Let's play this scenario out, James is a product manager in a start up and building out the MVP. He knows the various problem statements and has a clear product vision. He knows that everything cant go into the MVP and there will be multiple releases which will need to be made and this will require some sort of plan to be created. What James needs is a product roadmap - a document which will keep the team focused on a series of features which will be built out in phases to achieve the desired goals of the product, business and customers.
Product roadmaps can be as simple as a list of features and can be built out into a more strategic document which ties in the product vision, problem statement and the business goals to support the business case of the venture. The more time James invests in creating the roadmap the more clarity he will have on the sequencing of the releases giving him the assurance that the releases are in synch with the business objectives where each release is ticking off a commercial target which translates into immediate business value - shippable and usable product which bring about all around benefits.
The product roadmap is a living document and should be be reviewed frequently when preparing for a sprint, when communicating to stakeholders, discussing the product vision, articulating product value and features to the users of the platform. Good practice is for the product manager to be the controller of the roadmap - the PM determines what goes into the roadmap. The document should be easily accessible to developers, project managers, sponsors, sales and customer support teams. Organisations consider the roadmap to be a strategic document which is not disclosed in public forums, however if your a market leader it can be made available on the website to shakeup the marketplace and bring in more customers as the company would be putting themselves out there.
As situations and priorities shift the roadmap will accordingly change. PMs should not be in fear when such changes happen. Just like in project management when the project plan needs to change all that is required is to get the endorsement from the project working group and the steering committee. Any major shift in the roadmap should be communicated to all stakeholders who rely on this information. James needs to own this action as the document owner.
The product roadmap takes you from start to finish and provides the directions to everyone involved when they get onto the expressway and when they get off and what they need to bring for that trip. The traits of a useful product roadmap are :
If the PM is listening to customers and solving the right problems - The roadmap should translate customer pain points into the actions and features. A good roadmap will make it clear to everyone that the PM is listening to customers and the end users. The document also becomes a checkpoint to avoid endless building of use cases and being technology obsessed with over-engineered features which have no commercial value.
If the the product is building for now and the future - the last thing customer want is to adopt products which have no future applicability. In the digital economy there is an expectation that products will evolve and adopt the latest technology and will remain relevant as more use cases and workflows emerge,
Conveys the expertise and knowledge of the team which is behind the product. In the products are delivered by people and their passion, imagination the relevancy comes through to the end users who manage the product. The roadmap will certainly capture the ambitions of the team.
The firms commitment to innovation and that they are here for the long haul. Many companies have a habit of not innovating their product after the first few MVP releases. Customers are quite concerned about the longevity and seeing the commitment through a product roadmap release will give the comfort.
Lastly the product roadmap will give your clients to collaborate with you to get some of their ideas into the core product. There is nothing better than the product selling itself through these kind of partnerships which have customer buy in and support..