The core function of a product roadmap is to be a source of truth for the product vision, goals, metrics, priorities and progress over time. The efficacy of a product roadmap depends on multiple factors ranging from the definition of goals, metrics to measure the progress towards goals and clarity of scope, impact and priority of features. Getting all these factors right is a function of time, discipline and close collaboration amongst the product stakeholders. In my experience of product leadership, the 3 most important factors for building a successful product roadmap are Goals, Metrics and Prioritization frameworks. My key learnings and suggestions are summarized below -
In the process of building a product roadmap, you have to start with a clear set of goals and they should be in clear alignment with the product vision. It might sound cliche, but I must emphasize that the goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). The goals should be defined with inputs from stakeholders and there should be a clear understanding of goal ownership and accountability.
Once the goals have been defined, the PM must identify the right set of metrics or KPIs that indicate the progress towards the goals. One must ensure that the metrics can be easily described and measured. A standard rule of thumb is to avoid any non-standard or unconventional metrics to measure your progress. The metrics should clearly indicate the progress towards the goals so that you can calibrate the feature velocity and impact accordingly.
The features must always be prioritized working backwards from the set goals and metrics. But it's easier said in theory than done in practice. One of the core functions of a product roadmap is to facilitate discussion and alignment on the right prioritization of features. As such, a good product roadmap always offers supporting frameworks for decision making and priorities in difficult situations. Some of the most important situations to preemptively address are as follows - how to prioritize when there is ambiguity in scope, ambiguity in impact and lack of developer resources or urgency due to customer commitments.
In summary, the success of a product roadmap highly depends on setting the right goals, identifying the right metrics/KPIs and applying the right frameworks for prioritization and decision making. It's important to realize that building a successful product roadmap is an iterative process which demands continuous improvements, adaptations based on internal and external factors, and close collaboration amongst all stakeholders. So be open to feedback from all stakeholders, leadership and customers.
I’ll leave you with my final thought -
“Product Roadmap should act as a catalyst for success, not as a constraint.”
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