What is Product Roadmapping?

Roadmapping is the strategic process of determining the actions, steps and resources needed to take an initiative from vision to reality. In the case of product roadmapping, this process will involve a product manager working with her team to determine all of the major components — themes, epics, stories, resources — required to take the company’s product vision to a market-ready version of that product.

Roadmapping is Not Simply the Act of Creating a Roadmap

Roadmapping is often mistakenly understood as the act of drafting a roadmap. But while it is true that one important output of roadmapping will be a roadmap — a high-level document that articulates the vision and strategic plan — the process of roadmapping itself involves much more strategic thinking, researching, planning and documenting than will necessarily appear on the roadmap document.

roadmapping

The Major Components of the Roadmapping Process

Creating a roadmap involves establishing a path from an initiative’s vision to reality. Roadmapping should begin with a clear understanding of that vision and an ability to clearly articulate it. In the case of a company building a product, for example, that vision might be to develop the most successful database application on the market.

With that vision well understood and agreed upon by the relevant stakeholders, the roadmapping process can begin, and should include:

Research

  • Gaining an understanding of the product’s users and buyers, and what problems they face that the product can solve
  • Gaining an understanding of the market and the competitive landscape
  • Gaining an understanding of what resources and budget the company has to commit to this initiative

Strategic Planning

  • Determining what major components (themes, epics, features, etc.) the product will need to solve those problems for its users
  • Determining a prioritization hierarchy of these major components for reaching a market-ready minimum viable product
  • Creating a development plan and assigning the appropriate resources

Coordinating with the Organization

  • Securing buy-in and support from executive stakeholders
  • Working with sales, support, professional services, marketing and other teams to prepare whatever will be needed for your go-to-market plan

Note: These are simply examples, and your roadmapping process might include additional steps and actions, or completely different ones. What’s important to understand is that roadmapping is the strategic process that helps you identify, organize and then communicate all of the steps needed to take you from product vision to an actual product ready for release to the market.

Why the Roadmapping Metaphor is Useful

When executed correctly, the roadmapping process will allow a product manager to set out a plan for completing all of the integral steps, in the most strategically advantageous sequence and using the right resources, to bring a product’s vision to reality.

In this sense, roadmapping is a helpful metaphor. Thinking of this strategic process as creating a map, a clear path to bring your product to market, with several stops along the way, can help you stay on track throughout the process. For every potential feature or other item that comes up for discussion demanding time and resources on your product roadmap, you can ask yourself whether or not greenlighting that item will move your product down the path leading it to a successful market release. That will be your key test for determining whether to say yes or no.

In other words, only if a task or initiative will advance your product along the route from vision to reality should it be part of your roadmap creation process.