Roadmapping the Bridge between Product Strategy and Product Planning

Making strategic goals come true

If you really want to simplify – I’d say that a product manager only has two responsibilities:
  • Define WHAT product should be developed (product planning)
  • Support introduction of the product (product marketing)

In fact – according to Tolpagorni surveys - PMs spend up to 50% of their time in handling requirements and other areas of product planning. I would be inclined to say most experienced product managers are (or should become) product planning specialists. One key activity is Roadmapping – this is where the overall strategies are visualized in real product initiatives. The bridge between the vision and reality.

Assuming there is a product strategy. You know where you want to go to support company growth and profitability. What is then the next step?

Product planning can be done in different ways.

  1. Requirements engineering 

    An obvious way is to “follow the requirements”. Maybe you have a few key customers from the past – you really want to keep them happy. In parallel you’re being more and more market driven – defining wish lists and request from an increasing number of stakeholders.

    There are hundreds of tools and methodologies to find and handle requirements ( http://makingofsoftware.com/resources/list-of-rm-tools ).

  2. Product Life Cycle Management 

    There are six key phases of the life of a product:   Conception & creation, Market introduction, growth, maturity, decline and eventually withdrawal.

    Each phase has its specific challenges and also proven methodologies for product management control.

  3. Release Planning

    Most products today are developed incrementally. Maybe you would release a MVP (minimum viable product) and then plan for regular updates.

    The art of release planning has to do not only with launch planning, market development but also resource and risk management. 

    What is the Cost-of-Delay, if a new feature is released 6 months later?

  4. Roadmap

    At last, but not least, we have roadmapping where strategy meets the dust on the road.

    This is when you need to create value for customers, to make senior management expectations materialize in plans.

    Roadmapping is not only creating a list of release dates for new offerings – it is also the process of verifying business results (revenue and Ebit) based on your new products. This is one of the key interfaces where product management is working very closely with company directors and VP’s

    We have short and long term roadmaps. The shorter ones can normally be created top-down or bottom-up.  The latter is mapping already decided feature development (maybe even commitments to customers) to relevant release dates. The top-down approach would start at the company strategy level – breaking down high level business goals (“win new business in the new target segment”) to concrete releases.

    Long term roadmapping is often best supported by scenario planning. Looking into possible disruptive market and technology changes and how you can benefit by converting strategies into product ideas.

Roadmapping is what connects product strategies with (more concrete) product planning:

  • Connecting Product Strategies to product planning
  • Product life cycle management
  • Product roadmapping
  • Product release planning
  • Product requirements engineering
  • Process management for Product planning

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About Erik Bjernulf, Profoto

Erik has extensive experience in product management, business management and development. Within the software, electronics and hardware, Erik has pursued commercial success.

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