Your introductory guide to agile product roadmaps
By: Nicholas Mistretta
Imagine that your company has just come up with an idea for a new product that solves all the world’s problems. OK, perhaps that’s a bit too lofty, so let’s say it solves a large, singular problem. How do you go from idea to product? You create an agile product roadmap, of course.
In this introductory guide to agile product roadmaps, we will answer all of your burning questions, beginning with: What is a product roadmap?
What is a product roadmap?
An agile product roadmap – emphasis on agile as it evolves over time – is a shared resource that outlines your company’s vision, direction, and progress for your new product over time.
Think of it as a plan of action that seeks to establish how short-term efforts will deliver on your new product’s long-term goals. This could include future product functionality, when new features are released, or anything else that is pertinent.
You can also think of your product roadmap as a timeline if that helps some.
A product roadmap seeks to answer the questions of what you are going to deliver and when, as these things happen in stages rather than all at once.
The creation of a product roadmap isn’t just for new products either. You could also create one if your company is enhancing an existing product or creating an internal product that will only be used by your organization. In short, a product roadmap is a strategic planning document that answers all of the relevant questions of why, what, and when.
There are five goals when creating an agile product roadmap:
- A description of the vision and strategy of your product
- The creation of a guiding document on how you will execute that strategy
- Getting all internal stakeholders aligned
- Discussion of options and scenarios planning
- Communicating with all external stakeholders and/or customers
A product roadmap should be built after the high-level strategic planning has concluded. Your action plan should include all short-term goals and long-term goals and how all of them will be achieved. An agile product roadmap should also seek to outline progress and priorities.
What your new product is and when the stages of development will take place are probably obvious goals when creating a product roadmap. However, a less obvious and often overlooked goal is to answer the question of why. The why will serve you well in figuring how the product will be marketed – essentially answering the important question of what is its need in the marketplace.
Keeping your product roadmap agile is another priority. It should be responsive to changes like customer feedback, shifts in the competitive landscape, and market demand. As your product roadmap grows and evolves over time, it will help keep everyone moving in the right direction and ensure that everyday work remains aligned with the larger and long-term goals for the product and the company.
Who are product roadmaps for?
There are four distinct types of product roadmaps based on the audience it serves:
- Internal roadmap for the development team
- Internal roadmap for executives or internal stakeholders
- Internal roadmap for the sales team
- External roadmap
Let’s jump into each of them now.
Internal roadmap for the development team
The internal roadmap for the development team will be created based on how the team likes to work and will include:
- A target release date for the product
- All milestones on the way to that release date
- The overarching customer value of the product
It helps to create a timeline when working with an internal developmental roadmap. You’ll want to document specific steps or pieces of work on that timeline, as well as any problems that arise along the way.
Internal roadmap for executives or internal stakeholders
The internal roadmap for executives will serve to document how the development team’s day to day work supports the organization’s larger goals for the product and the metrics used to measure those goals.
The timeline is much broader and usually measured in months or even quarters, rather than weeks or days. However, it is still similar to the development team’s product roadmap in that it documents and measures progress over time but with far fewer details.
Internal roadmap for the sales team
The focus of the internal roadmap for the sales team will include all of the things that the sales team needs to effectively sell the product. It should include customer benefits or value and the features that support or create that value.
The progress of the development team will dictate the timeline for the sales roadmap. Creating a timeline for the sales roadmap in parallel with the development team’s work could put pressure on the team to rush and create more problems by setting unrealistic completion dates.
The external roadmap is created with the end-user or customer in mind. It should inspire excitement and intrigue over the product. And it should contribute to the creation of marketing materials that are easily understood and visually appealing.
Most of all, the external roadmap should generate interest in the product and be targeted toward the product’s specific audience.
Why do you need a product roadmap?
By now the answer to this question might already be apparent but let’s tackle it anyway.
An agile product roadmap is a key part of the strategic planning process and overall strategic vision for the product being enhanced or developed. Connecting implementation to the greater product strategy keeps each of the groups above aligned and everyone focused on the end goals and the steps that are required to take in getting there.
Therefore, product road mapping success relies on the inclusivity of all involved. It allows the marketing team to better prepare for future marketing campaigns and the product launch. It provides the development team with the proper infrastructure to build the product. And it sets customer expectations for the sales department.
A product roadmap aligns the broader company goals and product goals with every team involved in the project. It allows for better communication between teams. And it provides a better understanding of the big picture and each distinct role every team has to play along the way.
What are the different types of product roadmaps?
There are four common types of product roadmaps:
- A portfolio roadmap
- A strategy roadmap
- A releases roadmap
- A features roadmap
Let’s jump into each of these as well.
The portfolio roadmap
The portfolio roadmap is created to show all planned product releases in a single view. It’s useful for outlining the strategic overview of executives and internal stakeholders. And it helps all of the internal teams understand how each project relates to the work of the other teams involved.
The strategy roadmap
The strategy roadmap details all of the high-level efforts that will be required or invested in to achieve the product goals. It’s a great tool for presenting all of the initiatives to internal stakeholders and for helping each internal team get a better understanding of how various product releases contribute to the broader business strategy of the organization.
The releases roadmap
A releases roadmap is used to coordinate all of the release activities with other cross-functional teams such as marketing, sales, and customer support. It should communicate all of the steps or actions that are required to be completed before releasing each new product into the marketplace – what must be done, by when, and by whom.
The features roadmap
A features roadmap shows a timeline for each product as to when new features are to be delivered. It’s used to communicate the details of each new feature and when they will be available to the end-user or customer or other organizational teams that are involved.
Presenting your product roadmap to other teams
When creating new products or enhancing existing products, communication and transparency are critical; from how you plan to meet high-level company goals to how you will deliver each new product to the customer. Each internal team should be involved, though each team will have different requirements.
The leadership team – internal stakeholders or board members – will want to understand how each new product can help unify the organization’s strategy, vision, goals, and corporate metrics.
The development team will require specific information that helps them to get a better understanding of the how – how they will move forward in implementing the plan. To answer that question, they’ll need to know the when and what – information on product releases, product requirements, product features, and so on. And finally, they’ll need a good understanding of the why – how their work impacts the greater goals of leadership.
The marketing team will also want to know leadership’s goals, strategies, and vision. But most importantly, they’ll need to know how each new product or each new product feature benefits the customer.
The sales team will also need to understand the benefits customers can expect from each new product or feature – what functionalities they will receive from the product, when they will get it, and why they should care about it.
The customer support team will need to understand the enhancements to existing products or features of new products that are being delivered and when they will be delivered. They’ll need time to prepare for helping the customers solve product problems.
After this introductory guide to agile product roadmaps, you should have a better understanding of what they are, who they are for, why you need them, and the major players involved. In the next two articles in this series, we will dive into how you can create a product roadmap and provide you with some tools and templates in doing so.