As a Product person, you often “own Roadmap”.
I used to enjoy this concept because it is seems to sum up Product -> a highly cross-functional display of where we’re going.
In practice, however, I feel Roadmaps can easily be counterproductive, not because cross-functional alignment is wrong, but because the common implementation is a slippery slope.
Roadmaps are often implemented as “Projects over Time”, often as impressive looking Gantt charts. Everyone loves this in principle. Every other department applauds a nice Gantt chart; Marketing needs to know when to prepare launch campaigns, Sales wants to talk to customers, Customer Engineering want to know when a specific pet project will land…
But I’ve found this leads to three common real-life outcomes that can have a fairly high cost.
- Sandbagging dates (No one trusts each other and every department adds an unhealthy buffer)
- Pre-selling (Sales talks about the projects that Product stated will come, creating expectations for things that may actually need very different approaches)
- Premature waterfall optimization (Once there are multiple levels of PMs, simply talking about a project as an example of a way to get to an outcome, will often cause junior PMs or entire product teams to take on that project on as their goal)
I am a fan of roadmaps when we focus on:
- outcomes, not projects (e.g., we will solve this pain, not we will build X)
- constantly evangelizing vision of those outcomes (i.e., the rest of the organization/customers understand where you are going)
- shipping value frequently (i.e., no one is waiting for your to come out of your cave with a fully-baked new product)
- updating others frequently (i.e., cross-functional comms once you are committed and actually trust your estimates)