7 Tools for a Brilliant & Successful Product Road Map

By: Mark @Spectechular Silver 

Great product roadmaps anticipate success.

Product Roadmaps can mean the difference between success and failure when delivering and demonstrating product. They are one of the most effective resources that a project manager can employ. Unfortunately, despite their importance, most project road maps are last minute creations, usually as a last-minute request, or in response to an oversight.

Remember, you may wish to share your roadmap publically or privately, but regardless, you need a road map to help you and your clients visualize just how your product will play into the bigger.

On the importance of effective product roadmaps, Gartner analyst, Donna Fitzgerald, writes,

“PMO leaders in conjunction with applications can optimize their resource utilization by adopting an approach to maintenance and enhancement work that goes beyond first-in, first-out. The solution is to adopt a product road map and move toward releases developed by teams with a fixed head count.”

Follow these 7 tools to ensure your product roadmap is brilliantly successful:


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1. Develop a Vision 

Roadmaps are visionary tools. They paint a large picture of industry trends and how your product fits within this big picture. Showcase your product’s momentum and situate it amidst a backdrop that will bring it in line with other ventures and the current economic climate.

2. Use Your Resources 

There is never going to be enough time or money to add every possible feature to our products, so account for that in your road map. Some updates and features will be more feasible and manageable than others. Look at the resources you have and allow your product road map to reflect that. It will help you in the long run. Even if you sell services, and not a specific product, you can use a product road map to build in new options for your clients.

3. Design New Graphics 

Don’t use the same old tools. Gantt charts won’t work here so find a better way to visualize. If you’re building a road map with the same tools you use for your project management strategies, stop. This is a big picture, strategic communication document. Its purpose is to showcase your vision, not a simple timeline. It should not be a Gantt chart. Remember, this is to showcase your vision of the project, not a simple timeline.

On effective design, Gartner reports:

“Apple is the poster child of an organization turning itself around through an obsessive focus on design. Google has also used design effectively to gain significant market share with Google Maps and Gmail. A new phenomenon is the design-focused startup. Both Pinterest and Instagram were companies founded by designers who successfully use design to establish new product categories or to dominate existing ones.”

4. Drop the Clock 

Keep dates out of your Road Map. If this sounds crazy to you, it’s because we’re so tied up in conventional ways of thinking about project management documents, that we forget that road maps are visionary tools. Besides, the moment that you put down an expected delivery date and it doesn’t happen, the project will need to be overhauled. Your vision is tied to a general timeline but doesn’t need specifics. So leave them off. No one needs the pressure of the clock on a vision document!

For example, Kroger group just introduced a faster checkout system. This process obviously tool extensive planning. One can only assume deadlines were scheduled and rescheduled before it was introduced to the public. Some processes are more effective without the deadlines, as it allows managers and employees to work in a calm environment.

5. Collaborate 

In order to have a successful vision for a product it can’t live with one person alone. Share it. Share it with customers, with employees and with partners.

6. Merge Multiple Roadmaps 

You can link a variety of roadmaps together to create a comprehensive overall vision for your business and all its products to showcase trends. If you do this you can get a better understanding of where your company is headed and why you’re pursuing this particular strategy.

7. Make it a Living Document 

Your work isn’t over as soon as the road map is completed. Flexibility is key. This should be a living document that can be easily updated to add new features and improvements recommended by your clients. The road map is something to follow but it’s also something that changes. Like any good map, it is updated to reflect updates regularly.

8. Roadmaps are Critical 

Roadmaps are critical documents not just for product development but for understanding the role the product has in the grand scheme of the business. Don’t gloss over their importance. Seek out best practices and strong templates that will help you create a vision for your product.

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Mark is the Lead Author & Editor of Spectechular Blog. Mark established the Spectechular blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Product Management.