What is a Product Roadmap? (Explanation + Example)

By Matt Mazur · Last updated March 3, 2022

Companies utilize roadmaps as a vehicle to communicate the strategy of their product.

A successful product roadmap presentation communicates the vision, as well as the objectives of the product to various members of the company (stakeholders, development teams, etc).

In this post, we’re going to discuss – in detail – everything you need to know about a product roadmap.

Let’s jump in!

Who Should Use a Product Roadmap?

Product managers are usually the individuals that produce product roadmaps. Upon completion, product owners present the roadmap to the company for approval.

While product roadmaps are mainly used by product managers, multiple teams/persons in the company can work on developing a roadmap for the product manager to present.

Product roadmaps can be used to educate a company's development team, executive team, as well as their sales and customer bases.

Product Roadmap Examples

As mentioned above, product roadmaps serve several different purposes, largely dependent on who the product roadmap is for.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Product Roadmap for Investors & Board Members

Investor understanding of a product roadmap is key for a product manager and their development team to move forward.

Roadmaps for investors communicate the vision of the product and how it aligns with business initiatives. To adequately accomplish this task, product managers must gear their product roadmap presentation toward this executive audience.

Before creating your investor roadmap, consider the following questions:

To whom are you presenting?

Why will they care about what you're presenting?

In addition to investors, board members sit at the top of the list of people you'll need to win over during your roadmap presentation.

Members of the board are legally trusted to represent the best interests of the company's shareholders through their initiative of increasing the value of the company for a return on their investment.

The board as a whole provides final say in company direction, yet hold little power as individual members.

Elements that play into their decision making include market shifts, and potential exit opportunities for their investment, both long term, and short term.

Your roadmap will help reflect potential growth that will lead the company in the right direction.

Product Roadmap for Engineers

Engineering roadmaps serve to guide a system where people from different areas of an organization work together as a team in the development process.

Like most roadmaps, engineering roadmaps are broken down into sprints with milestones and expected release dates.

The structure of an engineering roadmap is slightly different, as it includes space for each team on the roadmap's graphical representation in addition to specific brands of initiatives for each team.

This format of roadmapping helps a product manager communicate expectations and the overall plan to multiple engineering teams.

Product Roadmap for Sales

If you're looking to boost sales, product roadmaps can serve as a valuable asset. Sales product roadmaps can be utilized by sales teams to educate your company's market on the product vision and draw interest.

A well-organized roadmap can help acquire new clients, and solidify existing client relationships via thorough vision communication.

One of the benefits of using a product sales roadmap is the shortening of a sales cycle. Through the visual presentation of a product's development steps, it's easier for a client to see if the product is a good fit or not. Clients will additionally get a long term view of the possible benefits that this roadmap provides.

For an exceptional sales pitch to take place, a sales team needs to educate themselves on what specifically this product will provide to win over clients.

A sales product roadmap will prep sales teams for when it comes time to pitch to potential and existing clients. The sales team will additionally be kept in the loop if any changes occur within the roadmap as roadmaps provide flexibility for change.

Sales product roadmaps for pitches can differ slightly from say an engineering roadmap. The information highlighted will need to be geared more toward an external perspective rather than an internal one.

By working with a sales product roadmap, concrete confidence regarding project initiatives is instilled in customers, while internal communication within sales teams is enhanced.

Creating a Customer Roadmap

In this section, we're going to break down the process of creating a roadmap for your customer base, step-by-step.

Let's begin:

Step One

Start by mapping your customer journey (all departments that engage with your customers). A customer journey includes the start of customer contact to continued relationship building.

Sales leaders need to have an understanding of each step required for a satisfactory customer journey as well as knowledge of what makes someone a key potential client for the provided solution.

Be sure to keep track of each journey by function so you can assess what's working, and what needs to be adjusted. These adjustments will play into accomplishing short and long term goals of the company.

Step Two

The next step is identifying the goals for each segment of the journey. What are the specific goals of the departments associated with the customer journey?

Make sure when implementing action plans for departments that you can measure progress and leave room for necessary adjustments.

If you're wondering how to format your customer roadmap to measure progress, keep automation and selection of the right tools in mind. These elements serve to aid the report of metrics.

Some of these tools include Salesforce's Service Cloud (used to measure customer support satisfaction), and Mixpanel analytics to gain a better understanding of customer product usage.

Step Three

The third step of creating a customer roadmap is identifying why exactly you're losing customers. What is the root cause? Was the customer responsible? Did sponsors fail to drive the product?

Analyzing these elements help companies figure out what adjustments in customer service need to be implemented.

On the flip side, be sure to analyze why your best customers are your best customers. Learn from them to continue the positive pattern.

Step Four

The final step in drawing up your customer roadmap is listening to customer feedback. Talk to customers that left and ask them to reflect on specific occurrences that influenced them to leave. Their perspective may freshen yours and help identify the key issue to guarantee the company is addressing a vital issue.

Product Roadmap Presentation Tips

After choosing your variety of roadmap, it's important to nail down a clean presentation of the roadmap so that members not included in the creation of the roadmap are in the loop.

A clear presentation will lead to validation of actionable plans. Below are some tips to help you ace your presentation.

Use Colors and Icons for Added Organization

Icons help add information and context to your roadmap. Add color to your icons to further enhance detail. Symbols and icons serve as excellent headers for organizing your roadmap presentation. These added details will help people outside your team understand the roadmap as well.

Highlight Key Words

To fight against skimming of a roadmap uses bolded text, italicized text, and underlined text to help keywords catch the attention of readers. Even if someone skims a roadmap with emphasized texts, they can internalize the essential content.

Establish An About Section For Your Roadmap

Help your readers understand what the company is planning to set the tone for the roadmap as a whole.

What Makes Your Company Unique?

Be sure to include design elements that reflect the distinctive nature of the company (brand colors, brand symbols).

Include a Timeline

A timeline will help readers navigate your product roadmap more fluently. In including a timeline, readers will see why certain points exist where they do with other points.

A timeline additionally provides an overall project scope in how points connect to form a final product. Using a tool like Preceden timeline maker is a great way to do this.

Establish Deliverables and Elaborate on Each Step

Deliverables establish services given to clients. Elaborating on each step with elements such as task and job explanations will help a reader grasp what is occurring throughout the process.

Roadmap Framework

The framework of a roadmap should reflect what is happening now, what will occur next, and what happens as a final result via a release. Frameworks can additionally serve to educate members of the public on long term plans.

Emphasize Themes

What are the themes of the main sections of your roadmap? Assigning these theme labels will outline what work is making an impact and why, in addition to reflecting the process as a whole in a clearer fashion for readers.

Include Time For Review and Approval

Roadmaps are not final. Roadmaps leave room for unexpected occurrences that impact the progress of a project. Including time for review can help fight these occurrences and keep the project on a steady track toward completion. The recommended time for review is a weekly basis.

Outline Workload Flow

What parts of the project will need help from what specific departments and when? These are important elements to outline in your roadmap so that specific individuals or teams can adequately prepare and distribute resources accordingly.

Spend Time Editing

We touched on some of the elements needed in the creation of a solid roadmap. Since roadmaps boil down working parts to reflect an overall plan, making time for editing of your roadmap will be a prime factor in your roadmap's accessibility.

Some editing suggestions include trimming the fat regarding non-essential details for your audience, emphasizing key points through highlighting, and creating mind maps for increased visualization of more complex sections in your roadmap.