A Lightweight Product Roadmapping Process

Works with your team’s natural rhythm, and give the organization what it needs to succeed

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What doesn’t work

I’ll share more about how to do this, but before we jump into that, let me first suggest three things I’ve observed that don’t work and are wasteful.

Quarterly Planning

It’s easy to see why people love this. It fits in a nice box. One a quarter we plan, easy. Done, everyone plans at the same time. No distractions. Just think of all the things that you need to get done to meet the business goals in the next quarter, write them down, share those plans with other teams, and you are off to the races.

As You Like It Planning

Again, sounds wonderful. Give teams the autonomy, authority, accountability, and authority to plan and execute as they see fit. Team’s love this. Until the leaders in the organization have no clue what everyone is working on. Crouching tiger, welcome the hidden dragon.

The Tool Solves it Planning

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What to do Instead

First Principles

Now that we’ve seen some wasteful ways to plan, how should you think about planning? The answer is to start with first principles.

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Your Roadmap and Roadmapping Process is a Product

Think of your roadmap as a product. The customers of the roadmap are your teams, leaders, and other stakeholders.

  • What were you looking for?
  • How did it help you?
  • What did you not find that you were expecting?
  • How often do you reference a roadmap?

Tool Time

Once you understand the principles and the needs of your team, you are ready to think about tooling and processes. I have found that starting without a tool to begin with, will help you iterate into the best fit solution for your teams. Choose a medium for roadmapping that can be revised quickly without much ado. Google sheets is great as a starting point.

Cadence Time

Finally, that was a ton of preamble to get to what you came here to read, but I wanted you to see that there’s more to roadmapping than just when you do it.

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The Quarterly Cadence

  • Who: CPO, VP engineering, VP product, VP marketing, and VP design
  • What: Review key investment themes and experience drivers
  • Outlook: 3–12 months ahead
  • Output: One page strategy update summary, next quarterly goal

The Monthly Cadence

  • Who: Product leads, customer-facing leads
  • What: Gather key customer-facing inputs for planning
  • Outlook: 3–6 months ahead
  • Output: Roadmap updates

The Bi-Monthly Cadence

  • Who: CPO, Product Leads, Team Leads
  • What: Drive progress toward monthly and quarterly goals
  • Outlook: 3 months ahead
  • Output: Roadmap, project plan updates

The Key

These cadences are not special, but what is important is that there is an established rhythm, where leaders at varying levels of your organization can get visibility into your roadmap. It should also be noted that teams should plan and operate as their unique culture evolves, with the expectation that the organization has needs.

In Summary

  • Follow first principles
  • Treat your roadmap and process as product
  • Establish a normal calendar rhythm

Project leader. Product thinker. Write about human things. Find me at justinzack.com

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