The Biggest Mistake When Rolling Out a New Roadmapping Tool — and How to Avoid it

One of the product roadmap’s primary goals is to bring a company’s teams and departments together around a shared strategy for product success. The roadmap should serve as an up-to-date reference point. Any team can check in to make sure their work is on track and supporting its strategic plans, and this tool is not an information silo used by only the product manager.

But that’s a lot to ask of a product roadmap. Each department has its tasks and priorities to focus on and its tools for managing projects. A roadmap can help align all these teams’ big-picture plans, even to the extent that it becomes everyone’s go-to resource for understanding the big picture.

Don’t Let Your Roadmap Become Another Information Silo

Our team has a lot of experience working with thousands of product teams around the world. We’ve found that the most common mistake when rolling out a new product roadmap app is allowing it to become an information silo.

These roadmaps become tools only used by the product team instead of the company-wide strategic unifiers that they should be. When this happens, a company’s high-level product strategy gets hidden in an app that nobody except the product team ever uses.

A flawed rollout of a product roadmap app can have negative consequences. These extend to both your business and your reputation as a product professional.

How this can undermine your company.

Developing a strong product strategy can lead to success in the market. But only to the extent that all relevant teams in the organization are aware of that strategy and working to support it. This is one reason rolling out the right product roadmapping tool—in the right way—is a smart practice. Doing so can give all teams contributing to the product’s success. This way, all departments have easy access to a strategic guide that helps them make sure they’re working on the things that matter.

But what if you roll out a roadmapping app and don’t take the appropriate steps to make sure all of these departments know how to use it? Your product team will miss out on a key opportunity. This roadmap aligns your teams around a shared set of goals and helps make sure they’re all steering in the right direction.

How this can harm you personally.

Let’s assume you’re a product professional and that you want to advocate for a new roadmapping tool at your organization. If you champion signing up for such an app, then the success or failure of how your company uses the app will reflect directly on you.

Would you ask your executive staff to pay for an enterprise subscription to Slack but then not encourage everyone in your company to build a profile? Of course not. They would miss out on the app experience and be unable to use it for real-time chat and file sharing. You can imagine how useless your executive stakeholders would view your organization’s Slack purchase if you were the only one with a profile.

For a similar reason, you don’t want to sign up for a product roadmap app—a tool designed specifically to make it easy to share your roadmap strategy across your company—but then fail to bring all relevant teams onto the roadmapping platform.
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5 Best Practices for a Successful Roadmapping Tool Rollout

We’ve reviewed the wrong way to implement a new roadmapping tool at your company. Now let’s discuss the right way.

Here are five best practices we believe will help your team get the most value from your new app. These steps will help you build and launch more successful products. They would help you break down the information silos and elevate your status to product management rockstar.

1. Make a case for the new tool, early, and to everyone.

Before purchasing the first licenses for your new roadmapping app, you should introduce it to all relevant teams across your company. It would help if you also were making a persuasive case to these people about how it will lead to more product success.

We can’t tell you how best to tell this story to your organization. You know your cross-functional team better than anyone. But here are a few key elements you might want to include in that story:

  • We’re going to use this tool to create a single source of truth for our product strategy, goals, and plans—which all stakeholders can review anytime.
  • This roadmapping tool will help our teams work together to weigh priorities, assess the costs and benefits of competing initiatives, and decide what belongs on the roadmap.
  • This tool will make it easy for your team to check the daily tasks on your to-do list against the product’s high-level strategy.

Develop your storytelling skills further by reading our blog,’ Why a Product Manager Needs to Be a Great Storyteller.’

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 2. Configure the app to make sure everyone has the right levels of access.

One common reason that software rollouts fall flat is that the team implementing the tool fails to give all relevant people access right away. If one of your developers or sales reps tries to view your roadmap but can’t, that first experience could be enough to turn them off permanently.

Let your company know the new roadmapping tool is in place and that they can start viewing your product roadmap live. You’ll want this done to make sure everyone across the company has the right levels of access. For example:

  • All of your product team members to have edit access to your roadmaps.
  • Make sure all departments have at least view-only access.
  • Specific departments (sales, for example) can forward limited levels of roadmap detail to people outside your company’s domain. Sales need the right view for industry analysts or even customers.

3. Train your entire cross-functional team to use the new app.

Another common mistake when rolling out a new app is failing to train everyone to use it properly.

And no, unfortunately, properly training your colleagues doesn’t mean merely sending out a one-page guide to the new app. The best way to ensure you remove information silos in-app is by making sure your team feels comfortable using their tool. You’ll want to host a live training session. One where your product team walks everyone through the app, explains the why behind key features and encourages people to ask questions.

Only when they understand how your roadmapping tool works will your colleagues get the new app’s full value. Then they would feel comfortable using it.

4. Incorporate the app into your product strategy meetings.

A traditional route is using a spreadsheet or slide deck. When forced to use a conventional program to build a static roadmap document, product managers find themselves making notes in strategy meetings. Then, only later, being able to use those notes to update their roadmaps.

One of the advantages of a purpose-build roadmap app is that it lets you create and update any element of your product roadmap in real-time, usually with just a few clicks. You can build and drop in a new epic or rearrange the order of initiatives in seconds. To read more about how roadmaps are great tools for meetings, read our blog, ‘Why Slide Decks and Spreadsheets Fall Short as Product Roadmap Tools.’

You can even use the roadmapping tool to conduct weighted scoring sessions and decide which projects prioritize the roadmap.

Screenshot of the Weighted Scoring capability in ProductPlan’s Planning Board feature.

But to get the full value of these roadmapping-tool features, you’ll need to use them in your meetings with other teams.

5. Integrate the app with your company’s other project management tools.

This final best practice is a key step for a successful roadmap-tool rollout.

Remember, the most significant cause of failed implementations is when a product team rolls out its new roadmapping tool but doesn’t work to make it part of the company’s culture.

When a roadmap app integrates with the tools your other departments use every day, you can make the rollout even more comfortable and seamless. Standard integrations include Jira or Trello for your development team or Slack for your sales and marketing department.

Integrate your roadmap with Jira, for example, and your developers will be able to see how their day-to-day work is helping to drive the product’s overall progress.

Screenshot of the ProductPlan roadmapping tool’s Jira integration.

Integrate your roadmap with Slack, and you can send out roadmap updates to all relevant teams using the communication platform they’re already on.

Screenshot showing how the ProductPlan roadmapping tool integrates with Slack.

All of these strategies will help you make the most of your new roadmapping tool—for removing information silos, increasing product success, creating greater company cohesion, and boosting your reputation as a product management genius.

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