Market data suggests that only 1 out of 4 products that entered the development phase, is taken to market. Additionally, over 48% of the investments were made in products that eventually failed and did not produce the desired ROI. There could be many reasons for the failures ranging from lack of product market fit, the product not solving any sizeable customer problems, etc. This is where roadmaps can help product managers better manage product success & the ROI.
What is a product roadmap?
As a product manager, a roadmap is necessary to communicate the product team’s overall strategic direction so that cross-functional groups can be aligned around an integrated plan. They can help define what can be accomplished and show what needs to be done to get there. Product roadmaps provide a visual way to capture and communicate these plans. And while each roadmap is explicitly created for a target audience (informing existing users of a new feature and acquiring new users with an existing, enhanced feature will have different roadmaps, for example), the benefits are the same:
Align all product team members around the “why” of the strategy and agreement on what needs to be done to achieve it. Coordination between teams and individuals can be achieved by ensuring everyone knows their contribution. Visibility across the organization, can add an extra push from employees. The impact can be tracked based on the milestones on the roadmap, and course correction can happen if necessary. Communication shows progress to company leaders and internal product management teams to get their input whenever necessary.
Why do you need a product roadmap?
Different teams need product roadmaps for different reasons. Internal roadmaps for product development teams are created in several ways, depending on how the team works. These roadmaps are often organized by sprints since many product development teams use agile methodologies and plot work and problem areas on a timeline.
The internal roadmap for executives emphasizes how high-level company goals and metrics are supported by teams. They are usually not elaborative about development stories and are often organized by month or quarter, showing progress towards goals over time. A marketing roadmap for a product focuses on customer benefits and new features to support sales conversations. External roadmaps are about getting the customer experience right, and are visually appealing while being easy to read. They provide a high-level view of new features and fixes included to get customers interested in the future direction of the product.
What makes a product roadmap successful?
Successful product roadmaps provide strategic direction for product development and are used to communicate product strategy. Hence, they should reflect changes in strategies too. The accepted practice is to update the roadmap at a weekly frequency.
When roadmaps are strategically focused at a high level, their chances of success increase, as this simplifies the process for the leadership group whose buy-in is required for the greenlighting of the project. Keeping roadmaps visually clear and intuitive also provides a big-picture plan to decision-makers.
Successful roadmaps answer two questions: how can we achieve more, and how can we innovate better? Having data and strong strategic reasoning is essential for a successful roadmap and product strategy (which leads to customer success, which is the end goal).
Successful roadmaps also follow or exceed the pace of the market. The pace of change in the business world means that the average timeframe for a product roadmap is nine months. Even manufacturing companies, traditionally used multi-year plans, are refraining from creating roadmaps for more than a year.
Having dedicated roadmap tools is an important, yet often overlooked, part of the roadmapping process. The hassle of learning and using an extra program can be alleviated by using tools that are part of your existing toolset. For example, like the Roadmap Portal that works within Jira. It not only simplifies the process of adding features to the existing roadmap, but the ease with which it integrates into Jira means teams can start using it almost immediately.
The Importance of Involving Product Marketing in Roadmaps
Product marketing managers and team members understand the ideal buyer persona and are equipped to understand the unique problems and needs of their audience. They can provide vital input on features and help product management teams reduce work on an exciting but ultimately minor feature. Knowing what features the target audience values is critical to avoiding the waste of resources that could have been better spent developing something else. That’s why feedback from customers and the product marketing team is vital for any roadmap. The job of the Product Marketing team involves maintaining long-term relationships with clients, which means product marketers understand the proper conversion, engagement, and product usage metrics to help clients plan their next move. They can add analytics know-how to the product roadmap and suggest viable or essential feature requests.
Product marketing managers craft messaging from the go-to-market for new features, communicate them and revise them according to the reception. They can help with wording and distributing announcements on what’s coming next or what was recently released.
What should be included in a product roadmap?
Effective roadmaps present a strategic view of a product, which can include more tactical levels of detail based on the needs of the product manager and circumstances. In simpler terms, a product roadmap tells the product’s story in broad strokes from the product launch and then elaborates on more minor, more detailed aspects of that story based on the target audience. In general, product roadmaps contain the following:
Themes are high-level objectives for the product that are grouped by some related set of features of commonality. Themes define broad strategic goals for the product, which can easily be communicated in plain language to all stakeholders.
Epics are also a group of features or stories with a common strategic aim, like themes, but they can be considered one level below themes: Themes can be said to be a collection of related epics. If a product roadmap theme is to add compliance to new regulations in the product, it can have epics that handle different sections of compliance guidelines. Epics add granularity to the product roadmap that is tied strategically to the themes above them, and they assist in explaining the why of each initiative proposed.
Features are the building blocks of product roadmaps, on which the stories, epics, and themes for the product are built. Once there is clarity on the features to be included, thanks to the epics and themes above, action items on the roadmap will have appropriate context.
Who is responsible for the product roadmap?
The ones ultimately responsible for the product roadmap are product managers. They serve as the strategic lead in the planning of the product roadmap and gather data, ideas, and other details essential for a fruitful discussion. Product managers coordinate roadmap planning meetings and communicate consensual strategic product vision to everyone involved so that participants understand the business objectives that must be addressed in the roadmap. A product manager is expected to organize discussions and lead them, score features in the discussion, ensure proper consensus is achieved, and that all parties involved understand the importance of the decision. They lead the product & feature launches and other important milestones in the product’s lifecycle.
Because of the impact products have on the success or failure of an organization, product management can seem daunting and, consequently, overwhelming and confusing. Coupled with the amount of work employees must take care of, there’s a very healthy chance of some aspects of product management being ignored. With a tool like the Roadmap Portal App for Jira, they can easily collaborate with other teams to create an efficient and effective roadmap.