Building your Roadmap
In my previous article, we explored the concept of a product roadmap, likening it to using GPS to navigate from point A to point B. We established that a product roadmap serves as a strategic document, visually presenting your plan to stakeholders to secure their buy-in.
Now, recall the last time you went on a ride with a ride-hailing app, you put your destination and the app recommended a faster route but also showed you some other routes that would take you to that destination. Similarly, there are various types of roadmaps. In today’s article, we’ll discuss these types and the situations where they are most effective.
💡 “In its simplest form, a product roadmap communicates how a product is likely to evolve by mapping its major releases onto a timeline.” — Roman Pichler, author of “Strategize”
Types of Roadmaps
There are many different types of roadmaps, depending on how they are used, the tools and frameworks employed to create them, or how they are mapped into timelines. However, I believe there are two major ways they are classified: the first is by how they are created and the second is by who reads them.
How Are They Created?
These roadmaps are organized around specific features. A cost-benefit analysis helps prioritize which features to include and where to place them on the timeline. The primary focus of these roadmaps is the features themselves, which offer value to users or customers.
This analysis prioritizes features based on two factors: the development effort required and the potential impact. So let’s say you are deciding whether to add a sign-up flow to your product. The sign-up flow allows users to create an account with their credentials, which can eventually be very useful to the marketing team or even the product team to set hooks and triggers to increase retention or site visits if the dev effort is minimal because its reach and potential impact are high. This is a no-brainer for your Roadmap. Perform this exercise for all the potential features in your roadmap timeline.
These roadmaps focus on overarching goals or objectives, such as customer acquisition or technical debt reduction. It allows you to approach the road mapping of your strategy based on the goals you plan to achieve, and then cascade down to the features that will help achieve those goals. Roman Pichler recommends limiting the number of features per goal to five.
Internal vs. External Roadmaps
These are used within the company and aim to secure buy-in from internal stakeholders. It’s crucial to remember that a roadmap should be a living document, adaptable based on new learnings and validations.
Created for public consumption, these roadmaps excite customers and external stakeholders. However, be cautious when making public commitments. As Edsel Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Only commit to what you’re certain about.
Which one should you use?
Two main factors should be considered when deciding the type of roadmap to use:
- Maturity of your product
- Size of the market
A new product has so many uncertainties in it’s planning, at this stage, you need to optimize for being very flexible. For this reason, a new product will need to optimize for higher-level goals in shorter time periods in its roadmap. For more mature products the roadmaps are more detailed and because of the higher level of predictability, can be optimized for longer time periods say multiple years.
The market size is also an important factor, for mature products in volatile markets, you will need regular changes to its roadmap with higher-level goals. Whereas, in the case of a more stable market you can have more detailed goals in longer timeframes.
As you can see in the graph above, it is best to use Feature-based roadmaps with stable products in stable markets, where you can make long-term predictions and plan easily. On the other hand, when the market or product is not stable, you are safer with a Goal-Oriented roadmap.
I partnered with Treford Africa, an ed-tech startup in Nigeria that helps people transition or grow in product management. To win a 50% discount on their next boot camp cohort, follow the instructions here.