Creating Compelling Product Roadmaps, Part 1
By Brian Lawley, 280 Group, LLC
Product Roadmaps can mean the difference between success and failure when delivering and marketing products. They can be one of the most effective tools in a Product Management professional’s arsenal. Done correctly they can help win and keep large customers and partners, and can guide the engineering and strategic planning efforts of a company. Unfortunately most Product Roadmaps are created “On The Fly” and under pressure when sales or the company management makes a last-minute request. As a result they don’t have the impact they should, and can be a source of much trouble if you aren’t careful.
As a Product Management professional who is responsible for the overall success of your product, it is important that you create a product roadmap that is compelling, can drive the strategy for your company and development efforts and can provide your partners, press, analysts and customers with a clear idea of where you are headed. This article will include some of the tips and best practices that I have found to be helpful in creating product roadmaps during my twenty year career in Product Management.
Why a Product Roadmap?
There are many different reasons for developing product roadmaps. It could be that your sales force is losing a large deal and they need to reassure a customer of your future directions. Or it could be that you are briefing the press or analysts and want to reassure them of where you are headed. It might be that you need an internal roadmap to guide engineering efforts and assign resources according to well-thought-out priorities. Or you may need a roadmap to get your company’s next round of funding.
There are wide variations in terms of definitions and uses for roadmaps. The first step is to decide what type you need and what it will be used for.
Types of Roadmaps
There are five types of roadmaps that are the most commonly used: Market and Strategy, Visionary, Technology, Platform and Product (Internal & External). Each type is good for specific uses, and you may also choose to combine them to create a bigger picture story.
Market & Strategy
Market & strategy roadmaps paint a picture of which markets you will be going after and how you plan to develop the products for each segment. For example, in year one you may want to enter healthcare by partnering with another company. Or you may want to enter the financial market in year two by building products in-house or acquiring products.
Visionary roadmaps paint a big picture of trends in the industry and society in general. By showing the trends you can then show how your products fit into the bigger picture and how you are taking advantage of the momentum happening in the market.
Technology roadmaps show what trends are happening in the overall industry in terms of technology, and then allow you to map your company’s products and releases to them. They are an excellent way to show how your company is taking advantage of up-and-coming new opportunities created by technology.
Platform roadmaps are used by companies that have an overall platform strategy that relies on partners working closely with them. Examples of platforms includes Windows, the Palm OS, Google, MacOS and many others. In a platform roadmap you show what will be happening with the core platform software as well as what the platform company will be delivering in terms of their own products and the development tools that partners will need to use to support the platform.
Product (Internal & External)
Product roadmaps are used to show when product releases will be available, what their overall theme or main features are and what secondary features will also be included. Internal roadmaps can be used for driving development priorities, communicating to upper management and other departments and for use in obtaining funding for the company. External roadmaps are used for communicating to customers, partners, press and analysts. External roadmaps should be based on the corresponding internal roadmaps, but should be much more vague.
The next issue’s article will discuss an eight step process for creating product roadmaps.
Brian Lawley is the President of SVPMA and the 280 Group, which provides Marketing and Product Management Consulting and Contractors to help companies define, launch and market breakthrough new products. The 280 Group also sells the Product Roadmap Toolkit, which includes a narrated seminar, 75 roadmap templates and prioritization matrices – for more information see www.280group.com.
Copyright 2007, 280 Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.