Explaining Product Roadmaps to a 5y/o
This question was recently posed to a group of product managers. I took a stab at the answer and thought I’d share it here too:
Building a Product Roadmap is like walking across a park.
For a 5y/o to walk across a park:
- First, pick a direction that you want to go in (and how you’ll know when you get there).
- Then have a rough idea of the route you want to take. [eg. use the path around the pond.]
- Work out the first step on that route [avoiding the lamp pole in front of you.]
- Start walking, but be sure to constantly check your surroundings for dangers [like cars or bicycles] as things change.
- Every now and then check you’re still on track to your destination and heading in the right direction. [from step 1]
“Great,” I hear you say, “but what does that have to do with roadmaps?” Well, you take the same approach with them — it’s just that the language changes.
Building a Product Roadmap for you:
- Get clear on the business strategy. You need to align on that first.
- Then work out the high-level objectives you’ll need to get there. [Are we building a marketplace, an app, API, or a feature?] You might need to run interviews and experiments to identify these. Focus on customer problems but don’t go into actual features.
- Starting with the most important objective or customer problem, identify a short-term plan on what you’ll do to solve that first. [like an MVP]
- Focus on outcomes and adapt what the outputs could be along the way as you learn new things. [KPIs to measure progress towards the outcomes.] Adjust and refine the scope as needed.
- Product roadmaps are flexible strategy documents used to align teams. You need to review them periodically against your business strategy to check you’re on track — and adjust as needed.
Happy walking! (and don’t forget to feed the ducks!)