“No roadmap survives contact with reality.”
It’s a saying that has flourished in product management circles for years—for all the wrong reasons.
Roadmaps get a lot of flak. They are often blamed for unrealistic deadlines and death marches. For missing market opportunities, and for building features that are out-of-date before any code is even written.
When I began my career as a product manager, a roadmap was commonly known as a feature-by-feature wish list, outlining releases and delivery dates stretching as far out into the future as the spreadsheet could handle. My own roadmap was a work of art—an all-singing, all-dancing dynamic spreadsheet that certainly pleased the bosses...but terrified the developers and let me down every quarter when it had to be tediously updated to match with all the things we weren’t able to deliver.
I even went so far as to neatly package up this spreadsheet and release it into the wild for others to download. At the time, I thought I was being helpful, but it just fueled the trend for beautiful, but ultimately treacherous, roadmap formats.
And these old artifacts are still everywhere: do a Google image search for Product Roadmap and you’ll see what I mean.
But an old-school roadmap doesn’t fit with modern software development. And a modern roadmap isn’t meant to survive contact with reality.
Just as your first prototypes and MVPs are likely to get trashed in feedback sessions with your early customers, your roadmap is meant to change and adapt as you learn more.
Your product roadmap is the prototype for your strategy.
It’s your key to vision alignment. It’s your ever-adaptable communication aid, the one thing your team can coalesce around and use as a North Star guiding light.
In this book, Bruce, C. Todd, Evan, and Michael finally set the record straight. Roadmaps are a powerful communication tool that benefit not just the product people and their immediate team, but the entire company and how it communicates.
The authors have unburdened the rest of us by digging out the absolute best practices from product-centric companies around the world and lining them up in a way that’ll empower you, the product person, to create and maintain a roadmap that will propel you forward instead of hold you back.
It’s the first book to hold up the product roadmap as not just a document, but a leadership tool.
And it couldn’t come at a better time. As cofounder of Mind the Product and the ProductTank events around the world, I see how roadmaps are being created, communicated, and shared.
Time and time again, I see product teams who are being held back by outdated roadmapping practices.
Much of my time is spent on trying to rid the world of bad road maps—and it’s not just me. As Marty Cagan once said to me, “At least 90% of the roadmaps I see are squarely in the ‘bad’ category.”
Now Bruce, C. Todd, Evan, and Michael are doing something about it, and this book is a giant leap forward in fixing the problem. I only wish it had existed years ago, when it could have saved me from many of the roadmap struggles I went through! Perhaps I would have thought better of releasing that well-meaning but ill-advised roadmap template.
Just as lean/agile facilitated a step-change in how we iterate and deliver, this relaunched roadmap paves the way to change how we discover opportunities, communicate about them, and build products that solve real problems.
It’s time for a relaunch, to move into a new way of roadmapping, and this book is it.
Cofounder/CEO of ProdPad and cofounder of Mind the Product Brighton, UK—July 2017