“Great marketing cannot overcome shitty products” — Dan Martell.
The words might be a revised David Ogilvy quote, but we like this one better.
As a product manager, creating a sticky product with a solid value proposition is your #1 Goal. However, this is only possible if your product is good to begin with. And a good product is always the result of a good execution— which is impossible to achieve without a Product Roadmap.
Before diving deeper, let’s clarify what product roadmap isn’t— It is not a Product Backlog OR a To-Do list. It's much broader than that. A product roadmap focuses less on the ‘What’ and more on the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ behind the product’s strategy.
“A roadmap should not delve deeply into the what and the when. It should stay at the why level”
— Bruce McCarthy, author of Product Roadmaps Relaunched
According to ProductPlan, A Product Roadmap is a “Guided strategic Document and a plan for executing the product strategy”, it’s a visual summary of the path the product will take.
It is how product managers communicate with internal teams and stakeholders. Roadmaps give visibility and key information to the team. And help them align their goals and effort to the shared vision.
Roadmaps mainly fall under 3 basic frameworks:
And which framework you want to work with depends on your product lifecycle.
Early stage companies generally favor flexibility and work with agile teams. In such cases you don't want to be stuck with dates or strict deadlines. And go with No dates Product roadmaps.
No dates Product roadmaps as the name suggests has no deadlines and is organized by themes and a dynamic sequence is followed based on priority of each initiative.
As your company scales and you start interacting with clients you need to have some commitments to timelines. However your team is still not big enough to be completely bogged down by hard dates and deadlines. In such scenarios you go with Hybrid product roadmaps.
Hybrid product roadmaps can be organized by months or even quarters, which gives you flexibility and still have a timeline.
Lastly, the Timeline product roadmap. This type of roadmap is for teams that need strict timelines as they work cross functionally with other teams like sales, marketing etc. and need higher commitments to work smoothly. This type of roadmaps is essential to understand the product’s long term vision.
Feedbacks, as a product manager you hold on to them more than anything. A good PM will understand that feedback comes from more than just your customers— which is why you must Always be Listening.
You will see that feedback even comes from different teams like support teams, engineering teams etc.
Anyone remotely involved in using the product has some stake in it.
- Maybe your customer support agent tells you about a recurring complaint with a CTA.
- Maybe an engineer sees the possibility of an upgrade by adding a few lines of code.
Having a system of listening to ideas and suggestions open up the horizons. And also help you create better roadmaps.
Another Foolproof and unbiased way to get feedback would be using Analytics Tools that can give you sessions recordings of your end users journey.
“It’s all about solving problems, not implementing features.”
― Marty Cagan, Inspired
Often product managers get blindsided with adding features in the roadmap. This can hurt the product life cycle as your end user generally doesn’t care about the new features. The right answer here would be to have a problem solving mindset.
Features only have any impact if they have any real value by solving your customers real problems.
-Why does your product Exist?
-What Problem does it solve?
-If we build it, will people adopt it?
Having questions like these as your guide helps you build customer driven solutions.
“Product Roadmaps should come from Customer Obsession”
The vision is What ties together the team. Having a vision that is clear and easy to understand is important for proper alignment and resource allocation. Communication is a two way process– there NEEDs to be feedback from the management and teams regarding the short and long term goals.
Keep in mind that the organization has different teams with different goals. And your Roadmap needs to be made with those considerations. Creating a review system for ironing out the kinks and making sure everyone is on the same page is an important step to making a good roadmap.
If you’re new to roadmaps or are a seasoned professional, it's important to know there’s no universal format. But what can be universal is asking the right questions and asking them from the right people. Lastly having sound reasons for every element—be it your timelines, themes or even objectives.