The Official Blog of Cogmap, the Org Chart Wiki



Product Management Roadmaps, Example and Discussion

Plan Cannot Fail

When I google “Examples of Product Management Roadmaps”, the answers are all nonsense. This blog post is expected to serve as a better #1 result.

My most popular blog posts are the long-form posts where I explain to people how they should do things. In that vein, I am desiring to start a new series of posts on Product Management. My first post is intended to answer the following question: As a product manager, when someone asks me for a product roadmap, what should I give them?

First, as with virtually all of my blog posts, I have some caveats:

  • All of the businesses I like to join are growing at more than 30% YoY. That means that multi-year time horizons are ridiculous. 6 months is the firm plan, 1 year is the strategic plan, 2 years is the vision. Many people think a roadmap is 3-5 years. I am unsure what industry I will be working in 5 years from now. So I don’t do that.
  • Different people mean different things when they say roadmap. Sometimes they are asking you to lay out a market driven vision for the company. To me, that means something else – it is usually more closely related to the fund-raising deck. In this discussion, the best situational case is that a customer (internal or external) wants to “know where the product is going”. Telling them about market demand or customer research is only tangentially important – they want to know what you are doing for them and when, not so much why, except in-so-far as it justifies or de-justifies projects related to them.
  • Of course, it is all software, generally enterprise. With consumers or non-software, your mileage may vary. Although it seems on-face relevant.

This is not a caveat in the same sense, but it is an important point: Product Roadmap decks for external customers are different than roadmaps for internal customers. Typically, I will lag product commitments externally by one quarter (The only things they are getting this quarter are things that are already code complete/in-testing/being rolled out). Also, you probably want to filter out roadmap activities that are not contextually appropriate for the client or are confidential.

Finally, the document I am sharing is based heavily (100%, basically) on Ian McAllister’s concept for Product Roadmaps on Quora. Frankly, my contribution is producing an actual reference deck.

So I have attached an example (fictional!) product roadmap for Cogmap to give you a sense of how I organize it.

Download an example product roadmap now!

This deck has both examples and comments in red. Plain red comments are straight commentary from Ian’s Quora post. Bold red comments are my additional opinions.

Powerpoint is the best format, of course, because it may need to be injected into other content.

This deck is also designed to be easy for me to refresh. This usually gets refreshed quarterly.

This is not the end-all, be-all of product roadmaps, but I want to improve the discourse in this area, so this is my contribution.

One Response to “Product Management Roadmaps, Example and Discussion”

  1. Drew Says:

    Great stuff, Brent! Your article is right on the money, starting with the first sentence. I’ve been struggling to find decent roadmap templates online for weeks, let alone good advice on how to position them appropriately. I especially like the point about telling your audience what’s NOT in scope, because despite all of the caveats and asterisks one can attach to a roadmap diagram, the perception is still always the same in some sense: “these deliverables will get done by the timeframes indicated.” Two-year roadmaps especially frighten me for that reason.