3 Ways to Build Scalable Product Roadmapping Processes and Grow Your Impact
A product roadmap is only as valuable as it is realistic. It sets the course for an entire organization, defining the success of the business and impacting every team. Too often, roadmaps fail to align all functions around the product vision; they lack clear details around customer needs, and aren’t fully centered on the business strategy.
Productboard’s new Product Roadmap Playbook outlines proven processes and recommendations for product experts. Read on for top-level insights from the playbook to help build clearer roadmaps that are efficient, data-driven, and actionable.
Focus on outcomes—not outputs
Outputs are standard fare for product teams, which often operate like machines. Ideas go in, products come out—and as long as the MVP makes it to launch, the business can start to move on to its next innovation. But this process is usually heavily manual, and comes with a number of cross-team dependencies and communication gaps that make it difficult to stay agile or on track.
An outcome-driven roadmap, however, focuses on why a project is being pursued in addition to forecasting timelines and deliverables. Deadlines are not the driving force behind viable products, and are regularly the opposite, causing companies to go to market with anything they can instead of everything they should. Deadlines don’t provide context or clarify needs, and they don’t interpret data.
Teams on the hook to develop assets that not only work, but that drive expandable revenue, are growing concerned about the static, status quo tactics to building effective plans. A Productboard survey of over 1,000 product professionals found that less than one-third of respondents were confident that the products and features on their roadmaps would deliver the desired business outcomes.
Roadmaps that work depend on transparent and immediate cross-functional communication and collaboration. That can’t happen without real-time data, a clear path to meeting customer needs, flexible timelines, and definitive connections to the overarching business strategy—things that are pretty hard to do in a spreadsheet.
Data matters (when you know how to use it)
A product team can have access to unlimited data, but it means very little if that team has no way to organize, analyze, and interpret that information quickly. Especially when the inputs aren’t strictly statistical—for a comprehensive view of any project, changes in scope and new ideas have to be captured, too.
According to our 2022 Product Excellence Report, a whopping 48% of product professionals report experiencing challenges with setting a clear product vision and strategy. They struggle to fully leverage purpose-built toolkits, and remain stuck in fragmented workflows that drive misalignment.
The right product management system solves these challenges by providing a central source of truth for all incoming data insights, trends, feedback, and requests, with the ability to scale roadmaps as that information is ingested. It allows teams to prioritize initiatives while communicating necessary context, and gives functions across the organization visibility into how they influence product development and delivery.
Data also plays a critical role in that prioritization, and in building confidence that the projected business outcomes will be achieved.
Give your product roadmap a story to tell
At the end of a product development lifecycle, a business can usually look back on the process with near-perfect understanding of what went well and what didn’t. But the most actionable roadmaps have a story to tell before anything makes it to market. And if product teams can build a roadmap’s narrative definitively around the company vision, it will reveal blindspots and opportunities long before they demand attention.
When gathering elements to include in a product’s narrative, always examine and leverage personas and customer segments. This allows for deep alignment around who products and features are actually being developed for, why, and how the outcomes will become a reality. It’s also important to consider who the internal audiences are, and determine how much background or technical information is necessary for those groups to contribute efficiently and effectively to the process.
Product teams should consider taking a sales approach to sharing roadmaps across the organization by creating varying lengths of roadmap “pitches” to suit the teams they partner with—at least one should take less than two minutes, and none should take more than around 20. All of them should come with the company’s vision baked in, and be designed with clarity in mind.
To make any roadmap pitches land, the roadmap itself must define specific problems and deliver specific solutions, while focusing on the overall impact and value for the customer. Finally, product roadmaps don’t always require a linear framework. In fact, sticking to a strict chronological schedule often wastes time while causing confusion.
Staying agile around the moving pieces of every roadmap, and being aware of how they influence each other currently and over time, invites more valuable discussion around blockers, better aligns project stakeholders, and reveals exactly how every outcome contributes to the ongoing success of the business.
Download the complete playbook to build better product roadmaps with every release.