No product can be done properly without a product roadmap to simplify the process and keep the entire team on the right track – it can be custom made for a particular audience, with particular type of information or different key points and methodologies. A roadmap may include one or multiple products depending on the type of the product where every product manager picks the best variation. There are thousands of custom roadmap types but I will classify only the most common ones for you.
Last time, I’ve covered what is a product roadmap and also briefly mentioned Brian Lawley’s classification from his book Expert Product Development – strategy & market roadmap, visionary roadmap, technology roadmap, platform roadmap, etc.
However, the scope of product roadmaps is much broader – they can be classified by audience, industry, format and purpose.
Take a look at the common product roadmap chart:
Let’s go through each type of the product roadmaps:
Roadmaps are usually shared with various people or audiences to align the perspective of all production participants.
Different teams see things with different ‘eyes’ and in order to streamline the communication between different groups participating in a project, a product manager must create multiple roadmaps presenting the same information but from different angles.
This type of roadmapping will facilitate conversation about the necessary functionalities and strategy thus keeping the internal team in touch with customer needs.
The above chart outlines the audience (groups) which can be internal and external.
Internal audience represents your production and management teams.
Management team is usually consisted of shareholders (your company’s management) and they’re interested in a detailed vision of the product as well as the strategic goals. The solution is strategic roadmap which displays details about customer growth, competitor analysis, new market entry of a product and customer satisfaction.
Production team may be tricky and sometimes requires a custom made roadmap per their specific needs. For example, your engineering (technical) team would find Technology roadmap to be the best fit – it focuses on technical details, outlines deadlines, it’s feature-based as well as listing functionalities like registration form, third party service integration, search bar etc. It also includes high-level information like goals but keep in mind that your engineering team should not be focused too much on a vision but development process and requirements.
Still, another team like Sales should not be focused on technical features but mostly on product features and its benefits for users – the roadmap for Sales team should focus mostly on the product value. For example, a good choice would be theme-based format as it can graphically show the goal of each feature.
External audience and its roadmaps don’t share any particular details about internal processes – they should be visually clear and concise, easy to understand and to share ample of information about customer benefits. These roadmaps usually suggest rough time frames and progress of feature releases.
Roadmaps created for the requirements of a specific industry usually have a unique content followed by suitable format since they can be used in various industries.
There are few common industry roadmaps, let’s list them:
Technology (IT) roadmaps are usually created to define tech requirements – they determine the usage of a certain technology and help to assign resources they depend on.
Manufacturing roadmaps refer to actual manufacturing a physical product – as the name says, these roadmaps help to control manufacturing and set the real dates for a specific delivery or release.
The main purpose of a roadmap is to communicate strategy and the vision between the participants but there are also further options.
Portfolio roadmap is created for the purpose of communicating the strategy between executives and product managers. It’s always crucial to track how each product grows and if your company has multiple products, you should check how do these products relate to each other so to accomplish your business objectives.
Market roadmaps are usually used if you plan to launch the product across multiple markets – it’s commonly created for the marketing team and internal shareholders to define the marketing strategy. As these roadmaps must catch rapid market changes, they are considered as the most dynamic ones. For example, if a technological progress causes significant amendments, it’ll call for a strategy modification which must be recorded in a roadmap.
PRODUCT ROADMAP FORMATS
The type of the product roadmap determines the format – it determines the type of content and the key components to create it. The most common formats are Goal-based, Theme-based and Feature-based ones.
Let’s check each:
Goals define the reason behind each feature. For example, goals can be ‘Simplify registration process’ or ‘Boost user engagement’ etc. Goal-based format helps to keep all information organized and explained in clear words. By doing this, you’ll maintain your roadmap top-level and make your strategy easy to understand.
Theme-based format is similar to the goal-based one – the goal and theme both tend to answer ‘Why’ questions, however a theme-based format usually consists of several goals at once.
Feature-based format uses a product feature as a central point of your roadmap and it’s usually very detailed. However, a feature is not a stable unit since technological innovations and users’ needs often lead to change within your features. This type of roadmap doesn’t specify high-level details and it can be a bit more difficult to understand and maintain.
ROADMAP TEMPLATES AND EXAMPLES
If you don’t have time or don’t know how to create your own roadmap template – don’t worry since there are many valuable tools to help you out.
Here are the most popular one:
Roadmunk – one of the most popular tools for roadmapping with different ‘views’ of your roadmap thus it is suitable for different teams involved (developers, marketing team etc.) They give 14 days of trial period as well as a batch of free templates.
Aha! – a roadmapping software with really impressive integration list with various applications such as Jira, Slack, Zendesk, Confluence, Trello and the list goes on. They also give free trial of 30 days without requiring a credit card number.
Open Project – open source software for Agile/Scrum teams. Their leading open source project management software is free (as they say ‘forever free’) and you can check their other pricing plans to see what works for you the best. They give 14-day free trial.
Roadmap Planner – open source tool for Linux. They give different package plans for individuals, businesses and custom for your specific needs. Roadmap Planner provides 14 days of free trial so you can try it out and see how it fits your needs.
Vengage – ‘easy to use’ website for making stylish content for websites, presentations, ads and much more. There are templates for a wide range of projects (infographics, posters, social media images etc.) however they also provide some templates for product roadmaps along with tips on how to create them more easily. Although it’s not as detailed as the above software, it may be a nice change for participants.
Since product roadmap should provide only key points, try to avoid adding too much detailed information to roadmap yet better use supporting documentation to accompany the roadmap.
Release Plan – contrary to product roadmap outlining the progress of product delivery, Release Plan sets out strict and precise dates for a certain feature to be released.
Product backlog – used in Scrum and provides a list of high-level requirements and features – they consist of user stories and represent a to-do list defining the development process.
Technology roadmap is often used as a separate document when developing a digital product – it displays technologies to be used to meet the requirements as well as technical aids to use in order to achieve business objectives.
Each product is important for your business and ROI – if you don’t carefully plan the development and maintenance process, it will surely turn out badly at some point. That’s where a roadmap comes into place – an essential document for any product development team.
Although roadmapping is a time-consuming process, the templates and cloud-based applications can make it a lot easier.
A good idea is to look at the examples of different roadmap types and see which one would be the best fit for your needs.
Your needs are the ones that will provide you with an answer on which roadmap should you use.