A live roadmap is your best communication tool
As a Product Manager, a big chunk of your time is destined for communication, we can go even as far as saying that one of your main outcomes is communication.
You need to communicate the strategy across multiple teams and even departments, you also need to be accountable for the current state of your product with your stakeholders. In addition to that, you need to be clear when setting expectations with your stakeholders and upper management.
With so many touchpoints sometimes it's hard to keep all the people updated on every change we have, or on the current state of the product. Sometimes this can lead to unpleasant moments and a lack of transparency for your stakeholders when for example something can't be added to the roadmap within the current quarter.
A roadmap to rule them all
Here is when your roadmap should shine and make your life easier, your roadmap should be able to communicate:
- What are we working on right now?
- What's coming up next?
- When can I expect something to be done?
To be honest, I prefer when roadmaps also communicate "Why are we working on this right now?".
This can be achieved by adding a link between the feature or initiative with the strategic goal it's aligned with. I don't ask you to have a full explanation, but it would be great to have, at least a link to see the strategic alignment.
I would also recommend for internal purposes making clear within the roadmap the estimated portion of time dedicated by Product Folks to develop the specification, and then the portion of time that will be destinated for implementation by Engineering. If you have an estimated release date, it can also be here.
Keeping the roadmap updated
It's not rare that things don't go as planned. Implementation got delayed, specification is not ready by the date, the content was not provided, or a new initiative suddenly appeared on the road that needs to be tackled now (regarding the last one, be careful, this should be an exception and not the rule).
It's important that everyone can rely on the roadmap, so whenever a change occurs I would urge you to update it. Sometimes we don't do that, we rely on communication when something happened and we leave the roadmap forgotten after two weeks into the quarter, sometimes roadmaps don't even survive the week after it's presented to whoever was interested in it.
But in addition to updating the roadmap I would also recommend you to keep the previous version of it after any modification, this way you can work backwards in the future and analyze why the roadmap was modified, and even take great insights about bad patterns happening within your organization.
One of the most difficult things could be to make a change in an organization's culture, but sometimes it's worthy to be done. You need to teach your stakeholders, upper management, and whoever this roadmap is relevant to, to read it and rely on it.
A lot of meetings can be skipped by just reading the roadmap knowing it's fully updated, also a lot of requests and decisions can be supported by the roadmap. There you are bringing transparency on what's going on and why something can or can't be done.
It can also help your organization prepare for the future, for example, hirings for a specific period when it's visible the current capacity won't be enough to hit certain key targets.
- Roadmaps are great communication tools when used wisely
- Roadmaps should answer key questions to your stakeholders
- Roadmaps are live documents that should be updated
- It's important to build a culture where people can rely on the information in a roadmap