How to Build a Brilliant Visual Product Roadmap
Building roadmaps is a crucial part of a product manager’s job. Yet most product managers still use outdated tools for roadmapping—Excel, PowerPoint, wikis, etc. It’s painful. The good news is that there’s a better way.
Executives have a vision of the future. Sales and marketing teams want to be heard. And engineering is waiting for those detailed requirements and user stories. Great product managers must walk a fine line between managing inputs and distilling a plan.
The best product managers start with a “goal first” approach and work to build consensus before building and sharing their roadmap. To accomplish this and get to a plan of record, you need a collaborative roadmap that offers ongoing visibility.
Here are a few easy steps to help you create a brilliant visual roadmap.
1. Define your product strategy.
To start, you must clearly define your strategy by setting product vision, goals and initiatives for each product. Since major initiatives drive your goals, link them together. When this step is complete, you can see the relationships between your product lines, products, goals, initiatives and releases all on one screen. This helps you find orphan goals or initiatives that can’t be linked to high-level objectives.
2. Customize your roadmap based on who will view it.
Select which features to highlight and choose whether to present internal or external data. The external release date can be different than your internal release dates. It can also be rounded to a broader timeframe to be less precise (e.g. show releases by quarter).
For customer views, you can show the theme of the release and key features in which they will be interested. Internal stakeholders will want to understand the strategic importance, conveyed through goals and initiatives. You can also create views for specific customers, allowing your audience to see roadmaps that are relevant to their specific business objectives.
3. Bring releases and features together for a unified view.
Now it’s time to view your roadmap timeline. At this point, you have already chosen the releases you want to share and selected the features you want to highlight. You can build this defined view out in PowerPoint or Excel, or generate it with a simple click in a roadmapping tool where you can zoom in or out to get the exact view you want for your stakeholders. Each layer of the roadmap will represent a different set of data. Start with your products at the core, and work out to your releases at the edges.
4. Share your roadmap.
When you have the view you want, save it and/or share it with key stakeholders. Some software allows you to take nearly any view and publish it via a PDF or secure web page. Now you can proudly share your product plans and roadmap, easily keeping everyone up to date.
Everyone wants to see the same data—but each team wants to see it their own way. Product managers benefit from a focused approach that includes plenty of collaboration and planning to keep everyone on the same page. Now it’s time to build the perfect roadmap, share your plans with the team and build what matters.
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