Before starting any project, be it Agile, waterfall or even non-IT projects, it is important for the people involved in the product to understand what it is they are building. In other words, it is important to understand the vision and mission of the project and the product being built and how it aligns with the values of the organization.
This feature that outlines the strategic path to be followed for developing a particular product is called the product roadmap. The product roadmap is more of a communication tool and helps to communicate the high-level purpose of the product’s strategy and its alignment with organizational business objectives.
A product roadmap is a plan of action for how a product or solution will evolve over time--Atlassian
In other words, a product roadmap is a plan of action that defines the short- and long-term goals of the product to be built. The product roadmap is used not just in waterfall projects but is crucial for Agile projects too and is often used by the Product Owner to outline how the product will shape up, its functionality, new releases and so forth.
The roadmap also outlines the features that need to be prioritized for delivery and is an important reference—not just for the developers, but for all those involved in the product development lifecycle. For Agile teams, the product roadmap outlines the estimates of day-to-day tasks and is an important feature of the Agile product development lifecycle as it helps to follow the Agile values of early and continuous delivery of valuable software by helping the teams focus on priorities.
Building the product roadmap is one of the steps of the product development plan. Once the product vision is created after understanding the requirements of the stakeholders, market research and analysis, the product management team gets on with creating the product roadmap.
Building a product roadmap involves five main stages:
While creating the roadmap depends on the project and the organization, there are certain best practices that teams need to follow while creating product roadmaps to ensure effectiveness and value addition.
Your product roadmap is a great communication tool. This said, it also must be visually appealing and tell a story to those who are accessing and viewing it. Gone are the days when people used Excel and PowerPoint to display their roadmaps. Compared to cloud-based tools, creating roadmaps on old technologies is cumbersome and difficult to update. There are several tools available in the market to help you with creating the appropriate roadmap for your needs. Product roadmap examples available include:
Your roadmap is a mirror to your project and sharing it will help you maintain transparency and trust with all those involved in the project. You will have to share your roadmap with several people including:
The C-suite of your company may want to know how the project you build aligns to the goals and business objectives of the organization.
The roadmap is a bible for the engineering team as they will know the scope, goal and shape the project needs to take based on the product roadmap. They will know how to go about the development by understanding the releases, features and requirements outlined in the product roadmap.
The marketing team will use the product roadmap to understand the product strategy and goals along with the benefits that each release or feature will bring to the customer.
The sales team must sell the product, which is why they would need to know the benefits the product will bring into the customers. The product roadmap will be referenced by them for this purpose.
You can have different views for your roadmap based on who you are going to show it to and what information you want to communicate. Your audience is primarily of two types:
There are several types of roadmaps that are used for different projects. These roadmaps may be tailored in terms of looks and content to suit the needs of your project. Some common product roadmap types are:
As the name suggests, this roadmap communicates the strategy and the long-term initiatives that align to the organizational mission. This roadmap focuses on long term objectives, timelines and deadlines.
As the name suggests, this approach breaks down the roadmap into three parts. Now-which lists the initiatives that are being worked on now; Next-that lists the initiatives that will be taken up next and finally Later that lists the initiatives that will be tackled at a later stage. This product map gives the stakeholders and the team a bird’s eye view of the roadmap and makes it easier to suggest changes or differentiate priorities.
This is an excellent roadmap for development teams who want to communicate their plans without committing to exact timelines or dates. It helps teams to group activities into buckets such as what is in the backlog, what is planned and what is in progress.
This is typically used as an external roadmap for customers and stakeholders. It displays initiatives such as planned releases etc and does not have much technical detail.
Agile is all about flexibility, better responses to customer requirements and fast releases. Agile projects can benefit a lot from creating a product roadmap that communicates the long-term objectives of the project and helps establish a balance between short term and long-term goals. The agile roadmap is a great tool for providing direction to the team to carry out their everyday tasks. There are several tools available to create product plans for agile teams that help promote agility and implement agile values.
This is an example of an Agile product roadmap for an Agile product team. The initiatives are in blue, and timelines are indicated by the milestone-markers in red.
The Product roadmap is crucial not just in understanding long term goals and objectives but also to set context to everyday tasks and make sure that the product is responsive to competition and changing business requirements. The product roadmap works across industries, organizations and teams and is a must for projects of any size. It’s a tool that can be utilised by product owners and the product development team to ensure successful projects and value delivery.
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