Defining the product roadmap

How do you choose a direction when the ground is shifting?

Is it even possible?

If you are building products or work as a product manager, owner, leader, founder you likely use a tool called a “product roadmap”.

Just like a map tells you how to get where you want, a roadmap should tell the teams internal and external where you are headed.

Unlike the world, which is now mostly mapped, the future of a product is not really known. Well, at least, it’s not predetermined.

It is usually an exploration.

Which means how you define the roadmap will have an outsized influence on the future of the product and likely your overall business.

Along with execution, GTM strategy and market conditions including competition.

Defining the product roadmap gets harder as the number of stakeholders and customers increase. It becomes an increasingly tough balancing act.

Arguably one of the hardest balancing acts is between Innovation and Improvement.

Innovation is usually bold, requires R&D, investment and is not guaranteed. It’s also hard because it is an exploration of its own.

Improvement is usually incremental, addresses immediate and short term needs to customers and internal stakeholders.

Improvement leads to short term wins and customer, partner and sales team satisfaction. It leads to predictable outcomes and usually has low to no risk of failure.

Innovation can lead to creating new customer segments, growth and sometimes creating entire new categories. It can also lead to outsized outcomes, but also has a risk of failure.

This is where the product manager’s mettle gets tested.