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3 Oct 2022

How Do You Decide What Goes on your Roadmap

Roadmapping
Kent McDonald

Kent McDonald

Product Manager & Writer @ KBPmedia
12 Articles
Kent is an accomplished product management professional who works with cross functional teams to discover and deliver maximum outcome with minimum output. He uses business analysis and facilitation techniques to build a shared understanding between product teams and stakeholders from all relevant parts of the organization.
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Have you ever given much thought to why you put a roadmap together? Do you create a roadmap because someone asked for it, or because you find it a helpful tool?

Hopefully, it’s the latter.

Even if it’s not, you can get a lot of value out of your roadmap if you’re intentional with what you put on your roadmap and what you leave off.

Here’s a look at how to make intentional roadmap prioritization decisions and create a roadmap that is a useful tool for communicating your plans.

Connect your product strategy with your roadmap

A product roadmap is a statement of intent for how you are going to implement your product strategy. Your product strategy describes your company’s vision and overarching objective for your product. Specifically, it communicates the why behind all your product team’s work.

The best way to connect your roadmap to your product strategy is to use your product strategy to create one to three decision filters to determine what initiatives make it to your roadmap and which ones you leave off.

For example, consider a product team at a ride hailing company whose product strategy is: increase the number of rides in a month per active rider.

The team turned that into a decision filter by asking “Will this help us increase the number of rides in a month per active rider?”

Then, when they have initiatives, they’re considering for their roadmap, they ask that question for each one. If they can answer yes for an initiative, they add it to their roadmap. If the answer is no, they forego that initiative.

What to put on a roadmap

Setting priorities for your roadmap

Chances are you’ll identify multiple initiatives that support your product strategy. So once you’ve identified the initiatives that make sense to add to your roadmap, you need to determine the sequence in which you’ll consider each initiative.

There are multiple techniques you can use to prioritize the initiatives that appear on your roadmap such as

Some of these techniques such as ICE Scoring and Weighted Scoring result in a score that you can use to compare multiple initiatives. Other techniques such as the Value vs Effort Framework and MoSCoW provide a means of categorizing initiatives. Techniques such as Buy a Feature and Priority Poker provide frameworks to guide prioritization discussion.

To get more information about these prioritization techniques, check out our Ultimate Guide to Prioritization.

You can use one or more of these techniques as a factor for roadmap prioritization, but you shouldn’t rely on them alone. You also need to factor how well an initiative supports your product strategy and implementation concerns.

The result of your prioritization decision determines where on the roadmap you place your initiatives. If you’re using a Now-Next-Later roadmap, you’ll place the higher priority items in the Now or Next columns and lower priority initiatives end up in the Next or Later column, or may drop off the roadmap altogether.

What to put on a roadmap

How to create a roadmap

Now that you know how to decide what to include on your roadmap and how you can prioritize them, let’s look at how you incorporate those decisions when you create and maintain your roadmap.

Continuously collect feedback

A key input to the roadmap creation process is feedback you receive about your customers, their needs, and your product.

There are a variety of sources for this feedback including:

  • Customer interviews and discovery calls

  • Customer use analytics

  • Enhancement requests

  • Feature requests

  • Input from your stakeholders

Regardless of where this feedback comes from, you should have one central location to store all of this feedback along with details on who requested it, why, priority, and more.

Keeping track of this data provides the context you need to evaluate the feedback and identify opportunities you can turn into potential initiatives.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to act on all this feedback, so it’s usually not a good idea to use your product backlog to store all the feedback you receive. Use a different storage mechanism that is particularly suited for tracking feedback.

Clarify your desired outcome

Before you create your product roadmap, be clear on the intended business outcomes for the year.

Everything that a product team works on, whether it’s building a new product from inception, a new feature, or a minor enhancement, must relate to business outcome. This relation usually occurs through the product strategy.

The product strategy explains how your product will develop to assist your business in accomplishing its business outcomes.

You define a specific product outcome so that you can focus on things that are within control of your product team. Trying to directly influence a business outcome is difficult because there are so many factors that can affect a business outcome.

For example, the ride hailing product team described earlier focused on increasing the number of rides in a month per active rider. This product outcome was to support a business outcome of increasing monthly revenue per active rider.

Gather a list of initiatives that support your product outcome

Review all the feedback you have to identify potential initiatives. Then research those potential initiatives to understand the business value, customer and user value, and associated effort (design, development, launch tactics, and more).

Once you have those initiatives, run each one through the decision filter created from your product outcome. You’ll add the initiatives that pass your decision filters to your roadmap.

In our ride hailing example, the product team may identify initiatives such as

  • Schedule rides ahead of time

  • Identify preferred drivers

  • Choose between preferred drivers and the quickest available drivers

  • Get rewarded for frequent use of the ride-hailing company

Prioritize initiatives with key stakeholders

Based on the product outcomes for the year and the capacity of your team, you’ll then prioritize the order in which you will consider the initiatives that made it to the roadmap.

When you craft your roadmap, include your key stakeholders and your team in your prioritization discussions. Factor the following into your prioritization decisions:

  • How does the initiative align with the company goals?

  • Which initiative brings the most value to customers, users, and the business

  • Which initiatives fit with your team capacity constraints for the quarter/year

Revisit the roadmap

The product roadmap is a living document that shows your best understanding of ways to meet your product outcome at a particular point in time. It also reflects whatever uncertainty you faced when you last put it together.

You’ll want to revisit your product roadmap regularly and update it to reflect the things you’ve done, the things you’ve learned and the changes in your organization and environment. This helps to keep the roadmap fresh and useful.

Create your roadmap

It’s important to have a defined approach for creating a roadmap. You can make that approach more effective by using the right roadmap tool, such as airfocus:

  • Use airfocus Insights to gather feedback from stakeholders.

  • Use Priority Poker to optimize initiatives with your team

  • Place the prioritized opportunities on the roadmap with the right template

Start a free trial now to see how airfocus can help you make your roadmap a useful tool.

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