Finding the right roadmap can be tricky as it depends on your product, your team, and who is going to be viewing your roadmap. To simplify things here’s some guidance on how to select the right product roadmap for your team.
It’s time to hit the road(map)!
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is a written or visual guide to your product strategy, including stages and goals in your product’s development. A roadmap can be useful in understanding how your short-term goals align with your long-term goals and can be used to show the product strategy to a variety of stakeholders.
Types of product roadmap
Before you can choose which product roadmap is right for your team it might be useful to know what your options are! This section will discuss a few different types of product roadmaps to help you understand your choices.
Feature-driven product roadmaps focus on the release schedule for new features. These types of roadmaps involve outlining what features will be created and in what order well ahead of time. This can help you to understand how different features work together to help create value for your user.
Some benefits of feature-driven roadmaps are:
- Creates a clear connection between features.
- Easy to see the workflow.
Want to base your roadmap on high-level strategic goals? Try the theme-based roadmap style. These roadmaps start with an overarching theme, then they are split into subsets called epics. Epics can also be split into stories to further break down the theme.
Theme-based roadmaps can help your team stay aware of business goals and strategy while still being able to break up and see their day-to-day workload.
Benefits of theme-based roadmaps include:
- Easy to stay connected with large goals while doing the day-to-day tasks.
- Less technical stakeholders can still understand.
An outcome-driven roadmap focuses on the results produced rather than the product features themselves. This would look like linking what the release does to how it helps the user experience or product goals.
Focusing on the outcome instead of the feature means that you can more easily adjust what the feature looks like based on the goal/outcome rather than vice versa.
A few benefits of outcome-driven roadmaps include:
- More flexible than feature-based roadmap.
- Focuses on results and customer needs rather than features.
The now-next-later roadmap style helps you to plan for the future while keeping current tasks visible. Prioritizing is also super simple with this roadmap - is it urgent? Do it now, is it needed but in a few months? Do it next, is it a long-term goal? Do it later. This roadmap is also super easy to adjust if your goals or priorities change.
Some pros of now-next-later roadmaps are:
- Simple to understand and shows clearly how small tasks link up to future goals.
- Allows easy prioritization.
Some product management teams may already be using some agile methodologies, so why not consider an agile roadmap? This style of roadmap plans out tasks in sprints and marks out how long each sprint will be.
The key benefits of agile roadmaps are:
- Matches up into agile methodology workflows.
- Focuses on the day-to-day while still connecting goals.
Which roadmap is right for your team?
The age of your product may help to determine which type of roadmap you should use. For example, newer products tend to benefit from more flexible roadmaps such as an outcome-driven or now-next-later method. It is less clear what newer products will need in the future so a flexible roadmap can help. Whereas a more mature product may benefit from the structure of a feature-based roadmap since it is easier to predict changes made to the product.
The industry your product lives in may also affect what type of product roadmap you want to use. In a volatile market where there’s frequent technological change a more flexible product roadmap may be better suited (for example outcome-driven). Or in a more stable market, a feature-based roadmap may be a better bet for structuring your plans.
Your team's workflow is another factor to consider when trying to decide on a product roadmap. If your team is already using agile methodologies a sprint-based agile roadmap may be the best way to clearly show your goals and your sprints in one place.
If your team works best seeing all of the feature releases in one place and how the features work together - a feature roadmap might be the best option. However, if your team likes to be aware of the major goals while also keeping track of small actions the outcome-based, now-next-later or theme-based roadmaps can provide this for your team.
Depending on the stakeholders viewing your roadmap you may want to avoid certain ones. For example, when sharing a roadmap with a less technical audience you may want to avoid some styles (for example the agile roadmap) as this may be too technical. A better-suited roadmap may be the now-next-later method as this clearly shows the priorities in the short, medium, and long-term.
It can be tricky to work out how to structure your roadmap - but hopefully, this short guide has helped clear it up. Remember to consider your product, team, and audience before deciding on a structure. And if you still can’t decide you could always make a few versions to ensure all the stakeholders are happy!
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