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The Power of Visual Product Roadmaps: Why Every Product Manager Needs One


An engaging, visual Product Roadmap is a great way to show the planned progression from a good idea to a great product. It makes communication easy, showing evidence of a convincing business case and technology choices.  

Product Managers need to operate dynamically in shifting landscapes. Technologies, teams, and the business terrain can all change suddenly, such that both risk and new business opportunities emerge unexpectedly.

To keep up, organizations need to update and communicate their strategy, product development and strategic roadmaps at suitable pace. Too often information is locked away in a variety of data sources, such as presentations, supporting narrative, or linear conversations - a visual roadmap is a great solution to some of these common product roadmap troubles

Product management roadmap

Building the roadmap is not so easy. To stand scrutiny, a good roadmap is more than a sequence of planned steps and features, it’s a route through the landscape that the product sits in.   

On one side, the landscape includes a myriad of consumer, market, and business demands, many of them conflicting with one another. On the other are the technologies and resources you may need – and each comes at a price, a trade-off between what you’d like and what is within reach.  

Matching the two sides of the roadmap to features that your customers will pay for and advocate means negotiating a myriad of trade-offs. Yet consumers are often not the first people to convince, the roadmap needs to be one that your team and leaders will buy-into, one which stands scrutiny but recognizes that the future is not certain.

Product goals

When you strip it down, to have a successful roadmap you need to simply improve your progression of product goals with your product roadmap. This may be by preventing delays, improving efficiencies, highlighting areas for improvement, etc. The clarity and understanding a visual product roadmap brings is vital to driving these improvements.blue-trophy-with-star-simple-graphic

Visual product roadmap

Building a visual product roadmap using a short series of facilitated workshops using an established method keeps everyone focused and contributing objectively. This co-creative approach builds and documents reasoned consensus to help with critical choices and trade-offs as well as sharing understanding between specialists.

Product roadmap narrative

A good roadmap recognizes that things may not turn out just as you understand today, expect, or visualize from afar. As well as capturing the consensus of a day, roadmap documentation and narrative can show alternative thinking which might be needed, along with risks to navigate around. This valuable “snap shot” of joined up thinking can help guide a team later in formal development.  

Rather than a product vision appearing in a “light bulb moment”, or from the desk of a Product or Project Manager, roadmapping generates joined up evidence, narrative and reasoning which can be explored, questioned, and re-configured as new sources come to light. 

Visual product roadmap benefits

The primary benefit of a visual product roadmap is being able to see the bigger picture through it's visual medium. Traditional product roadmaps don't give you much insight and this isn't aided by the fact it is done through a very linear medium - visualizing your product roadmaps makes them dynamic and brings them to life.

Communication and collaboration

A core benefit of a visual roadmapping is to visualize your product strategy, making it easier to communicate with all stakeholders. 

Communication when navigating through a product roadmap is key - it needs to be clear who is working on what, if any release is going to miss a deadline, what releases have the highest priority, if any of the releases are contingent on other goals being achieved, etc. This clarity and information provides you the overview to make the best-informed decisions possible.

Communication and collaboration graphicRoadmaps also assist the decision-making process, as managers can clearly identify gaps in the product strategy. What’s more, roadmapping helps managers arrive at a clear, shared vision of an organization’s future and an understanding of the steps needed to get there.

Sharing and visualizing your product strategy will also encourage internal transparency. Once the roadmap is visible, it may spark open conversations between stakeholders – resulting in a more collaborative organisational culture.

It’s an innovative way to align business functions with corporate strategy, keeping insight from your roadmapping workshops in focus, not locked away and lost in a static document.Roadmapping Use Case SharpCloud Story

“It’s challenging for businesses to maintain a valid plan ahead and cope with market change without too many ‘special’ strategy and planning meetings. Roadmapping workshops can kick start a whole new way of thinking.

The SharpCloud platform helps by providing multi-party communication of complex issues and supports collaboration to address shifting circumstances. By creating a digital document with living content, knowledge can be shared and explored, decisions are highlighted and the roadmap is kept alive, relevant and valuable.”

- Lawrence De’Ath, former Senior Partner, DWC

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