Roadmaps

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.

  1. Sandbagging dates (No one trusts each other and every department adds an unhealthy buffer)
  2. Pre-selling (Sales talks about the projects that Product stated will come, creating expectations for things that may actually need very different approaches)
  3. 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: