How To Create a Product Roadmap Guide

Product Design
How To Create a Product Roadmap Guide
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: May 09, 2023

Regarding product development, according to a survey in 2022, 37% of the teams shift development priorities every month, an equal amount (37%) every three months. But product managers, 18% of whom have a less autonomous team, shift priorities weekly.

It is essential to have a product team that works more reactively than proactively when creating and implementing a product roadmap.

So how do you create a successful product roadmap? We’re here to explain.

We’ll cover the key steps of creating a product roadmap and share the benefits of developing a successful product roadmap!

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Defining How To Create a Product Roadmap

A product roadmap communicates your product design and vision and puts product plans into action. It is underpinned by a strategic direction that helps the team focus on what matters the most.

The team that is working on your product should be focusing on the following:

  • Goals and initiatives
  • Efforts required to achieve them
  • Timeline for implementing all of the work
  • Creating a roadmap for product development should include:
  • Customer ideas
  • Feature requests
  • Internal input
  • Backlogs of work

These elements are defined after careful review from a product team so that any roadmap decisions support your overall vision.

Here are five types of product roadmaps and what explanation each of how useful they are:

Type 1. Epics Roadmap

Epics roadmap organizes and plans upcoming tasks by grouping related features. It is helpful for visualization of work delivered across different releases and communicating focus areas

Type 2. Features Roadmap

This roadmap shows the timeline for delivering the new features and communicates the plan's details and what will come to your team and your customers.

Type 3. Portfolio Roadmap

It shows planned releases in a single view and is useful to provide you with a leadership plan overview of how multiple product teams work.

Type 4. Release Roadmap

This roadmap helps you communicate the activities before you release the product on the market. It supports coordinating cross-functional teams for release activities such as marketing, sales, and customer support.

Type 5. Strategy roadmap

Displays the efforts you plan to invest towards achieving your product’s goals. A strategy roadmap is excellent for presenting progress on initiatives to leadership and keeping cross-functional teams aligned on overarching business strategy.

Key Thing To Include When Creating a Product Roadmap

How to create a product roadmap is a process where you must plan a timeline with crucial factors included:

  • Product vision. This starts the process of building the product roadmap so that future planning can continue. By the end of the strategic outline, it spells out how you want your product to be.
  • Strategy. You will need internal and external stakeholders to understand the overall project’s goal. Explain how it benefits the business and blends with the vision
  • Requirements. You need the information to outline the needs. It is essential to know what your end-users think about current products. This helps you determine the features that need prioritizing.
  • Product plan. It is the way that the plan will be executed as the project is moving forward. Set specific goals so you can keep innovation and flexibility inside the general milestones, timeframe, and milestones.

7 Steps on How To Make a Product Roadmap

A high-quality product roadmap needs structure. The following are the seven steps on how to create a product roadmap:

  1. Research and Context-building
  2. Decide on the Outcome
  3. Find a Problem to Solve
  4. Set a Timeframe
  5. Organize Problems into Themes
  6. Prioritize Themes into Initiatives
  7. Set Quarterly Parameters to Measure Success

Step 1. Research and Context-building

Creating a product roadmap serves two purposes:

  • Communicate goals and priorities
  • Build support for the product’s plan

In the beginning, you should think about your roadmap’s audience. The engineering team for the internal roadmap focuses on different elements than the plan for the executives. Next, consider the present state of your company and how to build a product roadmap that changes alongside the company’s growth.

Step 2. Decide on the Outcome

Revisit your strategy to find areas of impact and dig into your resources. Each niche has its focus; for example, you can analyze eCommerce trends when thinking about online retail products.

Think about the following:

  • Market research
  • Competitor analysis
  • Internal requests from stakeholders
  • External requests from users

Gather teammates and key stakeholders and brainstorm the critical elements on how to create a product roadmap:

  • Outcome. Define a problem that you are solving with your product.
  • Metrics. Think about the metrics that are a measurement of the solution’s success.
  • Behavior changes. Consider potential behavior changes that might increase the product’s overall revenue.

Step 3. Find a Problem to Solve

There are several places where you can identify problems that can connect your product to your desired outcome:

  • Customer feedback. User interviews are the most common way to uncover potential user problems. In addition, you can look for feedback from sales and marketing or customer support.
  • Product backlog. Update the user stories in the product’s backlog. For each, analyze their value and owner and how they fit into the product strategy.
  • Usage data. Look at how customers use your product for friction points so that you can potentially solve an additional break.
  • Competitor analysis. Keep a pulse on your competitor’s problems and how they solve them. This is the way that you can see how the market is evolving.

Step 4. Set a Timeframe

You should set a rough yet realistic timeframe based on the desired outcome and the identified problems.

When you are thinking about how to make a product roadmap, be sure to signal progress early in the beginning. Consider if the problems have seemingly quick solutions or need more of your time investment for significant strategic changes.

Step 5. Organize Problems into Themes

Visualizing the complete flow from goal to a potential solution is important. This process involves learning how many different paths can lead to the same outcome.

A roadmap for product development is a combination of experience and data. Look at your list of issues and identify the themes that tie them together.

For example, when it comes to eCommerce product pages, the list of the problems you need to solve might include:

  • Getting users to sign up for your newsletter
  • Increasing repeated purchases
  • Asking past users for reviews
  • Boosting average order size

Step 6. Prioritize Themes into Initiatives

You have several paths to reach the desired outcome when creating a product roadmap. It is up to you to decide which direction to take.

Here are a few common exercises that you can use to get started:

  • Feasibility. Analyze features based on their technical possibilities and if they support the overall product strategy.
  • Impact scale. This method is a simple grid where you score features on the level of how much impact they have based on the investment. Look more for high-impact and low-effort features.
  • Analyze periods independently. See how many people will be impacted in a certain period, and scale that impact in comparison with the effect it might have on your strategy.

Step 7. Set Quarterly Parameters to Measure Success

Knowing how to create a product roadmap means a successful shift from high-level plans to daily tasks. The ultimate goal is to ensure that your steps are connected to your outcome.

The best way to keep the task list tied to the overall product strategy is with outcomes and key results (OKRs):

  • Outcome. This might be making progress or completing a feature towards your desired outcome.
  • Key results. With key results, you are measuring the success of your work.

OKR is a roadside marker that tells your location inside the project and the progress you have made.

How To Manage Roadmap for Product Development

When you are thinking about how to create a product roadmap, be sure that you can always lean on an experienced team.

Most often, product managers own the product roadmap. They lead the next set of activities:

  • Collecting research and ideas
  • Feedback
  • Translation
  • Developing materials into features
  • And more

In addition, it is crucial to consider markers and metrics when laying out factors for successfully managing a product roadmap. Know the metrics so that everyone in the team is measuring things the same way.

Markers are essential to keep everyone in the loop regarding timing. You might have only the potential dates, but it is still essential for moving forward to know where the markers are. These can be adjusted as needed, as they allow people to check on timelines to track the progress of the work

Takeaways on How To Build a Product Roadmap

A product roadmap is a summary that maps your product’s vision and the overarching strategy. It communicates the reasons behind what you are building and documents a plan for executing the strategy. Professional product design companies all use this approach when coming up with their solutions. 

Once the roadmap is built, they will share it with stakeholders. The best roadmap for product development involves cross-functional collaborations because you need external input to deliver a Complete Product Experience (CPE).

This helps the overall visibility of organizational alignment and makes it easier to prioritize the outcomes that will be delivered.

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