Product Roadmap: How do we effectively make use of this tool?

Product Roadmap, some people love them; some people find them useless. People have divided opinions about this tool. However, when used effectively, it can benefit your company.

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a guiding document that helps visualize the direction of the product over a specific period. It provides a clearer perspective on what we are building and why. The need for a product roadmap will depend on:

  • The audience of the document
  • The level of its implementation- strategic or thematic.
  • Size of the company or team
  • The stage of the company

Is the product roadmap important?

There is a difference in how people perceive product roadmaps. Some use it as an invaluable tool to align team members and goals while some find them useless. However, the usability of the tool depends on the size and stages of the company.

For companies in early stages with small teams asking for a 2-year roadmap doesn’t make sense. They are at a point where their goal at this point might be to reach a stable position. For companies looking for Series funding, roadmap might be useful to raise funds, but it doesn’t need to go in detail level. It can just be a list of hypotheses at this point.

Roadmap becomes essential when the team starts growing. There are multiple product teams; the company is at a post Series A, Series B funding stage; at this point, the roadmap is used as a guiding document rather than a dictating document. The high-level goal will remain the same at this stage, what changes are the details. The roadmaps then start evolving with the changes.

Small teams usually avoid making product roadmaps for the same. They do not have the time to iterate the details as per changing requirements.

However, we cannot deny the fact that product roadmap can be a useful tool for building products, raising funds, aligning team members, recruiting and attracting talents. Open-source projects like GitLab, WordPress will have roadmaps that way, it is easier to communicate with the entire community. Moreover, product roadmaps can be equally crucial in managing a remote team as it will help to align the people digitally.

Remember, a product roadmap is not a requirement document, not a sprint plan, nor a product backlog. It is a guiding document, not the dictating guide, which entails where we are heading as a product and how we are heading to the market.

How does product roadmap vary as per the B2B and B2C industry?

The use of product roadmap can vary as per the B2B and B2C industry. The B2C sector faces market risk problems where products are based on assumptions and hypotheses. You are still validating assumptions. The requirements may rapidly change. In such cases, roadmap might not be beneficial or can be used as a guiding document only as requirements will quickly change.

But in a B2B scenario, companies face execution risk. They are trying to make a product 10X better, faster, and cheaper than the ones which already exist in the market. For example, Zoom is a B2B product. They know the secrets of the market based on which they create a strong roadmap for 2 -3 years.

For B2B companies to succeed, they have to be better than their competitors. Hence, they tend to craft a product roadmap from day one as they know what they are going to build regardless of the execution risk.

B2B will have more granularity from the earlier stage because they know what they are building. However, In B2C, because of the market risk, the details are not granular.

Can we completely update the pre-set product roadmaps?

Yes, such cases can occur. For instance, in one of our projects at Leapfrog, we wanted to build a recommendation system. We started with a roadmap, but later we wanted it to be about the workflow. After diving deeper into the project, we gained more clarity, and the roadmap had to be updated from the recommendation system to a workflow tool.

The idea is not to make the product roadmaps too precious. However, the acceleration of changes in the roadmap will slow down. For example, when there are paying customers, it means you have achieved some product-market fit.

The rate of change in the roadmap will decline as your assumptions are now validated. Thus, plan out for extended periods as you are responding to a known demand from users. In the early stage, you have a hypothesis and working on assumptions, and at that time, the roadmap can change rapidly.

Who creates a product roadmap?

The product roadmap has to be created and owned by the product manager. There will always be friction, argument while setting the document. However, take it as an opportunity where the executive team and pm can decide on what to build in the next month or quarter or year.

What tools to use while creating a product road map?

There isn’t a need for a fancy tool for creating roadmaps. We can simply create roadmaps by using documents, sheets, or even powerpoints. For smaller companies and small remote team, the google suite can be an option for creating these roadmaps.

Besides, there are also tools like Aha, Roadmunk, and others that allow the use of templates and guide you with examples to create roadmaps.

In summary, product roadmaps can be a useful tool that can map out the vision and direction of the product. While small teams may not benefit from using product roadmaps, larger teams and mature companies use the roadmap as a tool to align teams, goals and find a unified direction.

To unpack more questions related to product development dive into our Product Podcast.

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Suja Manandhar

Suja Manandhar is a Business Development Officer at Leapfrog Technology Inc. She is an avid reader and loves to explore about the impacts technology creates in businesses.

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