recognize the fact that you might have to make several changes to the roadmap once you build it. Stick to the premise, not the paper.