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Why Your Roadmap Is Not A Release Plan

October 23, 2015

Roadmap Management

There seems to be a lot of confusion between product roadmaps and release plans. As a product manager, you are not in charge of development, so stop worrying about dates and when things are going live.

What you are in charge of is mapping out the steps that your team is going to take to fulfil your product vision. A release plan is what comes after you’ve gone through the spec’ing and approval stage of your ideas.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself – but why can’t I do both with a roadmap? 

Here’s why:

Your roadmap is about priorities

A roadmap is a visual representation of the problems you are trying to solve.  Yes, I used the word visual. Dates aren’t part of a visual. They’re part of a spreadsheet. So let your roadmap be the communication tool it’s meant to be.

Leave the dates for your spreadsheet or Powerpoint. Use the roadmap to present a clean, theme-based structure of your current, near-term, and future plans. We like to call these time horizons.

Dates make it harder to adapt to your changing priorities – and trust me, having due dates you know you can’t meet doesn’t help anyone. Instead, you should be flexible by default. The more you’re geared towards dragging and dropping your priorities around, the more effectively you can keep moving your product forward without screeching everything to a halt.

Your release plan is about execution

A release plan is a tool used by your project manager or development team. This ties in nicely with your roadmap plans, but only once these three steps have been completed:

  1. Defined the idea/feature’s requirements
  2. Committed available resources
  3. Planned a release date

Of those three steps, you are responsible for one – defining requirements.

Once you have gathered feedback, discussed it, spec’d out the feature and created the appropriate mockups, then you send it over to your development team, who will be in charge of planning this out and releasing it.

Andrea is a Product Support and Management expert, technical writer, and social network monkey. An undercover geek with a passion for music, animals, and avid unicorn rights activist, she's always up for a challenge.

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Andrea Saezfredrik Sällström Recent comment authors
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fredrik Sällström

I agree on your definition of roadmap vs release plan, where roadmap should indicate your (high level) strategic direction while the release plan is used to visualize how you execute on that strategy. However, I don’t understand why ProdPad does not provide me with a tool for visualizing and communicating the release plan to internal and external stake holders. Its a very important part of the Product Manager’s daily work.