The product roadmap is, above all, a communication tool. It is used to describe what you are working on, why you are working on it, and what the benefits of this work are. ProdPad CEO and Co-founder Janna Bastow likes to use a product roadmap definition of “a prototype for your strategy”. ProdPad is the home of the Now Next Later roadmap.
You might hear some other ways of describing a roadmap – let’s look at what those really are.
Sorry y’all, but there is no such thing as a kanban roadmap. Kanban is a methodology – a product stream so to speak – which goes through several phases until an item is released. Kanban is a way of executing on work, while the roadmap takes a step back from the execution and focuses specifically on the strategy.
You can learn more about how ProdPad supports the Kanban methodology here.
This is just another way of describing your roadmap. Your roadmap is strategic, therefore a strategic roadmap is your roadmap.
There seems to be some confusion that a roadmap looks structurally different because it’s part of a different team. A roadmap is a roadmap. The overall structure doesn’t change simply because it has a different focus. The roadmaps for your marketing website may have different objectives than those of your platform, but it will still have initiatives, objectives, and ideas that make up your strategy.
A timeline is sometimes used during the execution phase to highlight upcoming releases. This is also referred to as a release plan. While the roadmap focuses on strategy, the release plan will focus on the specifics of the work being released, after the product management team has validated and approved it all. When someone starts to talk about a timeline roadmap, it might be time to point them to our guide on how to ditch your timeline roadmap!
A feature roadmap is a roadmap that poses heavy emphasis on the feature set, rather than why you are even building these items in the first place. Feature roadmaps usually line up with timeline roadmaps, and lack the ability to provide reasoning behind the work being done. Even for those feature-based roadmaps that don’t line up with timelines, as long as the emphasis remains on the feature and not the reason behind the feature, it can lead to the slippery slope of feature-bloat (that is, building simply to build, not understanding its purpose.)