Building roadmaps is a crucial part of a product manager’s job. Yet most product managers still use outdated tools for roadmapping—Excel, PowerPoint, wikis, etc. The good news is that there’s a better way.
Executives have a vision of the future. Sales and marketing teams want to be heard. And engineering is waiting for those detailed requirements and user stories. Great product managers must walk a fine line between managing inputs and distilling a plan.
The best product managers start with a “goal first” approach and work to build consensus before building and sharing their roadmap. To accomplish this and get to a plan of record, you need a collaborative roadmap that offers ongoing visibility.
Here are a few easy steps to help you create a brilliant visual roadmap.
1. Define your product strategy.
First, you must clearly define your strategy by setting the product vision, goals and initiatives for each product.
A well-defined product vision is a foundation for your visual product roadmap, guiding your team’s efforts and keeping everyone focused on the ultimate goal. Use simple language and avoid jargon to ensure that your vision statement is accessible to a wide range of stakeholders. Your vision statement should also evoke a sense of purpose and motivation, driving your team to work toward achieving the vision.
Since major initiatives drive your goals, link them together. Product initiatives are generally focused on addressing specific customer needs or solving problems, and they should align with the product vision and contribute to the product’s success. Initiatives help prioritize and organize the work of cross-functional teams, ensuring that resources and efforts are allocated effectively to the most impactful projects. Goals serve as milestones that track progress and help evaluate the product’s success as it moves through its development lifecycle.
When this step is complete, you can see the relationships between your product lines, products, goals, initiatives, and releases on one screen. This helps you find orphan goals or initiatives that can’t be linked to high-level objectives.
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2. Customize your roadmap based on who will view it.
Select which features to highlight and choose whether to present internal or external data. This customization ensures that your roadmap remains relevant and engaging for various stakeholders. The external release date can be different than your internal release dates. It can also be rounded to a broader timeframe to be less precise (e.g. show releases by quarter).
- Customer views: For customers, focus on the theme of the release and critical features that will directly impact their experience. This helps them understand the value they can expect from the upcoming updates and builds excitement.
- Internal stakeholder views: For internal stakeholders, emphasize the strategic importance of each release by linking it to goals and initiatives. This helps them understand how the planned releases contribute to the overall product strategy and company objectives.
- Specific customer views: In some cases, you may want to create tailored roadmaps for individual customers or customer segments. These roadmaps can showcase features and improvements that are specifically relevant to their business objectives or industry, making the roadmap more engaging and personalized.
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3. Bring releases and features together for a unified view.
Now that you have selected the releases and features you want to showcase on your visual product roadmap, it’s time to create a compelling and informative timeline that effectively communicates your product strategy to stakeholders. This can be achieved using various tools and methods, including PowerPoint, Excel, or specialized roadmap software.
When constructing your roadmap timeline, choose a platform that provides the flexibility and ease of use to build a customized view tailored to your stakeholders’ needs. Many road mapping tools offer user-friendly features that allow you to quickly zoom in or out, ensuring you can present the desired level of detail.
To create a comprehensive and well-structured visual roadmap, organize your timeline by layers, each representing a different data set. Begin with your products at the core. From there, build outward to include additional layers, such as goals, initiatives, and releases at the edges. This hierarchical structure helps to convey the relationships between various elements, allowing stakeholders to easily grasp the overall product strategy.
4. Share your roadmap.
Once you have successfully created a visually appealing and informative product roadmap tailored to your stakeholders’ needs, it’s time to save and share it with the relevant parties. This step is crucial in ensuring that everyone involved in the product development process remains aligned and well-informed about the product’s strategic direction.
When selecting a method to save and share your roadmap, consider the ease of access and security for your stakeholders. Many road mapping software solutions provide versatile options for exporting and sharing your roadmap, such as generating a PDF or creating a secure web page. These formats allow for convenient sharing while controlling who can view the information.
To effectively share your product plans and roadmap:
- Choose an appropriate format: Select a design that best suits your stakeholders’ preferences and the level of detail you wish to convey. PDFs are ideal for sharing static roadmaps, while secure web pages can offer interactive and dynamic views.
- Ensure accessibility: Ensure your chosen sharing method is easily accessible by all relevant stakeholders, including team members, executives, partners, and customers.
- Communicate updates: Regularly update your roadmap to reflect any changes or progress in your product development journey. Keep your stakeholders informed of these updates to ensure they always have the most current information at their disposal.
- Encourage feedback: When sharing your product roadmap, welcome stakeholder input and feedback. This open communication can lead to valuable insights and improvements, helping to refine your product strategy and enhance alignment.
Everyone wants to see the same data—but each team wants to see it their own way. Product managers benefit from a focused approach that includes plenty of collaboration and planning to keep everyone on the same page. Now it’s time to build the perfect roadmap, share your plans with the team and build what matters.
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