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Product Management in Practice by Matt LeMay

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Chapter 9. Realistic Roadmaps and Painless Prioritization

In theory, a roadmap represents what you plan to build in the future and prioritization is the process by which you decide which of those things is worth building right now. In practice, though, it is never that simple or straightforward. A roadmap can represent anything from an ironclad and airtight executional plan to a vague set of reassurances aimed at placating specific stakeholders. And when it comes time to actually allocate resources, even the most robust roadmap might end up thrown out the window if the organization’s goals and needs have shifted—or if an important person complains enough.

In this chapter, we look at how product managers can use both a roadmapping document and a prioritization process as tools to connect and align, not to compete and fragment.

It’s Not the Roadmap, It’s How You Use the Roadmap

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a working product manager was to think of roadmaps as a strategic communication document, not as an actual plan for what will be executed and when. Unfortunately, I immediately misinterpreted this advice to mean that everybody already understood that the roadmap was not an actual plan for what will be executed and when. This got me into hot water more than once, as I had to explain to various stakeholders (ranging from engineers to [clears throat] board members) that the roadmap I had provided did not actually reflect what my product team was planning ...

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