The Roadmap – a highway to heaven or hell?

Big Pond

First off, Little Pond, thanks for the great round-up in our last post on the 0260 Entrepreneurship Conference.  I personally appreciated the time off from writing a post but, most importantly, there was some really great insight and practical advice, even for those of us currently in the Big Pond.  I particularly liked the key points from Albert Wenger’s discussion on “How to Avoid Failure” which brings me to today’s topic – The Roadmap (click here for a detailed explanation of a product roadmap from the Woodside Fund, an early stage VC).

In the Big Pond, the product roadmap is a vital tool for charting your product’s course.  Whether your “product” is a widget that you’re selling to external customers or an internally facing tool, process, or function it helps to have a vision for where you’re going and a communication vehicle for communicating that vision.

I typically like to show a roadmap as a high-level 3-5 year view.  In order to be effective, it must have sufficient detail to be informative (i.e., which customers or features are impacted and what will the changes be) but not so detailed that it implies you know exactly what will happen over the next five years.  Your roadmap should be seen as more of a general guide, not a definitive plan that you’ve locked yourself into.  Below is a sample roadmap that I’ve recently developed.  Obviously, I’ve changed the details to protect the innocent.

This brings up an interesting issue that I’ve seen with product roadmaps where an organization or team fails to question the roadmap that was created two years ago even if the situation on the ground has evolved.  If a roadmap isn’t intended to be set in stone, how do you ensure the team doesn’t continue to march against it even when changes are needed?

So readers, what are your thoughts on managing a roadmap?  How often do you re-evaluate?  What do you do when a change in approach is needed?   Anyone have good examples of a company that clearly re-evaluates and pivots quickly or one that fails to and misses the mark?

And Little Ponder’s:  Is any of the above different from your viewpoint?  Does the Little Pond have a different reality as 3-5 year product roadmaps go?

  • Great post.

    A roadmap needs to be constantly evaluated and evolved to meet the ever-changing industry, competitors, opportunities and customers surrounding the company - reality is that whether you know it or not, you're evaluating your roadmap daily. The roadmap is a guidance/vision tool that should be easily be adjusted every month or two. I highly recommend keeping a historical record of all times, the past can tell you a little about your progress and serve as a reminder of your original objectives.

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