Woman sitting on a bench by a pond in a park.
Photo by Josephine Baran on Unsplash

Explaining Product Roadmaps to a 5y/o

“I need someone to walk me through making a Product Roadmap like I’m a 5 year old”
Seen recently in the ‘People in Product’ Slack group.

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:

  1. First, pick a direction that you want to go in (and how you’ll know when you get there).
  2. Then have a rough idea of the route you want to take. [eg. use the path around the pond.]
  3. Work out the first step on that route [avoiding the lamp pole in front of you.]
  4. Start walking, but be sure to constantly check your surroundings for dangers [like cars or bicycles] as things change.
  5. 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:

  1. Get clear on the business strategy. You need to align on that first.
  2. 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.
  3. 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]
  4. 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.
  5. 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!)

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Roger Norton

Roger Norton

Head of Product @FoundersFactoryAfrica. Previously: co-founder @Trixta & @leaniterator, CEO Playlogix.com, and wrote a book on startups: leanpub.com/starthere