I failed to build the right type of roadmap multiple times. I have got it wrong with a startup of 4 and with a team of 12 product managers and 180 engineers. There are many things to get wrong, and it all starts with failing to understand the maturity of your product and the type of roadmap you need.
We have all seen what a product roadmap looks like. A bunch of features spread over a timeline with a promise to deliver them someday. If your role is a startup founder, product manager, software developer or somebody who needs to guide a team on what to build, it’s inevitable to dive into the world of roadmaps.
It’s hard to ignore the constant stream of thought leadership and know-how on how to build a roadmap. Roadmap companies are teaching you how to build the most agile, lean, aligned, detailed, and communicated roadmap connected to strategy AND execution at the same time. Timelines, milestones, releases, personas, segments, initiatives, OKRs, epics, features, stories, requirements, and checklist are all there. Ready to pivot together and deliver the most complicated visual graph you will ever produce.
But nobody is telling you when, how and why to build a roadmap.
A product roadmap communicates the direction, strategy, and tactics of your product, but building one is not easy and sometimes not needed. The definition of roadmap changes as your product matures, and you might easily mess up your product by building the wrong type of roadmap with a bunch of artifacts and details that you don’t need.
Before you build any kind of roadmap, you need to understand the maturity of your product and market.
Understand the maturity of your product first
How mature is your product? When I say “mature” I don’t mean how much time you have spent building it. You might have a product in the works for years which still is very immature and rarely used. To determine the maturity of your product, it’s best to ask the question: Who are you selling to?
Determining the type of customer to whom you are selling today is not just a good indication of the maturity of your product, but it can also reveal the maturity of your market category. And we know that nobody is bigger than the market, so it’s important to acknowledge that and be honest about it. The easiest way to do that is to look at the technology adoption lifecycle by Geoffrey Moore that goes along the lines of this.