Nov 14, 2023, Business, Consulting

What is a product roadmap and why is it important?

Joanna Kołodziejak Marketing Specialist
product roadmap
If you understand how much time and various competencies are used in the course of building a digital product, you probably also know that the time spent creating a product is sometimes long enough for economic conditions or business strategy to change in the meantime. And each change that affects the functionality of the product is additional time spent redefining it.

It’s important to carefully define assumptions, goals and deadlines at the initial product planning stage. Above all, this kind of document must contain information about what you and your team want to achieve with the resulting product and why. It’s all about the vision, not about implementation.

Such a document is called a product roadmap and is an inventory of the product’s business assumptions, which may also include the arrangements for the technologies used. 

Why is building a product roadmap that important?

  • It gives you a sense of consistency – the document confirms that all stakeholders are in agreement on the assumptions, goals and timelines of the ongoing project. This simplifies communication, reduces the potential problem of understatement and ambiguity, and increases process efficiency,

  • It gives you a space for strategic planning – high-level product assumptions enable strategic planning in terms of market opportunities, prioritizing the production of further functionalities, resource allocation or budget.

  • Prioritization – with a roadmap, it is easier to determine what the priorities are in the work process within the budget and delivery date.

  • Flexibility – such a document is intended to be a kind of signpost, enabling strategic planning and resource allocation. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no room for flexibility in the process. With the roadmap, you define a certain framework for your flexibility, which allows for its possible adaptation to changing economic, technological conditions or user feedback.

How to build a product roadmap?

When creating a roadmap, focus on the problem to be solved by the emerging product. Defining a high-level vision will help you collect data for further work, but it will also guide you on how to plan your teams’ work. Remember that it’s a multi-step process. 

Let us break it down into 6 individual steps:

  • Gather product data from stakeholders – internal departments in your company like sales, analysts or marketing, may have a totally different idea than your end users. Try to identify pain points and needs for the current process from each party. Also look at the market and check the available solutions that can improve the process of creating your product.

  • Based on the data you’ve collected, set goals and create a list of tasks that the product should accomplish.

  • From the created list of goals and tasks, choose the one that is crucial to start working on the product, like choosing a partner for the project or selecting technology.

  • Once you’ve mapped out the most important tasks, it’s time for you to prioritize which features will be most important and which should be implemented first. You can use a method such as MoSCoW (Must-have, Should-have, Could-Have, Won’t have) to prioritize specific functions based on importance and impact on further work.

  • Now that you have your product tasks and functionalities mapped out and prioritized – you are ready for the next stage: preparing the project timeline. Determine the estimated timeframe or set release dates for each functionality or initiative. Assume some time reserve, taking into account the issue of team availability or technical constraints you may encounter along the way. The timeline should be realistic and achievable. Present it in a visual form as a timeline or Gantt chart and include key milestones on the diagram. It should be easy to understand and effectively communicate the product strategy.

  • When you have the roadmap ready – get ready for the last, most important phase – everything you have created so far must go through a cyclical review. The market and economic situation changes, processes lengthen, some problems disappear and new ones arise. Iterate your roadmap with your project team to respond to market and stakeholder needs on an ongoing basis.

Summing up

A product roadmap is the strategic blueprint for the journey of product creation, guiding teams through the intricate web of planning, prioritizing, and iterating. While the process of building digital products can be long and prone to changes in economic and business landscapes, a well-defined roadmap provides a stabilizing anchor, ensuring alignment of vision, clarity in communication, and consistency across stakeholders. It facilitates strategic foresight, enabling teams to allocate resources optimally and pivot when necessary, all within a predetermined framework. The roadmap’s construction is a thoughtful multi-stage endeavor, necessitating a deep understanding of stakeholders’ needs, market realities, and envisioned goals. It helps crystallize the product’s objectives, outline key features, and set realistic timelines, culminating in an ever-evolving document that is revisited periodically to align with changing circumstances.