Charting the Course: Steps to Produce a Winning Product Roadmap


Written by

Luke Medlock

Why do I need a product roadmap?

We’ve had the pleasure on working with clients from 10 people in size to 10,000. Jumping in half way through a product’s life cycle and helping create the plan for one at the very beginning. One thing we’ve found in all instances is that having a clear roadmap is essential for staying aligned with your vision, releasing features, and delivering value to your customers.

What is a product roadmap?

Planned out well, the product roadmap should act as a strategic guide that all team members can follow and help them navigate some of the complexities that come with designing, developing and launching successful products.

Seeing as you’re reading this, we’ll assume you’re at the planning stage, so we’ve penned the key steps involved in producing an award-winning product roadmap to help keep you ahead.

What is the product?

Before embarking on the roadmapping process, it's crucial to have a well-defined product vision - one that all stakeholders are bought into. If the core team isn’t bought into the vision, you will be in-fighting from the get-go, so work on it, pitch to each other and come to a unified vision you can all get behind. This vision should articulate the core value proposition of your product, its target audience, and its unique selling points. Your product strategy should outline the broader goals, objectives, and initiatives that will shape the product's future direction.

Who wants it? Why is it needed?

Building a comprehensive product roadmap requires a deep understanding of your customers, market trends, and competitive landscape. Without doing adequate user research and truly understanding the main problem you think you’ve identified you will be building blind, investing your time and resource into something that ultimately might not be needed. So be sure to conduct user research, analyse customer feedback and data, and study industry reports to uncover pain points, identify opportunities, and stay ahead of emerging trends. These insights will inform the prioritisation and sequencing of features and initiatives on your roadmap.

Tip: you’ll find a wide variety of reports from universities are given out freely - it’s well worth having a look around before conducting any of your own research. They can not only help inform you on the current state of play in a market or of a target audience, but also point you in the right directions for where further research is needed.

Set Key Milestones and Releases

Divide your product roadmap into distinct milestones or releases, each representing a significant achievement or set of deliverables. Ever heard if biting off more than you can chew? Or Eyes bigger than your belly? We’ve seen it happen in a few places where the initial ambition of the road map was simply too great. If we’d been brought in sooner, maybe we could have flagged it. But sadly by that point, not only were milestones being missed, but the drive from the team had been killed - an in the fast paced world of product development - that’s the real blow. I’m not suggesting to remove ambition - it’s important to push an idea as far as possible but too far can be hard to come back from. So be realistic and ensure the targets set in these milestones are ambitious but attainable.

These milestones can be tied to specific dates, product launches, or major feature releases. Breaking down your roadmap into manageable segments will help you track progress, celebrate successes, and maintain focus throughout the development process.

Prioritise Features and Initiatives

With your research insights and milestones in hand, it's time to prioritise the features and initiatives that will drive your product forward. Remove individual opinion and bias and use frameworks like the MoSCoW method (Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, Won't-have) or value vs. effort matrices to assess the impact and feasibility of each feature or initiative. Prioritise based on customer value, strategic alignment, and resource constraints. After you have this list of features and priorities, double check it. Make sure it ties back to the vision, ask yourself; does this prioritisation of features match the goals in our vision? Do these initial things we’re working on help solve the users problem? You’d be amazed how many times we’ve asked that question and had the answer “hmm maybe not”.

Set it up for success

You might create a stunning looking roadmap that ticks all the boxes from an investor position, but if there’s not a plan in place for delivering the product roadmap they wont be happy for long. Successful product roadmaps account for the resources required to execute each feature or initiative, including development time, budget, and personnel. Identify any dependencies, such as third-party integrations, technology acquisitions, or regulatory approvals, and factor them into your roadmap timeline.

Visualise and Communicate the Roadmap

A product roadmap is only effective if it's clearly communicated and understood by all stakeholders. We mentioned those investors, for those of you creating a startup, keeping them onside is crucial and an easy to digest product roadmap is a quick win for that. But for the team on the ground producing the work outlined in the plan, they need access to something thats detailed enough to five guidance but not overly complicated that it slows down cadence and the vision gets diluted in jargon. So Utilise visual tools, such as Gantt charts, timelines, or roadmapping software like (for our internal roadmaps, we use a Notion board), to present your roadmap in a clear and engaging manner. Regularly share and discuss the roadmap with your team, executives, and customers to ensure alignment and transparency.

Review, Adapt, and Iterate

Product roadmaps are living documents that should evolve as market conditions, customer needs, and organisational priorities shift. Establish regular review cycles to assess progress, validate assumptions, and adapt your roadmap accordingly. Remain agile and responsive, pivoting when necessary to capitalise on new opportunities or address emerging challenges.

Producing an effective product roadmap is an iterative process that requires continuous collaboration, research, and strategic decision-making. By following these steps, you'll create a roadmap that not only aligns your team but also serves as a powerful tool for driving product success, delivering customer value, and staying ahead of the competition.