Need to manage and share the development of a product? Product roadmaps are tools used to map out your plan of action for new or existing products. They work as a source of truth document to outline the direction, priorities, progress and vision of a product over time.
Our Product Roadmap collection provides customizable resource slides that you can download and customize for any business need. It includes slides for product evolution roadmaps, now-next-later roadmaps, agile roadmaps, release roadmaps, product metrics, plus many more. Let's review how these tools work, and how each one contributes to the successful creation and implementation of any product.
A good roadmap will show stakeholders the strategic direction planned for a product. A "Product Evolution" is the journey any product takes to better serve the customers' needs.
This slide shows a product's journey: starting with the minimum viable product, which is the bare minimum, with just the features the product needs to be usable. Next, the core product adds a few more features, and then the full-scale product has all the bells and whistles that the product should eventually include. It's basically the end goal. A product evolution canvas visualizes the products of different competitors to quickly compare them. On the right side, there's space to make note of the key takeaways of each product for analysis. The timeline shows how the appearance of products changes over time. Then, add some images or concept art of what the products look like.
Every product we know has been re-imagined and updated multiple times as it's evolved. For example, at the beginning of 2022, the automaker Tesla updated its product roadmap to highlight how its full self-driving vehicle AI would be used to develop an AI robot called the Tesla bot. And sure enough, at its most recent AI day, the company released a live demo of the bot, showing the product evolution from a chip in Tesla cars to a robot that can deliver packages.
Even when developing a new product, it's important to have a vision for how it will change over time. It will also be easier to get buy-in from executives and make sure that everyone works towards a common goal. (Slide 3)
Without a product roadmap, it's easy for products to get overly complicated and for resources to get wasted. Some companies do roadmaps really well, like how entertainment companies such as Marvel will broadcast its Marvel Cinematic Universe roadmap years into the future.
Sometimes, roadmaps can devolve into cluttered release calendars with way too many dates. The Now-Next-Later framework is a great way to get around that. Instead of specific dates, Now-Next-Later focuses on periods of time, which allows for more flexibility to easily reorganize strategic points without having to rewrite a whole roadmap from scratch. For example, Marvel will typically broadcast release dates two to three years out, but once films get further out, the exact titles that go with those dates remain to be slotted. This is by design.
Here's how you can communicate priorities over a broad time frame with Now-Next-Later: Release 1.0 is the NOW, and it represents the minimum viable product, while Release 1.1 is the NEXT version of the product with more added benefits. LATER are the product versions down the line with even more added benefits. Those versions are the destination at the end of the roads.
During product development, nothing is set in stone, so it's important to remain flexible and agile. That's where the Agile roadmap comes in. Agile is the industry standard for product development nowadays. Instead of being "date" or "feature" driven, an Agile roadmap is centered around objectives and goals. These goals are organized into and developed during short periods of work, known as sprints. Working in sprints gives teams a little more room for experimentation than a traditional roadmap. That sense of freedom can often lead a team that outperforms expectations.
On the left side, different teams are listed alongside their most important tasks to envision which tasks each is responsible for and how they will collaborate. An alternate agile roadmap offers a more detailed timeline, more functions, and space for a project summary at the bottom that acts as a mini project charter to quickly inform teams of what's important. Progress bars can be color-coded so users can easily distinguish priority or risk levels.
While the agile and product evolution roadmaps are more strategy-oriented and exploratory, sometimes a more practical roadmap focused on execution is needed. That's where the release roadmap comes in. Release roadmaps are about coordinating the launch of what has already been built.
For a more visual-friendly way to showcase a release schedule, this slide zooms in on one release cycle and highlights the exact updates and features that will be built on an upcoming release. Each task has its own progress bar, and team member assigned to it with various development areas listed on the left. Once all the tasks are in the completed column, the product is ready to release.
As roadmaps are one of the few things that everyone in the organization will see, they provide a glimpse into why decisions are made and where a product and organization is headed. Ideally, all the items on the roadmap should move the organization's key metrics in a positive direction.
When there is a measurable outcome attached to a new product instead of just an abstract idea, it's a lot easier to gain support. These metrics might be user growth, or user retention, or time-on-app, or referral rate. With a product metrics timeline, track whichever of those metrics are most important over time, then continually cross-reference against the roadmap to make sure everything's going according to plan.
Teams should always weigh the benefits of short wins versus progress on long-term goals. A good product roadmap will combine both. When developing multiple products, it's important to stay aligned on roadmap style, visuals, and color coding, so a premade product roadmap framework like ours will make that a lot easier.