Should You Flip Your Product Roadmap Process Around?

Jim Semick
Co-founder, Board Member at ProductPlan

Five Ways to Get Your Product Roadmap Right

flip your product roadmapIf your product team is like most, you have software for capturing issues, managing requirements, and tracking projects. After all, it’s essential to manage the details and deliver quality product releases.

But we hear regularly from product managers who tell us it’s too hard to use the information in these tools to plan and create a high-level product roadmap for communicating with executives and other stakeholders.

Here’s the problem: the current tools often develop the roadmap from the bottom-up details, not the top-down big picture.

Product managers are looking to flip their process around – they want an easy way to create a high-level product roadmap without first entering the low-level details. And those details are often not defined or fuzzy at best, especially if they’re more than a couple of quarters in the future.

Even though most product managers are using sophisticated product management software, the irony is that it simply takes too long to create a decent product roadmap that executives understand. As a result, far too many product managers turn to dated tools like PowerPoint and spreadsheets for planning and communicating their high-level strategy.

Just this week a VP of Product summarized it nicely for me. She said “I need to find something that my executive team likes. Every year we seem to argue over templates. I want to get out of the line of fire and get some part of my weekend back.”

What we’ve found through dozens of conversations with customers is that product managers and product executives want a simpler way to do top-down strategic planning and communication. They want to have productive discussions about future big initiatives, themes, or epics that move the needle for the company.
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Several product managers have told us their executive team simply doesn’t care much about the details—what they really care about is whether the proposed roadmap fits with the strategic direction of the company. Successful product managers tap into this by keeping the roadmapping process high-level and collaborative.

We found that by helping product managers easily create and then share their high-level product vision, they can get the executive team, marketing, engineering management and the rest of the organization on board with the strategy.

We built ProductPlan as an elegant way to quickly create a beautiful top-down product roadmap and then present the strategy to the executive team and management. It provides product teams a way to do high-level strategic planning, entering details about business value, development effort, and other information only at the point when it’s better defined.

Through this process, the product team minimizes disconnects and gets everyone on the same page earlier in the process. Is it time to turn your product roadmap process upside down?

photo credit: Margaret Killjoy cc