What is a Product Roadmap & How to Create One – A Complete Guide

Product Roadmap

Agile development is often associated with short-term planning to keep pace with changing customer needs and volatile business contexts. However, this doesn’t mean that long-term planning (read roadmaps) doesn’t matter or is not done. On the contrary, roadmaps (product roadmaps in the context of this blog) play a vital role in agile development – providing long-term vision, an ability to adapt to shifting business/industry/market dynamics and lending context to the team’s everyday work. This blog intends to help you explore the basic tenets of building a product roadmap – easily and effectively.

We will try to answer the following questions based on our experience as an agile consulting firm:

  1. What is a Product Roadmap?
  2. Why is Product Roadmap important?
  3. Which teams could use Product Roadmaps?
  4. How to create a Product Management Roadmap?
  5. Some best practices to follow to get the best Product Roadmaps?
  6. How do Product Roadmap map to Agile Roadmap?
  7. Why is Product Roadmap Strategy important?
  8. How to marry Product Roadmap and Strategy?
  9. What are the steps to build a Product Roadmap?
  10. What is an Agile Product Management sample and Agile Product Management example?

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a living, strategic document that lays out the initiatives or features of a product lined for a future build. It is built in line with a product vision, which is based on the strategic goals of the organization. A roadmap adapts itself to customer needs, learnings and market opportunities. Guiding stars for the organization – product roadmaps align customers and product teams on products planned for release – with a singular focus on solving customer problems. As complex as it sounds, a product roadmap can be as simple as a list containing the features and their spread over timelines – more about that later.

A product roadmap is also used as a communication tool to showcase to customers the lined-up features, drawing them towards upcoming features on the product front. However, such a roadmap is not to be confused with release plans, feature lists, or release timelines.

Product Roadmaps enable us to:

  1. Align organizations to their customers 
  2. Set clear priorities
  3. Break work down into smaller work items
  4. Collaborate smoothly
  5. Properly allocate and manage resources based on products planned

Which Teams Use Product Roadmaps?

So which are the teams which should be using Product Roadmaps? We have listed a few teams which have a use case for a product management roadmap, this list is not exhaustive though:

  1. Product Management Team uses Product Roadmap to set direction for Product owners and development teams around product features laid out for future builds (e.g. in upcoming months, quarters)
  2. Development Team uses it to plan their POCs and to research on complex and uncertain features before actual development among other things.
  3. Engineering and Solutions team uses Product Roadmaps to plan the architectural runway for future demands
  4. Support Teams are customer-facing people who solve any issues that customers have wrt to the product in use. Involving the customer support teams in Product Roadmaps helps in incorporating feedback collected by them. Support teams can help in prioritizing the features on the product roadmap based on the complaints received from the customers based on their priority and severity
  5. Customer Service team/product onboarding teams use Product Roadmaps to plan their training and customer onboarding. Customer service teams can respond to customers about products and their delivery plans using the document which helps to boost their confidence levels
  6. Sales team can use Product Roadmap to plan their product demo to showcase in trade shows and other events
  7. C suite/executive should use Product Roadmap to know about their customers, strategize and plan their investments, understand the ROI and decide on the long term future growth trajectory and goals.

Why Are Product Roadmaps Important?

Product roadmaps, unlike traditional roadmaps, are very dynamic. They are open to inspect and adapt as per the changing business, competition, technology, customer and other dynamics. This is key to any organization in the face of today’s ever-changing business needs, and the uncertainty of the VUCA environment. 

Modern organizations need to welcome and respond to such a multitude of changes and prepare themselves to course correct faster to avoid redundancy. Let’s discuss some of the reasons why Product strategy roadmaps are so important today:

  1. They show the bigger picture and sets the direction
  2. Align all teams and stakeholders to common goals and initiatives
  3. They help teams and individuals to know their role and why is it important? 
  4. Acts as a bridge between the product vision and the development plan
  5. Aids as a communication tool to showcase initiatives charted out to support customer needs
  6. It brings transparency across the organization by exposing teams to planned initiatives
  7. Ensures focus on the value proposition of initiatives over deliverables and their timelines (Read this again, it is very important yet much misunderstood)
  8. Articulate organizational strategy clearly, through aligned initiatives plotted on the roadmap

    agile product roadmap
    agile product roadmap
  9. Product Roadmaps  evolve based on lessons learnt and opportunities identified
  10. Product roadmaps don’t just capture the “What” of themes/initiatives, but go on to  “empathize with the “Why” behind them (Again, very important, deserves a second read)
  11. Help those in charge communicate objectives and share status updates quickly with minimal lag
  12. Help in cultivating open and transparent communication between teams & stakeholders
  13. Improve communication between the development and marketing/sales leading to a more efficient allocation of resources, minimizing misunderstandings and potential conflicts
  14. Better understand and prioritize the needs and demands of your users for better product management
  15. Easier goal-setting and tracking as the objectives are quantified

Key Elements to consider while creating a Product Roadmap

When creating product management roadmaps, one should remember to bring alignment, transparency and it must address customer needs

Below are some of the Key elements to consider while creating a Product Roadmap:

  1. Vision: A concise, compelling picture of a product’s future state targeting the “Who” (customers) and the “Why” (benefits or problems to solve). Often set in the form of elevator pitches, vision statements offer direction to the product roadmap.
  2. Business Objectives: What are the business goals/objectives in question? What are the indicators to quantify and measure business success?
  3. Themes: Group similar features or projects into high-level themes. Themes help organize the roadmap into broader categories.
  4. Timeframe: Lay out the features or initiatives across broad time frames such as Bimonthly, Quarterly (or) Now, Next, or Later.
  5. Features: List the outputs or deliverables planned to address customer needs and/or to solve customer problems. These features must be tied to one or more themes identified.
  6. Stages of Development: Product roadmaps capture both features and relevant time frames. Hence, a good practice to include the stage of development for the features listed.
  7. Customer callouts: It is a good practice to publish customer names when any particular features serve multiple customers

How To Create a Product Roadmap

How To Create a Product Roadmap
How To Create a Product Roadmap

With the above key elements as our guiding stars, we start creating a Product Roadmap. Listed below are some broad series of steps which should help you to create a good product roadmap. 

  1. A good way to begin is to facilitate a workshop by inviting all the relevant teams. We should ensure participants in the workshop have an in-depth understanding of the product vision and customer needs. We should brainstorm and negotiate with all relevant stakeholders.
  2. Identify business objectives that tie to your vision – key to realizing the Product vision
  3. Identify themes to express customer needs effectively
  4. Clarify which stage of the product life cycle various features are at, example: New, Growth, End of life etc
  5. Use tools like “Lean Canvas”, and “Business Model Canvas” to understand customer segments, value propositions, costing, etc.
  6. Conduct market research, and understand competitors and market trends to see how they might affect your product’s success.
  7. Conduct Product discovery to identify pain points and customer needs
  8. Use techniques like persona mapping and empathy mapping to understand and empathize with the customer – identify the customer’s problem
  9. Tie the themes back to the identified business objectives this is key to staying focused on the right things and avoiding distraction
  10. Prioritize features within themes. Some of the preferred prioritization techniques include the Kano model; “desirability, feasibility, viability” (DVF), ROI scorecard, MOSCOW, etc.
  11. Build the roadmap with features, the priority order in which to complete them and the timeframe for release
  12. Share the roadmap with the team and internal stakeholders for better understanding and alignment.  Ensure regular feedback, reviews and adjustments to the roadmap based on stakeholder feedback, new information and changes in strategy or business environment

Best Practices For The Best Product Roadmaps

We have covered all the basics about the Product Roadmap – what it is, which teams should use it, why teams should use it, why they are important, key elements to consider while creating them and most importantly how to create good Product Roadmaps. Let’s now quickly list down some best practices to get the best product roadmaps below:

  1. Ensure the product roadmap is aligned with the product vision
  2. Focus on customer needs and/or problems
  3. Create clear, quantifiable, and measurable outcomes
  4. Showcase expected outcomes rather than specific outputs
  5. Ensure all the internal stakeholders (Customer service team, IT support, engineering, sales, marketing, product management) are aligned to priorities set in the roadmap.
  6. Involve internal stakeholders in the roadmap creation, collect their inputs, and adapt
  7. Include major risks related to the themes for transparency 
  8. Include a disclaimer that states subject to changes of the features on the roadmap
  9. A product roadmap must not consume time upfront on detailed designs and estimates
  10. Do not include detailed execution timelines in product roadmaps
  11. Take a confidence vote on the delivery of features laid out
  12. Get a buy-in from your key stakeholders
  13. Avoid features that a delivery team can’t commit to and avoid over-committing
  14. Share roadmap with team and internal stakeholders, ensure alignment, collect feedback, review and update as needed
  15. Avoid including resources, dependencies, assumptions, and tasks in the Product roadmap
  16. Check if any previous spillover features are to be included
  17. Check infrastructure needs to support the delivery before publishing the feature

Agile Product Roadmap Process

With ever-increasing demands from customers, the adoption of agile methodologies to include frequent releases, release on demand, frequent and shorter feedback and iterative and incremental development has become crucial. Product Roadmaps, though having a longer term perspective, continuously evolve and are flexible to allow accommodating customer feedback, changing business priorities, competition landscape and a plethora of other internal and external environmental dependencies.

Product roadmaps visualize products planned and relevant implementation schedules. Detailed product discoveries are done based on implementation dates. An important aspect of discovery is identifying epics that address customer  needs / problems.  Story mapping is a  visual technique  that helps understand the breadth and depth of customer requirements. This paves way for product and engineering teams to clearly define and prioritize work in a user-centric manner – e.g. “ Now” “ Next” and “ Later”. The epics and user stories thus identified are added to the Product Backlog – a uni directional list of everything( Epics, user stories, tasks) required to build the product.

The items in the Product Backlog are then estimated and , detailed to required levels. The Product owner prioritises user stories for the next two sprints and also creates a sprint backlog for execution. Sprint Backlogs contain user stories and tasks required to deliver product increments. The user stories are enriched and have greater detail than items in the product backlog.

The development team starts implementation through time based sprints, once they are clear about the requirements.

From a high level strategic document to the execution level, the Product road maps, Product backlogs, and Sprint backlogs follow the principle of progressive elaboration. The Agile way of working is iterative with a focus on short, continuous releases that incorporate customer feedback and learnings. This mode of “just enough” planning and implementation is quite the antithesis of the upfront, detailed planning seen in the traditional (e.g. waterfall) world. Traditional roadmaps were well suited to handle the slow-paced environments of the past. But the highly volatile, ever-changing, evolving businesses/clients of today need something more dynamic and flexible. This is where product roadmaps fit in, lending the ability to absorb, adapt, and pivot in quick time. Product Roadmap entries are managed and executed through product and sprint backlogs.


Product roadmaps are inevitably invaluable to anyone adopting an agile product management approach. They help one to keep pace with the volatility of the landscape and changing customer needs/feedback, while also achieving the desired product strategy and business objectives. Agile adoption does not translate to “not knowing where one is headed towards”. It is more about having a vision, defining a strategy to drive towards the vision, and developing adaptability through the course one takes.

We hope this blog serves as an initiation to the world of product roadmaps, helping you understand and implement the tool as you need it. Keep reading our blogs to learn more about other matters of agile development, and do share your comments and feedback. Let us know if you would like to know more about Benzne agile transformation service and how we can add value to your agile transformation journey.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I create a product roadmap in Scrum?

Below are the steps to create Product Roadmap in Scrum:

  1. The first step is to identify the product vision
  2. Identify the business objectives that are aligned with the product vision
  3. Identify the customer needs and pain points. Use techniques like empathy mapping
  4. Identify the personas who will be using the product. Persona mapping can be used here
  5. Brainstorm the various features that go into solving the customer problem
  6. Create a unidirectional list of all features, and enhancements that are needed for the product
  7. Prioritize the features based on Value, Risk, etc. Use other prioritization techniques like RICE scoring and ROI scorecard
  8. Plan the release schedule based on the priority
  9. Publish the roadmap and invite feedback from all the stakeholders including the development team. Customer support, Sales, and marketing. Ensure all the stakeholders are on the same page with the product roadmap

2. Is Jira a roadmap tool?

Yes, Jira is a roadmap tool. Jira has launched a Product Discovery tool that can be used for Product Roadmap, you can check it here.

3. What is the difference between product roadmap and product backlog?

Product Roadmap is a strategic document to showcase the initiatives, features rolled out for upcoming quarters/releases. This is aligned with the Product Vision.

A product backlog is a list of all the epics, user stories, enhancements, and tasks that are needed to deliver the features present in the roadmap. The product backlog is very tactical in nature.

The creation of a Product roadmap is a precursor to the creation of a product backlog. The list of items for execution in a Product backlog are derived from the prioritized initiatives plotted on the Product Roadmap.

4. What is a spike and zero sprint in Agile?

Any exploration activity to be undertaken to gain clarity on a user story prior to its implementation in a sprint is called a spike. For example, if a team member wants to explore a framework for the new search engine, he/she first explores this using a spike. Based on the findings from a spike a user story is pulled into the sprint for execution.

Sprint zero is the duration just before sprint 1. In this duration, everything required to begin implementation in sprints is readied. Sprint Zero is all about laying the groundwork for a successful Scrum project by focusing on planning and preparation rather than immediately jumping into the development. Here are a few activities that take place in Sprint Zero.

  1. Resolving Dependencies 
  2. Risks mitigation
  3. Ordered and prioritized product backlog
  4. User stories for the upcoming two sprints are created and estimated
  5. Set up a Team board in the ALM tool
  6. Formation of the Agile team
  7. Onboard and train the Agile team on various Scrum topics
  8. Formulating the Definition of Ready and Definition of Done
  9. Getting the designs ready and seeking approval 
  10. Creation of test strategy

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