A product roadmap is a graphic or document that shows how the product will evolve in the near future. This document will showcase what features will be included or removed from the product. Note, that I don’t mention application but product because the product could be composed of several applications or an application could contain several products. It really depends on the context. For example, A messaging application could be composed of several applications like one for Android, one for iOS, and the web version. The same applies that an application like Microsoft Word might be composed of several products like every tap and ribbon could separate products maintained by different teams.
The roadmap informs all stakeholders of the status of the product and what they should expect in the next months in terms of releases. Of course, this is a living document, and feedback from the users or reacting to the market might change the product roadmap.
There is no one format considered a standard and each company or product might use a particular format depending on the audience. For example, for the product team, you could use just a TODO list or a complex version including the user stories for each sprint while for stakeholders or product sponsors, you would be using a more graphic approach so the communication is clear.
The product roadmap comes to fruition after the vision and strategy are set and user research on the product is performed. Everything in the roadmap should be aligned to the business goals and should list the features or epics that are feasible. It is important to be careful with roadmaps because the features listed are a guide and should be included only if they are aligned to the business. Just adding items to the roadmap in order to fill it with features is not going to provide guidance and communication to the product team or to the stakeholders. Honesty, research, and flexibility are necessary for a product roadmap.
Should the product roadmap be public?
In short, No. I don’t think that it should be public because it creates false expectations for the users. Software development is complicated and a feature might be delayed even in Agile environments. So, the users will be down for disappointment if the features are not completed by the time listed on the Product Roadmap. Also, it gives the product little flexibility to adapt to change if the users are expecting those features. For instance, Xinja had a public Product Roadmap which allow them to be more transparent to the public. However, Xinja had to close the document to the public because they were setting expectations while failing to deliver.
Tools and Templates
These are some of the tools that can help you create a product roadmap and have a free version:
Also, you can also search for PowerPoint templates or create your roadmaps in Excel. It is up to you to decide what route and budget you have to invest into the tools.
In conclusion, the Product Roadmap is a document that aligns with the vision of the company and lists the features and evolution of the product in the future. It is necessary to have a Product Roadmap because it allows everybody to be on the same page and share the same vision.