Ask A Good Product Manager

Your product management questions answered

Do all products need a product roadmap?

Posted on February 22, 2008 · 2 Comments

Question: Should every product — even internal products — have a product roadmap?

I work in the IT dept of a financial institution. As such, we don’t build a lot of software in-house. We are more of a system integrator. But we want to have product roadmaps for many of our systems that support our business. But we have so many systems ranging from small 6-user systems to large enterprise wide system such as our CRM system. We can’t have product roadmaps for every little system out there.

What are some of the guidelines to determine whether a product roadmap is required for an application?

Answer from Gopal Shenoy of Product Management Tips: You need to figure out what systems play a role in your mission critical applications. Then for these systems, ask for product roadmaps so that you have advanced notice on what new functionality or change in behavior in existing functionality is being planned by the vendor. This will allow you enough time to make sure the vendor knows about any unique ways that you use their systems that they may not be aware of.

The last thing a good vendor wants is to introduce regressions that is going to piss off one of their big customers – You. They should appreciate your input since it is being given well before they have started cementing their new code and release. After all, good vendor relationships are two way partnerships – you helping them and them helping you.

2 other answers so far ↓

  • Rob Grady // Feb 23, 2008 at 8:56 am

    If you consider the systems as products that you ‘plan, develop and support’ then a roadmap and release plan make sense for your organization to maintain.

    If another organization ‘plans, develops and supports’ then they should maintain a roadmap (i.e. Microsoft Office). Per Gopal’s previous post, if you are using external systems as key parts of your offering you should ask for the roadmap and try to act as a key contributor to their process. My experience has been that some will have a roadmap and some won’t but you can always ask. If they don’t have a roadmap that may be a warning sign.

  • Brian Lawley // Feb 25, 2008 at 12:22 am

    A roadmap is simply a plan for the future. It might be a sketch that was developed in five minutes. I might take 2 months to thoroughly analyze (competitive landscape, SWOT, market/technology trends, internal company strengths, etc.). and that they need to rewrite the architecture.

    SW development needs to have a vision and an idea of where they are headed. Not only do you avoid what I just described, but you also have the chance to deliver additional new features far faster and more effectively (an architecture and re-usable code can set you up for success).

    My two cents….

    Brian Lawley
    Author, Expert Product Management
    Founder & President, 280 Group
    SVPMA President

    My opinion is that if you don’t have at least a high-level roadmap/sketch then you run the risk of having your developers tell you at a later time that the current architecture won’t support you new plans