Ah, the product roadmap—the holy grail of every product manager’s job description. But lately, this revered tool seems to be more and more grossly misunderstood. Is it time to say goodbye to the traditional product roadmap and embrace a new approach? Let me expand on what I mean by “the fall of the product roadmap”.
Spoiler Alert: we’re not talking about abandoning it altogether, so don’t panic just yet!
Almost all the time, the job description of a product manager talks about building and managing the product lifecycle, defining product vision, establishing the product strategy and roadmap, collaborating with the team over backlog, prioritization, etc.
Across all the keywords that a product manager may come across, most commonly, the stakeholders and the team are, unfortunately, rallying after the elusive “product roadmap.”
Recently, I took a lot of interviews to build a team for a product. Most of the candidates I interviewed were engineers. Pretty much 100% of the time, I remember being asked the following questions:
“What is the project all about?”, “What is the tech stack?”, and “What new features or capabilities are in the roadmap for the next 3-6 months?”.
Put all of these questions together and ponder over the intent. Does it not sound like all the prospective product managers are more focused on the output than the outcome?
The Product Manager is ideally a strategic thinker. And the product roadmap must communicate the product strategy, not the release plan.
A feature may only require one iteration to build and release, but solving a problem effectively or achieving a meaningful outcome may necessitate multiple iterations. It is quite possible that the feature does not bring the desired outcome, or users may not want it at all. Or probably, although users want it, it is too complex to use, or maybe users want it, but it is prohibitive for the team to implement. Anything could be possible!
If you have inadvertently veered towards “Build, Ship, Build, Ship,” despite the lean startup methodologies taught to us to “Build, Measure, Learn,” it is time to stop and reconsider your product strategy.
Reminding yourself of the core role of a product roadmap becomes crucial at this point.
“Your product roadmap should slot right in between your company vision and your more detailed development, release, and operational plans.”C. Todd Lombardo, Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction while Embracing Uncertainty
A roadmap is not just a release plan. A roadmap is more about communicating your product strategy than the features and dates.
It is a statement of intent and direction – like a literal road map for traveling, it states a destination we’re headed towards and provides options of a path to get there.
While your release plan talks about the outputs you’ll ship along the way, the roadmap tells us how you will realize the product vision. Your roadmap must help the team define the outcomes that you’re trying to achieve with the product.
Taking the creative liberty to provide a Tweet that sums up it all up more than just perfectly! Thankyou Janna Bastow.
Do you see the product roadmap as your communication tool? It is a tool that can either guide you to success or lead you down a winding road of confusion if it’s not well articulated.
Sure, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of releasing new features and updates. But losing sight of the bigger picture is the downfall of your product roadmap.
So, let’s put down those release plans and wear our strategic thinking caps. Let’s start focusing on creating product roadmaps that communicate our product strategy that will lead us to market success!
Goodreads. (n.d.). C. Todd Lombardo Quotes (Author of Product Roadmaps Relaunched). Www.goodreads.com. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from C. Todd Lombardo Quotes (Author of Product Roadmaps Relaunched)