Product Roadmap: Way to build and plan product backlog strategically

Shruti Dwivedi
5 min readMay 5, 2020

The product roadmap is a way to visualize potential product features by prioritizing them strategically.

To build a rock-solid product roadmap you need to consider a lot of factors like customer needs, customer feedback, resource availability, organization’s strategy, market trend, product goals etc. These factors help you to smartly prioritize the features you would want to add as part of your product portfolio, which will, in turn, enhance user experience. Now, let’s talk about how can you build a product roadmap or a wish list for your product. To create one for your product, start mapping out product vision, strategy, customer & market trend and then you will have a list of features that will go into your future product plan.

Let’s discuss the steps involved in building the product roadmap.

  • Define your strategy: If you have been following me from the start, you have prepared a good product strategy already. If you haven’t, please read my previous blog as to how to build “A good Product strategy” for details. Nevertheless, product strategy, in a nutshell, is how you are going to turn your product vision into reality.
  • Highlight release details: As a next step, it’s always important to highlight the release details as part of the product roadmap. Releases could be internal and external customer release. You can also create different views for specific customers, allowing your audience to see roadmaps that are relevant to their particular business objectives.
  • Prioritize features: Now, it’s a time for you to prioritize the roadmap based on the organizational strategy/initiatives, resource availability, funds, customer feedback, competitor analysis and market trends.
  • Communicate & regularly update roadmap: Communication and transparency are essential to building great products. They’re also a must for keeping entire organizations aligned with your strategy. Don’t forget to update it regularly, which makes it transparent, and people working on it gets excited and feels motivated.

We will also talk about the components needed to build the product roadmap, below is the list:

Products/Service/Department: This is the primary driver to build the roadmap.

  • A product can be a software, service, idea, method, or information that satisfies a need or a want. It has a combination of tangible and intangible attributes (benefits, features, functions, uses) that a seller offers a buyer for purchase.

Goals: This you get after defining product strategy.

  • Goals are measurable, time-bound objectives that have clearly defined success metrics associated with them. They are included in a product roadmap to show the critical accomplishments required to make the product vision a reality.

Initiatives: This is part of a strategy but little detail about the efforts required.

  • Strategic initiatives represent high-level efforts or big themes of work that need to be completed to achieve the goals. You can overlay initiatives in a roadmap to show how specific releases and features relate to the strategy.

Releases: Milestone you are identifying and setting to achieve goals defined above.

  • A release is typically the launch of new functionality for a product that provides value to customers. Versions often contain epics or multiple features that get delivered at the same time.

Epics: A way to identify and define tremendous stories.

  • An epic is a significant user story that cannot get delivered as defined within a single release. It is often broken down into small features or user stories that can get read incrementally.

Features: This is considered as a value delivered to the user.

  • A feature represents new or improved functionality that delivers value to users. Features provide more detailed information about new functionality.

User stories: End-user perspective.

  • A user story defines a new software feature from an end-user perspective, including what the user wants and why. You can use the words “features” and “user stories” interchangeably.

Time: Timescale and duration.

  • Product roadmaps typically include dates to show when new products and updates to existing ones will be completed and released. The time scale used depends on the level of detail required and can range from days and weeks to months, quarters, and sometimes even years.

Status: Indicators to show a team’s progress against the plan.

  • Product roadmaps are even more useful when they clearly explain how the team is progressing against planned work. Status indicators for goals, initiatives, releases, epics, and features are a great way to highlight the current state of a plan.

Always remember, there are different types of product roadmaps. Each has its style and set of components, and product roadmap should always adhere to defined methods when presenting to different kind of audiences. Now you would wonder which one you should prepare for your product. Well, the answer is as a Product Manager, your responsibility is to create releases and features roadmap mostly. Nevertheless, we will go through all of them below:

  • Portfolio Roadmap
  • Strategy Roadmap
  • Releases Roadmap
  • Features Roadmap

Portfolio Roadmap: This roadmap is created at the portfolio level to show the up-coming projects for multiple products usually created by multiple Product Owners to explain the strategic overview of your plan to executive and advisory boards.

Strategy Roadmap: A strategy roadmap represents your strategic product initiatives. They are great for displaying the high-level efforts that you need to complete to achieve your goals. Use them when you need to present your planned actions to executives and other stakeholders and to provide progress updates.

Releases Roadmap: A releases roadmap is used to plan your product releases. They are perfect for displaying the key activities, such as phases and tasks that need to happen to bring your release to market. They are also great for communicating the delivery of critical features. Use them when you need to coordinate release activities with other teams, such as marketing, sales, and customer support.

Features Roadmap: A features roadmap shows the timeline for delivering new features. They are great for displaying the features of strategic importance that will be completed in the next three to four months. They are useful when you need to provide more details about what is coming to internal teams, such as marketing, sales, and customer support

Thanks for reading till the end. Remember that companies have their pre-defined names and components for creating these roadmaps. Find out how it’s done in your organization and what’s the expectation from you as a Product Manager/Product Owner. If there is nothing pre-defined, then you could also follow the format explained in this blog and build a product roadmap for your product and then list out the challenges you have come across in the comments below, and we can have a discussion. I will e-meet you again in my next blog!

Further reading:

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Shruti Dwivedi

Data Product Manager. Building products that are capable of solving the customer’s problem. Customer obsession & ownership are the two principles that I believe