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  • Writer's pictureElena Leonova

How to Plan Outstanding Product Roadmaps | The Ultimate Guide

Product Roadmap Planning is an essential part of any product company, striving to build a great product that customers love. Its primary purpose is to get a product roadmap that meets business goals, meets customer needs, provides a clear focus to the product & engineering teams, and enables sales & marketing teams to generate demand.

While the product roadmap planning process is one of the most critical activities in any software development company, there are still many questions on the steps needed to plan it.

So what are the steps? Let's dive in…

Step 1: Get Inputs

Get a good understanding of your company goals.

It's critical to start the product roadmap planning process from the very beginning. It means that you have to get a complete understanding of:

  1. Your Company Vision & Mission

  2. Your company long-term goals (3-5 years ahead)

  3. Your company short-term goals (6-12 months ahead)

Get Cross-functional teams' inputs.

It's essential for a great product manager to get a cross-functional point of view on the product he/she is responsible for. Looking at it from different angles broadens your understanding of the product and customers and thus helps you plan the product roadmap that meets customer needs.

For that, you should spend time with:

  1. The Sales team to dig into Win/Loss analysis; learn what's selling your product already and what are missing opportunities (take a note of all of them)

  2. The Support team to understand your product quality from the customer lens. What's driving support requests? Are there functional bugs (wrong behavior), or confusing user experience, or something else?

  3. The Marketing team to understand how they generate sales leads and what messages resonate well with your prospective customer base.

  4. The Account Management team (if you have it), to understand what your biggest customers are asking for and what their plans are for the next few years.

  5. The Legal team to understand any rules & regulations that your product should be compliant with.

  6. Your Engineering team to understand their view of the world. Is the product easy to work with, is based on up-to-date technology, is it stable & reliable?

Competitive Analysis & Industry Trends

Another important aspect is to be constantly aware of the industry trends and your competitors.

You have to build a habit of

  1. Conducting industry trends research to get a clear picture of where your industry is going, the changes that are happening. Also, come up with your point of view of your industries' future.

  2. Performing a competitive analysis of main competitors by looking at these companies overall, their current product capabilities, and gaps.

  3. Also, following your competitor and industry news regularly.

Talk to your current & prospective customers.

Talk to your customers, always! It would be best if you heard firsthand what is great about your product and what isn't. And most importantly, learn what problems your customers are trying to solve with the product you offer.

Step 2: Formulate your hypothesis.

Now you have many inputs. It's time to start aggregating them, looking for similarities and alignment to the company vision, mission, long and short-term goals.

Identify problems to be solved.

You don't need to define the exact feature capabilities that your teams would need to build. Instead, look for problems that need to be solved and how to measure success. How would you know that this problem has been solved or not?

For example, If customers were complaining about the quality of specific functionality, your goal might be to reduce the number of reported issues by x%; etc.

Prioritize these problems

You might have more ideas to solve than the time and resources available to do so. So it's important to prioritize each idea by its value, for your current & potential customer, for your business, and your internal company goals. Once you have a prioritized list of all problems that need to be solved, it will be much easier to do product roadmapping.

Brainstorm ideas

This is where your creative thinking comes into play. So get your product, engineering, and design teams together and start brainstorming as many ideas as possible to solve the problems. There are many different product ideas brainstorming techniques available, so you have plenty of options to choose from.

Step 3: Estimate & Identify Dependencies.

That's where an actual product roadmap planning process starts. Your product, engineering, and design teams need to look at all problems that need to be solved in a priority order based on their value, estimate each proposed solution's complexity, and identify dependencies and unknowns.

The best way to do so is to use the relative estimation technique and compare your new ideas to the previously implemented features. It will give a better sense of its relative complexity.

Do Capacity Planning

Now it's time to look at available capacity within the teams and understand what your teams can accomplish within a set period of time (a month, a quarter etc.).

The industry best practice focuses on one quarter ahead while still maintaining a 6-12 months outlook. Remember that estimates are very directional at this time, and you haven't included the time needed for quality, technical debt, etc.

Step 4: Put your product roadmap together.

Finally, it's time to start aligning on the product roadmap and get a cross-functional alignment with all the teams you've spoken to in step #1 and make sure that you're solving the right problems for your customers.

Focusing on one quarter ahead of you, look for a few things:

  1. What are the strategic opportunities that you have? What are the long-term investments that you are making in the product?

  2. What are the quick wins that you can deliver faster?

  3. Is your product roadmap well balanced between product optimization and new feature implementation?

  4. Are you putting enough focus on the technical side of your product?

Step 5: Seek Cross-functional Alignment

Put your features into the product roadmap view, and review them with your cross-functional teams to align. You might end up exploring multiple versions or scenarios, looking at changing feature priority, or because you have dependencies. So having the right tool, like OneRank, to power it, will come in handy, otherwise use a spreadsheet or docs.

Step 6: Execute.

Once aligned, execute!

Step 7: Start all over again.

It feels like time is just flying by, and by the time you're done with your product roadmap planning, you will need to start planning it again.

Remember that the product roadmap isn't a set-in-stone plan but rather a direction on where you want to go. Changing product roadmap early and often is the key to being agile and staying competitive.

Product Roadmap Planning F.A.Q.

Is it Agile practice to do product roadmap planning?

Yes, it is very much agile. It's important to have a clear plan of where the company is going, and the product roadmap is one of the most important artifacts that provide that answer. However, it's even more important to revisit your product roadmap often, and be ready to be flexible and agile, and change it if the need arises.

How often should product roadmap planning be done?

It depends on your industry, the complexity of the product, market dynamics, and emerging trends. However, most companies find that quarterly roadmap planning works best for them while maintaining the directional view towards 6-12 months ahead.

Who should participate in product roadmap planning?

The product, engineering, and design teams are absolutely required to participate in the product roadmap planning. The best outcomes are typically created only in very close collaboration between these three functions.

Additionally, it's helpful to involve representatives from other cross-functional teams, e.g., support, marketing, account management, sales, etc. These roles interact with customers daily, and they typically have a tremendous amount of valuable feedback. They also might bring some fresh ideas looking at the problems that need solving from an outside perspective.

Who is responsible for creating the product roadmap?

Product Managers are the ones ultimately responsible for a creation of a product roadmap. But the product roadmap should always be created in cooperation between product, engineering, and design teams and aligned with cross-functional teams.

What are the best product roadmap planning tools?

There are plenty of different tools available for gathering and analyzing product insights, such as ProductBoard, ProdPad,, etc., and for development execution, such as Jira, Trello, Pivotal, Asana, etc., there are not many tools that solve the product roadmap planning challenge.

As a result, many teams find themselves using spreadsheets and slide decks for planning purposes, which is cumbersome and time-consuming. OneRank is the tool built to simplify product roadmapping, and optimizes the time spent on the manual slide of the planning process.


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