Roadmap provides an overview how the product develops over time and adds new features and functionality. To build a roadmap Product Manager considers business requirements, market trends and engineering constraints. Once the roadmap created, it should be shared with the team so everyone is on the same page, ideally online so if there’s any changes the team will get the updates.
Roadmaps in agile environment are very inaccurate because you can’t predict 3-5 months in advance what’s going to happen. You’re prioritizing the most important issues to work on next but it’s difficult to say how much time will it take. On the other hand, maybe something else (feature or bug) will take over and this won’t be a priority any longer.
It’s ok to have quarterly product roadmaps as a general guide. The roadmap might be accurate as a general guide but it won’t be accurate to the day it says on the roadmap. Moreover, if it’s accurate then you’re not being agile.
So, why then most product roadmaps are aligned along the quarters? Executives and investors like the quarter based roadmaps. The stuff in the 3rd quarter won’t be accurate at all because we’re agile. Sometimes you can have actual hard deadline especially in enterprise B2B environment for large companies. They have commitment from clients and investors to ship certain features or functionality by certain point. Sales can rely on releasing of the specific feature that is not being built yet too.
What could be an alternative to product management roadmaps? More appropriate or agile way is just sorting things out by priorities or three bucket model: immediate bucket – here’s what we’re doing now, midterm – what we’re doing next, and another column – long term – what’s planned for the future. This feature prioritization intentionally leaves the dates out of the picture. Large companies such as Facebook and Google commonly use it in B2C segment. They don’t have to release certain product by certain dates. It keeps things inline by not expecting releases by a certain date.