A step-by-step guide on how to creating a product roadmap

A step-by-step guide on how to create a product roadmap. If you’re on a road trip and want to get to your destination on schedule and without wasting gas, you need a road map. The same goes for your product. Instead of a single car driving down a lonely highway, you’re driving a group of bikes, motorcycles, and trucks across the map.

This is why the product roadmap is the backbone of any large development team. It’s the only source that tells everyone from engineers to stakeholders where you’re going and why you’re going there.

An effective product roadmap is not a static document, but a living guide that brings together the vision, business goals, day-to-day tasks, and even the industry landscape. Without a program that is effective, realistic, and constantly updated, you are sure to be lost.

This guide focuses primarily on developing a roadmap for engineering teams. However, you can use the same process for a lead roadmap, sales roadmap, IT roadmap, or even an external customer roadmap with some slight modifications.

What is the product roadmap?

What is the product roadmap
What is the product roadmap

A product roadmap is a visual representation of your short-term and long-term priorities as a company that helps you plan, build consensus, and communicate high-level decisions. It’s the next logical step in turning your product vision and strategy into actionable projects and tasks that your team can work on every day.

You definitely shouldn’t be thinking about your roadmap until you have a solid strategy in hand. Your top-level planning hierarchy should look something like this:

  • Mission: What are you trying to achieve?
  • Vision: What will the world look like when you achieve it?
  • Strategy: How will you achieve your vision?
  • Goals: How will you measure your progress toward them?
  • Roadmap: What do you need to build to get there?
  • Tasks: What can you do today to move forward?

A product roadmap describes what you’re building and why you’re building it (i.e., your strategic vision). This communication helps align teams toward a central goal and shows how a product may change and grow over time.

How to create a product roadmap in 9 steps

As you create your roadmap, break the process down into:

  • Inception phase: This is where you do research and build context around the product you’re building.
  • Planning phase: This is where you decide on desired outcomes, identify problems to solve, and prioritize relevant features.
  • Execution phase: This is where you break down large epics into valid tasks, balance short-term and long-term goals, and present your roadmap to stakeholders and the rest of your team.
  • Continuous monitoring phase: This is where you measure success and update your roadmap as needed.

1- Start with research and background building

The product roadmap serves two purposes. First, these maps outline your goals and priorities. Next, they support your plan across the company.

To start, think about the audience of your roadmap. Your engineering team’s internal roadmap will focus on different elements of the roadmap designed for executives. Who looks at this artifact and what do they expect? Finally, when you present your roadmap, it pays to have a well-defined audience.

Next, think about the current state of your company.

A product roadmap will mature and change as your company grows. The product roadmap for a startup building an MVP is very different from a more mature company that has introduced multiple products to different markets.

2- Decide on the desired result(s) based on business needs

A product roadmap is results-based planning, especially for agile teams. This means they focus on the change you want to achieve to advance your overall strategy. The features or products you build are just a means to an end.

Gather a few teammates and key stakeholders and share a few critical elements:

  • Desired Outcome: What is the business need you are trying to solve? For example, “To become the number one retailer of iPhone cases in North America.”
  • Measures of effectiveness: What measures show that you are solving a problem in the best possible way? For example, increase revenue by 15% or change the average order size to 3 items per customer.
  • Behavior change: What user behaviors need to change to achieve your goals? For example, you can increase revenue by focusing on top users or upselling to existing users, or even focusing on reactivating lost customers.

3- Find the right problems to solve

Now, it’s time to look at the current state of your product and how to change user behaviors to get closer to your desired outcome.

There are several places to identify problems that are relevant to your desired results:

  • Customer feedback: User interviews are the best way to discover user problems. However, if you can’t talk to customers directly or want more data sources, seek feedback from sales, marketing, and customer support.
  • Product Backlog: You’ve probably already identified a large list of tasks, issues, and problems. As you look for issues, revise and update user stories in your backlog. For each, ask if they provide value, are owned, and still fit into your overall product strategy.
  • Usage data: Customers don’t always tell you what they want. Instead, look at how they use your product to find problems, roadblocks, and friction points that you can potentially solve.
  • Competitor/Market Analysis: You want your product to be a market leader, not a follower. However, it’s still important to monitor what problems your competitors are solving or how the market is evolving.

4- Set a time frame

A road map needs a destination. Set an approximate yet realistic time frame based on your desired outcome and the problems you’ve identified.

Are these problems with seemingly quick fixes that you can test in a few months? Or are you committed to major strategic changes that may take years to fully implement?

Remember, change takes time. However, the product roadmap should show progress early on, so you’re not committed to blindly following results for years.

5. Organize problems into high-level themes

At this point, you should have something like an inverted funnel that goes from a specific desired outcome to a few impact metrics, and then a big list of problems to solve (and possibly some existing backlog items that fit).

Desired outcomes (based on business needs) → Impact metrics (to track success) → Problems to be solved (that change user behaviors)

It will be a little messy. However, it’s important to visualize this flow from the goal to the potential solution (and see how many different paths lead to the same outcome).

Look at the list of problems and try to identify general themes that link them together.

For example, if you want to grow your iPhone case business, your list of problems to solve might include:

  • Ask users to sign up for the newsletter
  • Increase repeat purchases
  • Ask past users for feedback
  • Increase the average order size

A number of these problems all fall under the heading of “customer loyalty”.

You’ll likely come across a number of them, but resist the urge to put them in any sort of order. Instead, just use them to organize your issues and backlog.

6- Prioritize features and themes in apps

Now, it’s time to sort things out.

A roadmap is a prioritization exercise. You will have different paths that you can take to reach your desired result. However, it is up to you to decide which one to choose.

Prioritization is an art in itself. However, there are a few common practices you can use to get started:

  • Feasibility, desirability, and viability: Judge features based on their technical feasibility (feasibility). Do your customers want them (desirability); And do they support your overall product strategy (sustainability)?
  • Effort/Cost and Impact Scale: This prioritization method is a simple 2×2 grid where you rate features based on how much impact they will have based on their effort. The goal is to look for features with high impact and low cost/effort.
  • RICE method: This method goes a little deeper by judging a feature in several categories. First, how many people does it affect in a given period? How much will it affect your strategy and goals (on a scale of 1-3)? How confident are you that it will be successful (out of 100)? And how much time will it require from the product, design, and engineering teams? Multiply each number together and you end up with a “total impact per time worked” metric.

7- Set quarterly OKRs to measure the success of your programs

Now that you have a list of the most relevant themes and features, it’s time to organize them in some way.

Even as an agile team, it’s good to make long-term guesses to build your roadmap around.

However, moving from high-level applications and priority features to day-to-day tasks is where most product roadmaps fall apart. However, the ultimate goal of any roadmap is to make sure what you’re doing today is connected to where you want to be in the future.

The best way to keep your daily task list connected to your overall product strategy is to use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

OKRs are a goal-setting strategy that consists of two parts:

  • Conclusion: This is what you want to achieve. For example, this might be completing a feature or progressing toward your desired outcome.
  • Key Results: This is how you want to measure the success of your work.
    Think of OKRs as a roadside marker on your journey – it tells you where you are and how far you’ve come.

A quarterly OKR for our iPhone case company might look like this:

“We will increase customer loyalty with repeat purchases and monthly newsletter subscriptions.”

8- Transfer your roadmap to software to keep it flexible and agile

Congratulations! You’ve now gathered almost everything you need to present your product roadmap. But let’s go a step further.

A roadmap builds trust between you and the development team. But that only happens if everyone has access to it.

A project management tool is the ultimate source of truth for your product roadmap, strategy, and velocity. This way everything will be connected and available. For example, you can move your sprint tasks to a simple Kanban board to give everyone a high-level view of what’s being worked on and how it connects to your overall roadmap.

9- Check and coordinate your road map with other internal teams

Creating a product roadmap requires deep analysis, consideration, and compromise. Try to collaborate with other teams and stakeholders early in the process to get their feedback. Questions like:

  • What do you think are the most urgent problems? Why do you feel that way?
  • What industry trends do you see that you think we should be aware of?
  • What do you think will happen if we don’t act on this feedback or build this feature?

Keep conversations short and to the point, but try to have them regularly. Remember, roadmap alignment is an ongoing process.


A roadmap is a powerful tool, but the real world rarely works out according to our plans.

Instead, the product roadmap should be flexible and future-proof, but firm in the present. Start with a business need, identify problems to solve, and then map them into a clear and actionable product roadmap so your entire company has the guidance it needs to move toward your goals.

Check Also:

What is the precedence diagram method (PDM) and how is it used in project management?

What is the principle of the pyramid and how does it help us in the presentation?

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