Software Product Roadmaps

Understanding the importance of Software Product Roadmaps
Understanding the importance of Software Product Roadmaps

Software Product Roadmaps: What Books Won't Tell You.

In this group of articles, The Product Manager’s Toolbox dives deep into the dark art of building software product roadmaps from a number of perspectives by working through the development of actual software roadmaps. Have spent the last 15 years in field of software product management, the quote below really sums up the challenge faced by product managers

You can do anything, but you can't do everything

- David Allen
I could safely say that product roadmaps are all about controlling organizational chaos by managing stakeholders in order to achieve your objectives as a product manager, but this would sell the role of product roadmaps short. The interesting thing about product roadmaps is that they have different objectives, depending on your role in the product management process. While the textbook response about the over arching goal in developing a product roadmap is something along the lines of:

Clearly articulate where you’re headed, and to show your strategy to your stakeholders in a compelling way.

- Some Stupid Product Management Book

This oversimplified statements adds to the misconception facing product roadmaps and their creation.  While from a textbook perspective, roadmaps are said to be used for:

  • Helping employees understand what projects they are working on next
  • Managing senior management
  • Talking with investors
  • Engaging with external vendors

More oversimplified ,textbook themed definitions of product roadmaps claim they are best viewed as a series of living documents outlining the organization’s:

  • Current product offering(s)
  • What the organization plans to do with its products in the short term
    • Short term being 3 to 6 months for most software
    • 6 to 12 months for large software projects
    • 12 to 18 months for hardware
  • What the plans the organization has for its product in the longer term.

Leaving the conversation at this level of understanding belies the true nature of roadmaps. From the perspective of an intermediate to senior product manager, the purpose of a product roadmap is simply:

To control organizational chaos by managing stakeholders in order to achieve your objectives

- Any Experienced Product Manager

We will dive into a deeper understanding of the purpose of product roadmaps in our article, The Product Roadmap Process.

As the product roadmap process is sublime and iterative, it presents product managers with the opportunity to set the tone for the overall direction of an organization or operational unit, even if not directly involved in crafting strategy and vision. This is because the product roadmap is the lens through which time constrained senior stakeholders monitor and manage product development, so whoever maintains the roadmap controls the information flow to stakeholders, as executives rely on product roadmapping in both strategic planning and stakeholder communications.  So even if you do not have a seat at the official executive table, when you control the product roadmap, you actually have the keys to the kingdom when it comes to shaping strategy, you just need to be aware of this fact. With all of that said, the goal of this article series  on software product roadmaps is threefold:

  • Teach you how the purpose of software product roadmaps changes within an organization, depending on your interests within an organization.
  • Enlighten you to fact that the product roadmap is actually a series of documents, each crafted for a specific audience.
  • Show you the actual mechanics putting software product roadmaps together, with live examples from product road mapping tools currently available on the market, allowing you to see the strengths and weakness of all the platforms on the market. 


As always, we will throw in the disclaimer that we do earn commissions from some/all of the products we discuss on the site, but those commissions do not influence our review/opinions.  If we think a product is crap, we will still link to it, but we will tell you exactly why we would not use, but feel free to disagree with us.   It’s your career or project to sink, not mine 🙂

Diving Deep Into Product Roadmaps

Given both the importance and misconceptions surrounding product roadmaps, The Product Manager’s Toolbox dedicated a series of articles to the top that cover just about every aspect of product roadmaps you can imagine and even some that you couldn’t. These articles include:

The Product Roadmap Process:  Beyond demonstrating to you how integral the product roadmap is to the essence of job of software product management, we will talk about the dark arts and dirty secrets of roadmap building.

Product Roadmap and Corporate Strategy: We’ll discuss the importance of product vision and goals, and how these tie back to the roadmap.

Planning and Prioritizing Items on the Product Roadmap: We’ll give you several practical approaches to as to how to prioritize features for your product roadmap as well as provide you with software development roadmap examples and insight about popular roadmap styles

Tools for Building The Product Roadmap:Tips, examples and guidance on selecting the best product roadmap tools to build your product’s roadmap.

Communicating The Product Roadmap: Learn to how to use your product roadmap as a communication tool.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you: 

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