How to Build a Product Roadmap and communicate it with your users
Gone are the days where Product Managers (PMs) weren’t given a seat at the big table despite its extremely challenging and laborious work.
These days, product management is already termed as a “growing and dynamic field.” In fact, according to the Glassdoor survey last August 2020, product management is already one of the best job positions in the United States.
PM’s responsibilities go around the tasks of ensuring and managing the product throughout its lifecycle. Now, hop on as we take off and talk over one of the most important roles of PMs — building a product roadmap.
What is a Product Roadmap
Envisioning your path forward has never been meaningful without your product roadmap. The product roadmap is a strategic document that encapsulates your product strategy and laid out the process of how it will be realized. It is a shared source and unifying line that promotes a common understanding of the vision, goals, and objectives of the organization.
This tool usually comes in to facilitate the launch of a new product and improvements applied to the existing products.
Product Managers are usually highly reliant on roadmaps since it cuts down unnecessary tasks, avoids wasting resources, and gradually directs the team towards a problem-free zone. Other than that, roadmaps are important because, for employees and stakeholders, it serves as their reference to see the product’s current status and make them understand why certain decisions are put into action.
How to Build a Product Roadmap
In building a Product Roadmap, it is important that you first have a comprehensive understanding of both the product’s and the overall organization’s strategic objectives to ensure that your roadmap is firmly aligned with those strategies.
This first step is where the “why” questions usually arise. Therefore, you should be able to determine, in the very beginning, why your product exists. Identify and demonstrate the bigger picture behind your product formation.
That way, your decisions will ultimately be consistent and strategic going forward.
Collate and integrate
After identifying the answers to your why’s, collate ideas or information then integrate. Usually, you can source this information from your internal customer support team as they have primary and firsthand knowledge about your customer’s demand and feedback.
Once you obtain these details, identify now your product features as well as their limitations and make necessary adjustments in accordance with your customer’s feedback to further improve its functionality.
When everything is already determined and fitted into the right place, start organizing your releases and determine when it needs to take place. Create a general timeframe but make sure to avoid or completely omit specific dates.
“Don’t fall into the trap of specifying dates for anything that’s not already a work-in-progress or that isn’t well defined and well understood. Any attempt to set a date for something that’s outside the 1-3 month time horizon is not only a mistake, but is bound to fail,” Cliff Gilley, technologist, and product manager of The Clever PM said.
In crafting your roadmap, you need to bear in mind that there are different groups of individuals who will see it. Therefore, you must ensure that you tailor-fit it suitable for a different set of audiences.
When communicating and presenting your roadmap, you should be aware of your audiences or your users. Within the organization, you might have your internal employees, stakeholders, sales and marketing staffers, and developers that you need to take into consideration. To avoid conflicting plans and actions, try to develop different versions of your roadmaps applicable to a different group of people.
On a blog created by Kate Eby entitled “Best Practices and Expert Tips for Creating Product Roadmaps,” she addressed this problem stating there is no “one-size-fits-all approach.” Therefore, product managers should take into account the fact that although your roadmap serves as the unifying line between your users, communicating it requires a different approach.
As Eby discussed in her example, “marketing departments typically want to understand how product features will look and behave, while Sales wants details about when the product will be ready for customers to purchase it.”
Remember, your roadmap serves as your guide to the route you plan to take. Now, imagine if everyone took on different routes.
That would be terrible.
To avoid jeopardizing your plans and wasting too much time and resources, always settle with the thought “will it be understood by my target audiences or users?” Tailor-fit it. As such, your product releases will be plotted more systematically avoiding hasty works and complex dilemmas.
Lastly, after eliminating all the roadblocks, map it out. You can use templates such as Woffice Project Management Bundle, to illustrate your product plans and actions as well as gradually improve your internal productivity.
Afterwhich, you are all set!
Share and discuss it with your team, start monitoring your progress, and don’t forget to adjust accordingly based on the shifting customer needs and market demand.