What mistakes are you making when it comes to roadmapping?

Roadmapping is the strategic process where a roadmap is created. The roadmap contains both market, business and technical development over time. A roadmap is a powerful strategy communications tool.

Implementing Roadmapping as a key strategic process under product management control is a great way to:

  • Align the entire organization including Technology and Channel Partners in the Ecosystem,
  • Orchestrate Development as well as Sales & Marketing to implement the Product Strategy

But there are a few mistakes you could avoid during this phase:

Build your wish-list from a R&D perspective

Roadmapping is a two front war for product management. On one hand you want to utilize available development resources in the best possible way. On the other you would like to drive business goals in revenue creation building market share.

Most product managers start building a “wish-list” to be aligned with R&D to arrive at a reasonably realistic release plan. Later – this plan is checked with sales to make sure new products and services would support reaching business goals.

A few do it the other way around – starting with setting business goals with management and sales organizations. Then – creating the new offerings that would be required to accomplish that business.

Forget to adapt your Roadmap for distribution

Many companies use Excel® tools to create roadmaps. Easy to use and more detailed than PowerPoint®. There are indeed some new software tools (such as Aha!) – but they are primarily developed for pure SW SaaS offerings. For those products such a tool can be of great use since there are often daily or at least weekly updates on content. There are also great agile collaboration tools to use – such as Favro. They can certainly support the Roadmapping process in particular in distributed teams.

But the final Roadmap for distribution to the entire organization (in particular sales and marketing) would be a PowerPoint® style document.

A small (but important) tip: do NOT put “Date created” on the document. Rather use “Best before” – maybe written as “Valid until Sept 2017”. This is one way of not having old obsolete Roadmaps reaching customers.

And do not forget that the Roadmap for marketing might be organized per target Persona/target application – rather than your (internal) product line setup.

Do not make regular updates

One key challenge with Roadmapping is to always keep it up-to-date. Working with the cycle “Insights” => “Strategies” => “Roadmapping” => Product plan. If the environment is shifting (e.g. market development, available budget, company direction) the Roadmap has to be updated.

Many global organization only follow this cycle once/year – which typically leads to outdated plans at the end of the cycle. In a few cases I have seen companies succeeding to follow the cycle once/quarter.

To have a real impact this means you will also need a possibility to update the budget (for R&D but also marketing and sales) on a regular basis (e.g. quarterly).

At the other end “Agile start-up” sometimes state “We don’t need roadmaps – we’re agile you know”. When growing up these companies often struggle to align the entire organization. True company agility requires continuous alignment – the Roadmap might be the best possible tool!

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Let’s finish with a concrete example. In a company where I was vP of Product management we had a quarterly process looking something like this:

  • Week 1-6: Product management spending time on Creating Insights (product analysis, seeing customers, competitor studies etc)
  • Week 7: R&D department presenting their proposal for the Technology Roadmap
  • Week 8: Marketing department presenting their proposal for the Market Launch Roadmap
  • Week 9-10: Workshops with R&D / Marketing to align ideas
  • Week 11: Product management workshop to create the Proposal
  • Week 12: Presentation of Roadmap alternatives (basic + possible options)
  • Week 13: Board decision on budget and Roadmap approval

The approved Roadmap would include Tech development, Product development and Launch plans for the coming 2 years. It would also have a Product plan section including estimated sales volumes and margins.


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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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