In the Know – The Best Way to Do a Roadmap Slide
Articulating your product strategy in a single roadmap slide is the gold standard for product managers. Why? Because in one simple view you can show your entire product strategy. But who said it needed to actually be a slide?
Now don’t worry, I am going to give you all the insights you need to make an actual single roadmap slide (I’ve even included a downloadable template), but I am going to say from the outset that it doesn’t need to be in a slide format at all – in fact, it is actually better for it not to be. 🤯
Ask yourself right now, what am I trying to achieve with my roadmap on a single slide?
[Insert respectful pause so you can have a moment to think.]
You’re trying to show your strategy in a clear and concise way that shows what work is coming up in a way that isn’t too granular. Why is that simplicity necessary? Because you need to make sure that the conversation doesn’t get too focused on the outcomes, not the objectives, the detail will derail your ability to present your strategy.
As you may very well know, here at ProdPad we’re in the business of roadmaps, I invented the Now-Next-Later roadmap format – if you can’t trust me then honestly I don’t know who you can.
Over the years I’ve talked to thousands of product managers who struggle to understand what this roadmap slide/single view should look like, what it should include, and even why they need to construct one in the first place. Here’s the best of our advice, drawn from our experience of helping our customers and from presenting our own roadmap.
Let’s look at:
- What is a roadmap slide
- Why make one
- How to title a roadmap slide
- How to present one
- How often to update your roadmap slide
- Roadmap slide templates
- Examples of roadmaps
- Roadmap slide vs. product management software
We’ll finish by running through some examples of roadmaps and then you can decide if you want to take the training wheels off and ditch the roadmap slide once and for all.
What is a roadmap slide?
A roadmap slide is a one-pager that shows your product strategy. It’s a top-level visual that a lot of people – external stakeholders like investors and marquee customers for example – look for. It’s a collapsed view of your roadmap, showing high-level information including the objectives and initiatives you are working on to improve your product.
Why make a roadmap slide?
A roadmap slide comes into its own when you’re trying to convey the big picture – it’s a visual aid that shows your product strategy, how it fits with business goals, and how you aim to deliver against those objectives.
For example, our roadmap is on our marketing site so that our users can look at it and see what’s coming up for them in the future. As a SaaS tool, it’s imperative to our success that our customers know where we’re going – because we want them to come with us.
I would think of it – as we do at ProdPad – as a way to create a practical dialogue with customers, leads, and internal and external stakeholders about what they want and need without giving away anything you aren’t ready to share or getting bogged down in specifics.
ProdPad’s public roadmap
As I mentioned earlier – you don’t actually have to have a slide to share your roadmap, if you are using a product management tool, like ProdPad, you can share your roadmap directly from the tool. (I’m not saying you have to use ProdPad but for the duration of the blog I will be talking about how you can do things directly from ProdPad because that’s what I use, I made it, I like it, etc.)
Below is our current public roadmap, as you can see what we share is the topline strategy – you can see our initiatives and the objectives that they are focused on. You can see what’s coming now, next, and later without the nitty-gritty stuff that our customers or competitors don’t need to know about.
A key take away is that there are no timelines, just the bare-bones headline ideas – and not too many of them – and the goal or goals that they are intended to achieve. The headlines are backed up with a sentence or two that gives a little more detail about the initiative so that the reader can see how our activity links to our strategy. It’s easy to take in and understand.
We also have a feedback widget enabled on the page because we want to hear from our customers.
It doesn’t matter if your roadmap isn’t perfect. You should use it as a way to get insight as to whether the assumptions that you’ve made are the right assumptions. Outline what you and your team think are the most important problems to solve and why you’re going to solve them.
Remember that your roadmap is a prototype for your strategy, your version of the strategy based on what you know today. Use the roadmap to facilitate dialogue with stakeholders who may have a wider view of the world and whose views can be used to inform your strategy.
How to title a roadmap slide
Be careful about terminology: the word roadmap can be contentious and lots of people have preconceived ideas about what it means. Do they understand that it’s your strategy and not a timeline?
As I’m sure you know, at ProdPad we advocate for showing initiatives and ideas in time horizons, rather than with strict dates or timelines. I think it’s important to stay away from items or initiatives that are more date-specific than you’re comfortable with. If you put dates on a slide, then the chances are that someone will take a screenshot or make a copy of your slide deck – and then there are dates that you can be expected to meet.
This might not sound like that big a deal but you’re trapped from that point on. It’s like an expiry date on a carton of milk, if it gets finished by the use-by date—great, but if it doesn’t, things start to sour. Much like milk, conversations with your stakeholders can also take a decidedly bad turn. You will spend all your time talking about the delay rather than the vision.
PRO TIP: Don’t get trapped into showing a slide with a timeline when what you really should be showing is the direction of travel rather than a predicted time of arrival.
How do you present a roadmap slide?
It may seem obvious but before you put anything together you should think about your audience. Start by assessing who will want to know what.
An audience of external investors will want the story and strategy of how you’re changing the product for customers and the likely impact on the market. They’ll want to be reassured that you’re doing the right thing. An audience of salespeople will think in terms of sales – what any changes might mean for prospects, entrance into adjacent markets, and so on. Marketers are likely to think in terms of how changes to a product will resonate in the market and how they can be best presented.
It may be nuanced, but different audiences will have different priorities and concerns so your roadmap slide should allow them to assess product strategy through the lens of their interest. It’s all about the language you use and your rapport and engagement with your audience – and for product managers, these are soft skills that you doubtless have practiced many times.
You also don’t need to give too much detail. All you need is a couple of sentences that show what you’re working on, why you’re working on it, and how it links to your objectives. If there’s too much information then no one will read it, remember this is a snapshot that gives an overall view of strategy so it should be easy to assimilate. No tech terms, no dev detail, no dates.
This is where having an actual slide can become a bit of a logistical nightmare because, over the course of this article, I’ve already talked about 4 different versions of your roadmap. That’s quite a lot to manage in a collection of slides, isn’t it?
Using ProdPad allows you to deep-dive into the many variations of your roadmap. With ProdPad you can show everything from the big picture through to a play-by-play account of the ideas going through your development workflow and who is working on what. You can think of ProdPad as the powerhouse that enables all these different variations of your roadmap. In fact, you can use ProdPad to show your roadmap in whatever view you need for a meeting. You don’t need to produce a slide if you use ProdPad.
PRO TIP: Don’t waste time with various versions of a slide –
Create roadmap views directly in ProdPad
How often should you update a roadmap slide?
Your roadmap should always adapt and change as work progresses, so I would take a look at your roadmap slide at least monthly.
Those top-level initiatives on a roadmap generally will have moved in this timeframe, especially if you’re looking at what’s happening in the now column. If you’re running a sprint every two weeks, then chances are you’ve made some progress that requires an update, or at least a review, of the roadmap.
The next and, especially, later columns probably won’t change every month.
Roadmap Slide Templates
There are lots of different templates out there, ones that have swim lanes or look a lot like a Gannt chart – the template I’m going to suggest doesn’t look like that. The template I would use is the Now-Next-Later format – I may be biased but by using swimlanes or Gantt charts as the format, it becomes a workflow.
A workflow isn’t strategic – it’s tactical and will subconsciously or consciously steer the conversations you have around it in a tactical deployment-focused way. When presenting a roadmap in a single slide format you need to keep it topline. I know I sound like a broken record but this is a hill I am willing to die on.
So you can use this template to talk about your roadmap. Strategically. You’re welcome.
DOWNLOAD: ProdPad’s template for a roadmap slide.
But do you still want to write a roadmap slide or do you want to try something new?
Roadmap slide vs. product management software
Now I haven’t been subtle about my thoughts on which is better, a roadmap slide or a product management software have I? But to reiterate – the winner is the tool, every time but I’ll prove it:
Roadmap slide – pros and cons
✅ It’s available on and offline
✅ You’re in complete control of what you* put on the slide
✅ It exists within a presentation and can be quickly added to other people’s slides
❌ It’s really manual – you need to remember to update it before you show people
❌ It’s static and a set size of a 16:9 ratio can be pretty restrictive
❌ You have to make multiple versions for different audiences
❌ Cumbersome file sizes – you can really clog up a company’s server
❌ *Once shared people can add whatever they want
Roadmap software – pros and cons
✅ It’s available on and offline
✅ You’re in complete control of what you put on it
✅ It can be published online as an iframe or linked directly in a presentation
✅ Making different versions of it is really quickly
✅ Every version remains up to date, you can pull it up anytime and know it’s right
✅ There are no size restrictions but try to keep it to only one scroll below the fold
✅ A link is nothing – your roadmap exists on our server, not yours, the IT team will be pleased
✅ It looks good, you don’t need to worry about styling ensuring it’s branded correctly
✅ You can quickly show your vision or click into ideas for more information if needed
❌ It might make people envious of how good you are at your job
PRO TIP – Check out the ProdPad Sandbox to see some product roadmaps in action
Examples of roadmap one-pagers
If you want to have a look at some examples of roadmaps look no further than the ProdPad Sandbox – we currently have 4 different roadmaps for you to choose from:
If you want to try out making your own roadmap or explore how to publish and make different versions of your roadmap you can do that in ProdPad with a free trial.