How to Create a Product Roadmap (for Product Managers)

By Matt Mazur · Last updated March 3, 2022

Creating a product roadmap can be challenging for product managers because there’s no universal approach.

Unifying company stakeholders and executing the product's most essential needs is the end goal, so be sure to keep that in mind.

Before we explore some of the strategies that can be used to create a successful product roadmap, let’s examine their inner workings.

What is a Product Roadmap?

Product roadmaps develop the strategy and overall plan for a product's development. A company's short and long term goals must align with the product roadmap as the plan will reflect how the product will aid a company in achieving their goals.

Providing clear initiatives in the development phase is essential in creating a product roadmap. Uncertainty about the direction of a product's development will turn your roadmap into a hot mess faster than the US economy during the great depression.

Product managers utilize product roadmaps as a tool to communicate vision and strategy to essential members of the company, including senior executives, sales teams, marketing teams, and customers.

Here’s how to create an awesome product roadmap:

Figure Out Why You're Making It In The First Place

Since money is involved in the development of a product, the stakes are high. Uncertainty will lead to anxiety, which is no good if you want to run a successful business.

Fortunately, when assembled thoughtfully, your roadmap will reduce stress by providing some much-needed direction.

While a product roadmap is necessary for reducing anxiety in the beginning phase of a product's development, it is not a cure-all device.

Since the future is uncertain, creating a product roadmap with an agile mindset will keep you on your toes. Sometimes you’ll need to update your roadmap, after receiving customer feedback, for instance.

Gathering customer feedback is a great way to revise your product roadmap based on their input, facilitating necessary changes in the development process.

The end result?

Quality product performance.

Narrow Down Your Target Audience

Creating a target audience amplifies the effectiveness of your roadmap's direction by identifying your company's typical customer — by the way, knowing your target market is crucial for a successful marketing campaign.

If a company can hone in on their target audience, they have a higher likelihood of generating more leads, sales, and beating their competitors.

Let’s explore steps that can be taken to achieve a target audience:

Study Your Current Customer Base

What is your ideal customer persona? Establishing your ideal customer persona by studying your current customer base can help you identify their reasons for buying your product in the first place.

Examine commonalities between members of your customer base to conclude the various types of people that could benefit from your product.

Study the flip side of your customer base. Who is your competition? Who is your competition targeting in their marketing efforts? It makes more sense to study competitors to find a new niche market as opposed to targeting the competition's previously established market.

Analyze Your Product

Most importantly, think about the problems your product solves and whose problems they are. This will help you discover your target market. At the end of the day, people pay to solve their problems, plain and simple.

Establish Target Demographics

After establishing who might benefit from your product, go one step further by focusing on who would be most likely of these people to purchase the product.

Here are some factors that play into the equation:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Education level
  • Relationship and family status
  • Career

Establishing personal characteristics of these types of people will increase the accuracy of your marketing campaigns. Personal attributes of individuals include:

  • Demographics
  • Geographic location
  • Psychographics

How To Apply Your Research

After you've gathered customer base data and found your niche market, ask yourself the following:

  • Is the number of people established in your target audience wide enough to generate substantial and consistent profit?
  • Will your target audience find your product applicable in their lives?
  • Is your product affordable for your market?

Try not to narrow down your audience too far as you can increase profits by having more than one niche market.

On the flip side, if your target market is too wide, you’ll have a hard time showing ads to the right people, which will make it pretty hard to sell your product.

During the research phase, feel free to use previously recorded surveys, blogs, and forum data in combination with your own research to help aid the establishment of your target audience.

Make Changes On The Fly (Be Agile)

In today's business world, companies are leaning toward agile planning as a way to mitigate the challenges faced in product development. An agile planning mindset hinges on continuously adjusting product development based on customer and company member feedback.

An agile product roadmap sets realistic expectations on what the roadmap will achieve, leading to an increase in time spent in actionable development.

Contrary Methods

Contrary methods of creating product roadmaps include the Waterfall method. The Waterfall method involves a company determining what exactly to build long before the actual assembly process begins.

Using the Waterfall method gives companies less time to practice gathering customer feedback as an increased level of time is spent in cementing the planning phase.

Benefits of Being Agile

Since agile planning leaves room for changes within the development process, your development team will have more time to evolve the product.

Increased development team action leads to more releases—ergo more customer feedback for adjustments that create more detail within a project.

The more customer feedback you have, the more ability you have to examine emerging market opportunities.

You want your product roadmap to connect with customers. If your roadmap doesn't have your team working to solve a significant customer problem, your roadmap will be obsolete. Your vision must fit your customers’ needs.

Framing a product vision around a customer leads to the creation of a product that meets customer needs in a continually shifting market.

Get Input from Important Players

When creating a product roadmap, it's crucial to get insight from vital company members. Insight from prominent company members will help the product roadmap achieve its established purpose. Key members include:

  • Engineering department
  • Sales and marketing teams *Stakeholders
  • Investors

While receiving feedback from crucial company members is essential, the feedback process shouldn't be viewed strictly as a "top-down" process.

Additional input from the "bottom-up" portions of the company helps to aid the collaborative process. The people closest to the work can and should help to influence company direction.

Focus On The Big Picture - Don't Get Caught Up in The Details

The primary mission of a product development team is to solve a significant customer problem while also achieving business goals.

When developing your roadmap, focus on presenting the issue you are addressing as opposed to the features being built to solve the problem.

The features being built to solve the problem are most relevant to the development team, and you'll be presenting the roadmap mostly to members outside of that team.

Highlight the essential pieces of your strategy, goals, and development milestones.

Use The Right Tool

Presenting your product road map serves as an essential opportunity to connect company members with how your roadmap plans to impact company execution.

Your presentation should reflect how your product team can adapt to changes within the roadmap.

Product managers have a plethora of options to choose from when crafting their roadmap.

Keep in mind what goals you're trying to achieve through your product roadmap in addition to the content you're presenting when choosing your tool.

Preceden allows you to create stunning and professional roadmaps in minutes. In fact, even if you suck at design, Preceden roadmaps always look good.

Its intuitive, easy-to-use design is great for beginners and experts alike.

Update Your Product Roadmap Often

When creating a product roadmap using an agile mindset, keep in mind that the goal is not to create a product roadmap. The goal is to create a top-notch product as a result of using a roadmap as your starting point.

You want the outlined features of your roadmap to be written in the form of questions answered through repeated experimentation.

After said experiments—adjust your roadmap to account for the results. Leave room in your product roadmap timeline for implementation of team feedback as well.

The goal of consistently updating your roadmap is to establish do-able short and long term goals.