2 Excellent External RoadMap Methods

Sean L Adams
5 min readFeb 26, 2017

A Product Roadmap presents the Why, When, and What of a Product’s future state. Typically, the information is organized along a timeline that will inform the reader or audience when you will release a key feature or functionality and be ready for use. These feature sets and pieces of functionality reinforce the Product Vision and advance the Strategy of the product.

A Product Manager is typically required to present product roadmaps to varied audiences. After a business buys a product, they want to know where the product is headed and if it will continue to address its present and future needs, known and unknown.

There are typically four groups of people interested in your product roadmap:

1. The Leadership/Investors
2. The Internal Stakeholders have to contribute time and effort to make your dreams come true.
3. The Competition
4. The Market

Categories 1 and 2 are easier to disseminate information to present high value to your leadership and an expected ROI. Ensure you’re only sharing what needs to be shared, and be sure to put your corporate catch-all “Confidential Only — Not for External Distribution” tagline, and you’re covered. Value speaks to internal stakeholders will be covered in another post. Today let’s focus on presenting a roadmap to the other side.

But presenting or providing information for key clients or even the market in general without giving away the secret sauce to the Competition can be tricky.

Here are 2 Excellent Ways to Formulate Your Next External Roadmaps

Just for you

Clients are most concerned about the issues they are frequently encountering. If you can’t present a plausible solution to their problems in a time frame they are happy with, you’re seeing yourself out the door.

If you want to increase stickiness with a particular client, your roadmap discussions must be tailored to them. Your product may have 40 excellent future features, but if your client is only positively affected by 4, you’re highlighting four features and a bullet pointing to a few more that might interest them.

Presenting or providing information for key clients or even the market in general without giving away the secret sauce to the Competition can be tricky.

Tailoring a roadmap without it being informed by your client is folly. Even the most prominent companies need to foster positive relationships via their products. If you know where your client’s needs are headed from previous discussions or a look at your client’s market and you have a feature that speaks to that future need — tell them about it.

A tailored, valuable roadmap is simply speaking to someone else’s needs. I use this even for interviews when I’m looking for a job. I represent the issues they’ve told me they’re experiencing and maybe even some market concerns for one of their products and what action steps I would take to remedy that pain point within a specified time frame.

Disturbance in the Force

In Star Wars, vernacular disturbances in the Force were caused by significant events. From planetary destruction to shifts in alignment between warriors, all would cause those force-sensitive to feel and react.

Consider your product’s market the Force. Disturbances can be new, simple, or complex answers to problems. Typically start-ups fall into the category of disturbance leaders. But long-term Multi-National Corporations are also sources of disturbance in the marketplace, typically with either Greenfield projects or Corporate Shifts; Corporate Shift exits one market to enter another — Xerox and Marriott, for example.

Roadmapping a disturbance in the marketplace is nearly impossible to do secretly. Here are two approaches:

1. Do it!
2. Tell it vaguely.

Do It!
Snapchat didn’t focus on branding at first. They were solely focused on providing the best experience on their social media version possible. This is a good start-up approach to roadmapping to the market and exposure to the Competition. Please keep it simple, focus on what your niche is and do it as well as possible. Roadmapping, in this case, is as simple as improving along the way as you listen to user problems and create requirements and enhancements to answer those needs.

Tell it vaguely.
You have to tell your story vaguely for no other reason than to keep investors in tow for larger companies. Suppose a large company is about to sell all its hotels, for instance, to avoid bankruptcy but plans to take what they know about running successful hotels to the market and sell that knowledge as a service. In that case, the market needs to understand explicitly what bus they are jumping on. Investors need a delineated plan, but the market and Competition need to know only what you plan to do vaguely. The hope is you can leverage your current brand to communicate the quality and high value you bring to a new line of transactions.

Roadmapping is a crucially important endeavor. It can be a huge time-sink and very nerve-wracking. Take some of the load off by leveraging a Roadmapping tool. There are many in the market right now; Aha!,Roadmunk, ProductPlan. ProductPlan even offers a free book on road mapping. What are some formulas, methods, or mindsets you use to build your roadmaps?

Hi, I’m Sean; I’m passionate about CX and Products. Over the last decade, I’ve been privileged to lead product organizations at some of the most impactful companies in the world. Mainly in the healthcare space and most recently focused on an internal platform managing work for hundreds of clinicians and care for millions of patients. SeanLAdams.com is my little corner of the internet; stop by anytime.

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