Think back to the last trip you ever planned. You may have sat down, opened up a Google Doc or Excel sheet, jotted down some high level plans or destinations that you knew for sure you wanted to visit, written down dates, did some research, and then reshuffled/added/deleted some items based on the research you did. If you’ve ever gone through this or a similar process, then you’ve embarked on a roadmap journey with the goal of outlining your plans over an upcoming period.
Just like anything else you’ve planned in your life, a product roadmap should help describe a path from your current status to where you want to be down the road. While different companies / teams have different timelines, a product roadmap can span anywhere from 3 month to 24 month views of major feature sets/functionality that are planned for a product. Realistically, no one can ever anticipate delays / bugs or changes in deadlines so features that you definitely plan to complete should be located within the 3-6 month timeframe (at my current company, we plan out 3-6 months and re-evaluate the product roadmap every month to make sure we are on the right track based on knowledge gained from each additional month).
A product roadmap should be kept high-level and should not be going into any deep dives or details about each listed feature. Although each team may use different tools to maintain a product roadmap, I’ve often found that using the simplest tools like a Google spreadsheet keep the roadmap as accessible as possible and easy to maintain/edit. In a later post, we’ll go over how you might work with your team to prioritize features within your product roadmap but for now, a simple way to structure your product roadmap might be to include:
- Feature idea / name
- Effort required
- You’ll have to work with your team to figure out the best way to define effort required. This could be a time or $ cost
- Estimated release date
- Remember to keep this high-level and either come up with or work with your engineering manager to estimate time required to complete the feature
While a product roadmap will be a key tool in helping you plan your product features and deliverables for upcoming months, it will also be extremely helpful both internally for other key teams in your company, as well as externally for your customers. Many startups will often share their roadmaps with other key stakeholders within the company to get buy-in on their plans for the future. Additionally, they will share the roadmap with customers who want to know what’s upcoming in the pipeline or who want to give feedback on why certain items should be added or removed. Many times, roadmaps can even be used to sell or persuade customers to buy into the startup’s current offering so that they can be part of upcoming improvements or features down the line.
Done correctly, product roadmaps can be extremely useful as a tool for product managers as well as other teams and stakeholders involved.
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