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Product Roadmaps: what we have learned

Roadmaps are the perfect tool to plan and model how your product assets will develop over time. They are a critical tool for perfecting the understanding of your product portfolio and providing a mechanism for easy consumption by customers, partners and probably most critically your own staff.

In designing the Roadmap feature for our up-coming product management tool Uberito, we have taken a different approach to our competitors. We surveyed a number of Product Managers and Engineers; from this, we created some best practices we are building into our Roadmap feature:

 

    1. Roadmaps showing many different perspectives are great, but they have to be simple.  We have seen examples of chaotic roadmaps with many perspectives (such as new features, enhanced features, market entries, etc.). They are rich and communicate a lot of important data, but difficult to quickly understand.  In Uberito, all Roadmap entries are categorized – so depending on the viewer, any piece of data can be aggregated, hidden or emphasized.

     

      1. Roadmaps are never developed in isolation and the implications of a product portfolio have to be considered.Many product organizations have complex team structures, and a change to one product or service may affect others. In Uberito, we have developed a facility to show the implications from a product roadmap to the associated product categories, product families or markets. This way, all implications and opportunities within a network of dependent products can be understood and any conflicts identified.

       

        1. The past can be as important as future plans when building and communicating roadmaps. There are times where you want to know if/when a feature or product was introduced to the market or the events in a products lifecycle. We have built an innovative time-machine feature to pivot around the time dimension to provide this insight in Uberito.

         

          1. Roadmaps should be beautiful and easily understood without further manipulation.  Uberito’s Roadmap feature can be shown on an iPad directly to a client without the usual copy/paste, Photoshop or PowerPoint! In fact, if the customer makes a comment on the roadmap, this can be sent directly to the roadmap owner!

           

            1. There has to be an unified roadmap for your product but the diverse roles in the typical company will naturally want to see their own view. For example, Engineering, Branding, Product Management and senior management all require a distinctly different view of the same master roadmap. Without the unified view that Uberito will provide, there is a risk that separate roadmaps are produced by the departments and will never unify!

             

              1. The Roadmap should foster collaboration between teams. The uberito design principle is simple – any changes to the Roadmap should be immediately available to all viewers (as if being worked on by whiteboard).

               

                1. Non-product information is important to the roadmap, for example, ideas, identified problems and their solutions should all be placed onto the roadmap. Maybe this will not be displayed to clients or management, but are an important aid to the Product Manager to make sure client problems are being solved!

                 

                1. An articulation of business benefit and client value contributed to the client is important to the product roadmap process and should form a part of the roadmap.

                Roadmapping features will be Generally Available in Release 1 of uberito.com due 24 June 2013