Left and Right

 

Product roadmaps are a tool used to visually present a business strategy. Roadmaps serve multiple goals. The goals of roadmap development generally are varied, including not only the ultimate roadmap itself but also the journey to develop the roadmap.  Typical goals include:

  • Describing the vision and strategy visually.  According to Pearson Prentice Hall, 65% of people are visual learners.  A roadmap provides a powerful tool to connect with an audience.
  • Provide a guiding document for executing the strategy. A strategy is often visionary, the roadmap provides a path for action that moves past motivating words into tangible actions.
  • Get internal stakeholders in alignment. My four-year-old grandson’s favorite word is why.  Frankly, it is contagious.  A roadmap allows members of an organization to determine whether what they are working on fits into the big picture.  The roadmap helps to answer “why.”
  • Facilitating the discussion of options and scenario planning.  The journey to an initial roadmap and the process for maintaining the roadmap (a roadmap is not a destination) provides a process and an environment to discuss and evaluate how an organization is going to pursue its strategies to reach its goals.
  • Communication vehicle to external stakeholders, including customers. This is a classic use of roadmaps. Tuned for marketing, roadmaps are often invaluable for generating feedback as well locking in customers.

The myriad of goals that roadmaps can address implies that there are a number of different types of roadmaps.  Three different types of roadmaps are typical.

  1. Product/Business roadmaps are the classic version that provides the visualization of features and services required to deliver on a set of goal(s) and strategy.  The primary audiences for a product/business roadmap include executives (at a high level) and middle management (at a more granular level).
  2. Marketing roadmaps are typically an external communication vehicle predominately used for firms to communicate with customers outside the firm.  Note: I have seen teams serving internal customer bases develop marketing roadmaps.  The primary audiences for a marketing roadmap include sales, marketing, and customers.      
  3. IT roadmaps generally represent the planned evolution of one or more of the architectures stewarded by IT.  Architectures exist (whether documented or not) for information, systems, technology to name a few.  All of the IT architectures function within the business architecture and should enable the business’s strategy and goal.  IT roadmaps tend to follow the same audience pattern as product/business roadmaps with the exception that the level of detail sometimes is driven down to the sprint level (bad choice).  Remember that roadmaps are not plans!

The granularity of any roadmap is driven by what the tool is being used to communicate and, to some extent, hubris.  High-level product/business roadmaps tend to include high-level strategic initiatives the specifics of which fade the farther in the future the roadmap peers into the future.  Specificity in the future is a form of hubris.  Granularity can spin down into releases by period, specific features and in some cases maintenance and bug fixes (enter hubris again).

Roadmaps can serve many masters and answer many questions however there is not a one size fits all solution.

We will next tackle a suggested hierarchy of roadmaps in a typical corporate setting

 

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