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You need product vision to guide you along the road ahead

The product roadmap is a strategic tool that can be difficult to manage. Creating it is easy. But managing it is a whole different ball game. Before you know, your beautiful roadmap is not in sync with reality and changing it does not feel like an option, because others in your company are keeping you to the promises you’ve made…

Sounds familiar? Don’t worry. Most of us who ever had to manage a roadmap went through a similar ordeal. I certainly have. But the great thing is that it’s easy to make the managing of a roadmap a piece of cake.

By the end of this blog, I hope to have provided you with knowledge and inspiration to build and maintain a roadmap that your entire team understands and will get behind!

Roadmap goal and product vision

The analogy of the rock, pebbles and sand is well known, so I’ll just stick to a short summary about the physics. If you start filling a jar with sand, next pebbles and lastly rocks, it won’t fit in as nicely as when you would have started with the rocks, then the pebbles and lastly the sand. Don’t take my word for it. Just have a look at this picture:

The same goes for a roadmap. Don’t start with the small things. Don’t start with the features. Start with the biggest thing when planning your roadmap: product vision. Next, put in the strategic goals that derive from the product vision. Lastly, think about what features would fit in nicely. Repeat this every time when you rethink your roadmap.

Every feature should be linked to a strategic goal (for example: increase engagement, measured by percentage of weekly active users). This will keep any discussion about what’s on the roadmap away from the details and back up there where it needs to be: at the product vision level. And that’s something that is shared between teams. Features can be very personal. People have favourites. A product vision is a starting point shared by the company.

Common mistakes you don’t have to make — I’ve made them for you.

  1. Don’t make promises with specific dates. Try to stay away from adding dates. A now, next, later timeline will help you out more, especially in young companies. When a company becomes more mature, with a market and product that is known, it starts making sense to have a roadmap with specific dates. But don’t bother with these in early stage companies, as the dates will change as soon as you announce them, because your market is uncertain.

2. Not having a fluid roadmap. Once your roadmap is made, make sure to update it frequently! It is a picture of your best intent. But product development is full of uncertainty. So adjust your roadmap accordingly. Once every month, once every quarter…

3. Having only one roadmap. Depending on your audience, you should have different roadmaps. An internal roadmap looks different from an external roadmap. A roadmap shared with the management team differs from one that is shared company wide. A roadmap is about sharing information, so make sure you know what information is useful to the audience you are sharing it with and adjust accordingly.

Would you like to talk product? That’s great… me too! Drop me a line or respond in the comments on what you would like to talk about.