PRODUCT ROADMAPS: What Are They Good For?

Brisbane Product Talk Meetup

Summary of Product Roadmaps Discussion from Recent Product Talks Meetup in Brisbane.

This was our fourth Product Talks meetup in Brisbane, since it started late 2014. The topic this time was Product Roadmaps: what are they good for? Here is a summary of the evening’s discussion.

As host, I kicked things off with a little theory (to get it done and out of the way) as a basis for discussion. The definition of a product roadmap is:

‘Product roadmaps act as the bridge between the product vision and strategy and the actual tactical product development projects that are undertaken in the pursuit of attaining the product goals.’ ProdBok

Cutting through the detail; the key takeaways from the group of what a roadmap is, were:

  • An intent, not a promise
  • Carry much expectation – use wisely
  • A living document
  • Covers the short, medium and long term of a product vision
  • Roadmaps are commercially sensitive

When it came to what product roadmaps are good for, again there was some great discussion. Product roadmap adoption can vary greatly from organisation to organisation. It was clear there was also a bit of evolution at play. For some there was an internal roadmap, but not yet a version ready to be shared with customers or external stakeholders.

There were some first-timers in the group last week, including organisations like Foxtel, Halfbrick and ABC News. They added to the chorus of conversation around the use of roadmaps… or lack thereof, in operations today.

Here are some key points from the discussion on what roadmaps are good for:

  • Business alignment
  • Product portfolio prioritisation
  • Focus
  • Accountability
  • Communication
  • Instilling customer confidence

For me, I think it is imperative that your customer gets to see a roadmap. Of course this can vary from market to market. But, from my experience in a B2B enterprise software space, my success and that of my customer are intertwined. Our customers are people: they have objectives, goals and ambition. They need to know they have backed a winner – a provider that will help them be successful. An external roadmap, well considered and effectively communicated, can show a customer where the product is going. To confirm that our journeys are aligned.

A few other concepts were covered during the evening: BCG Matrix and Product Lifecycle.

product lifecycle

Basic Product Lifecycle

Ultimately, a documented, communicated roadmap is a line in the sand. It is an attempt to align stakeholders; get everyone on the same page; and an objective to strive for.

The product manager is responsible for a product roadmap. Their ability to perform will be judged by how well a product meets the needs of the target market. A roadmap is really the best tool a product manager has to align the business and validate an intention to deliver. But, that roadmap will only be effective if it is dynamic (but not fluid), aligned to the needs of the market and is delivered against, consistently.

Product Talks Brisbane brings together the growing community of Product Management professionals in Brisbane and those who want to learn more about this vital function. The Product Management domain touches many areas of an organisation and is misunderstood or poorly defined in many of them. You can learn more about the Product Talks Meetup here.

When I’m not launching products or mingling at Product Talks I am probably hosting a Ready, Set, Go to Market training course. You can learn more about this dedicated, face-to-face Product Marketing training course here.

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