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For modern product professionals, product roadmap software has become a must-have, not a nice-to-have. If you can’t bring your team together around a shared product strategy, you’re going to have difficulty building a successful product.
Product managers must keep up with the ever-changing demands of customers to remain competitive. To do this, they require roadmaps that are continuously up to date and provide a clear picture of goals and priorities.
Using the wrong roadmap tool makes this a challenge—and can undermine a product team’s success in several ways.
Overseeing the development of a product is a complex undertaking. Priorities can change at any time. New information, such as user feedback, can signal that the team needs to adjust its strategy.
The product roadmap serves as the strategic reference point for the product team’s work. When priorities change, the roadmap changes as well to depict the new realities.
But if a product manager builds the roadmap using presentation or spreadsheet software, making these regular updates can seem like a laborious task. Some product managers will procrastinate updating the roadmap. Others might stick with the original product plan even when new evidence suggests the team should reorder its priorities.
One of a roadmap’s most valuable functions is to present an easy-to-grasp view of the team’s current strategy, plan, and progress. A purpose-built roadmap app can do this effectively with its drag-and-drop capabilities and integrations with task management apps.
Slideshow software also allows a product manager to present the roadmap visually. But as we noted above, the tedious work of updating a static slideshow file can undermine the roadmap’s usefulness and accuracy over time.
Worse, if a product manager creates a roadmap as a spreadsheet, the team will have even less of a clear view of the product’s thinking and goals.
Without a shared vision as a starting point, the different teams contributing to the product—in design, development, marketing, etc.—might substitute their own priorities and tasks.
A roadmap should function as a single source of truth for the team’s current strategic thinking and plans.
Roadmaps require regular updates. Making those updates in static files is time-consuming because these roadmaps built as slideshows or spreadsheets become quickly outdated.
Each time the product manager sends out a new version—”ABC-roadmap-v3.pptx,” “XYZ-roadmap-1.1.3.xlsx.”—the chances increase that some teams will devote their efforts to an out-of-date plan.
Even with all these challenges, most product teams still use the wrong tools to build their roadmaps. This helps explain the following survey results from ProductPlan’s industry report.
Product professionals list “managing the product roadmap” as their second most important activity. Yet, fewer than half say they’re happy with their processes for communicating product strategy.
These product pros need purpose-built product roadmap software. You do as well. Here’s why.
Purpose-built product roadmap software makes creating a new roadmap or making changes to an existing one fast and easy.
You can drag and drop bars and containers to add new themes. You can also color-code items to depict different strategic priorities. You’ll find that the right roadmap app can save you hours, especially over creating and updating a roadmap using presentation or spreadsheet software.
With the right roadmapping software, you can embed different detail levels into your roadmap and display or hide content according to your audience.
When presenting a roadmap to executive stakeholders, you might bring up the strategic reasoning behind your roadmap’s three themes. Then you might choose to drill into those themes, one at a time, and display your revenue estimates for each.
For your roadmap meeting with the development team, you’ll want to highlight different details. During that presentation, you might choose to drill into each epic and discuss how the developers plan to break them into user stories and other tasks.
With PowerPoint or Excel, it could take you hours to design different roadmap variations for these meetings. But with the right roadmap app, you’ll be able to switch between different views with just a few clicks.
The right product roadmap software does a lot more than displaying your current priority items. It also helps your team weigh competing ideas and determine which ones should earn a slot on the roadmap.
With the ProductPlan’s roadmap app’s prioritization tool, your team can score a list of product ideas (features, bug fixes, UI updates, etc.) according to a common set of metrics.
You can use revenue potential, effort, customer delight, opportunity cost, and other metrics to arrive at each item’s overall score. This will help ensure that your team applies consistent criteria to determine which product ideas make it onto the roadmap.
When you maintain your roadmap as a presentation or spreadsheet file, you’ll need to send out new versions to your team whenever you make a change. This can create version control issues, as your coworkers lose track of which file is most recent. It also creates more work and digital clutter for everyone.
When you maintain your roadmap in a web-based roadmap app, you won’t have this problem. The roadmap’s URL becomes the single source of truth for your whole team to review anytime.
If your product roadmap software integrates with workflow apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams, you can automatically alert your team through those channels whenever you update the roadmap.
The right roadmap software will also let you track and display a “percent complete” metric for every item you add to your roadmap.
Making this process even easier, your roadmap app will also let you import progress data directly from your team’s project management tools, such as Jira or Trello.
In fact, if you don’t have a roadmap built yet, you can create one in minutes just by importing epics and issues from Jira into your roadmap app.
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