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Avoiding Common Mistakes with Product Roadmaps

Product roadmaps can be an effective product management tool for Scrum Teams when used to create transparency and dialogue of what experiments teams plan to pursue to deliver customer value. However, they can be ineffective and even detrimental when used inappropriately. 

Here are some mistakes and pitfalls to watch for when using a product roadmap.

  • Using the product roadmap as a program, project or feature-based plan. This approach creates a plan-driven process that is not suitable for complex and unpredictable environments that benefit from agility so that teams can pivot and change as they learn.
  • Creating a long-term focused roadmap. While the context and goals of each team and organization will differ, creating a product roadmap that plans too far in advance (a year, or a few years) assumes that things will not change. As things will surely change, this effort is wasteful. Time and energy is better spent elsewhere.
  • Diving too deep into detail. Effective product roadmaps should include the goals that the team is pursuing to satisfy customers’ satisfaction gaps. This approach keeps conversations outcome-focused. When there is too much detail in the product roadmap, it becomes hard for stakeholders to understand at a high-level, which inhibits their ability to effectively understand the vision and also give input.
  • Treating the product roadmap as a fixed plan. A roadmap might help team(s) and stakeholders discuss and plan for the short-term future, but it should not be treated as a commitment or rigid plan. As a team starts working to deliver valuable product Increments, they will learn more things about their customers, users and opportunities which will likely require them to change their roadmap. 
  • Treating the product roadmap as a brainstorming area. Product Roadmaps should align with its product strategy, vision and the organization’s overall business strategy and strategic goals. The product roadmap should consist of experiments that are in pursuit of validating or invalidating those goals. It should not be a random set of inclinations.

One way to avoid these common pitfalls is to ensure that the product roadmap is focused on goals and customer-driven outcomes. To determine if something is a goal, ask why? If it does not tell you why the idea is worth pursuing, it’s not a goal and more likely a feature or capability to be built.



Roman Pichler dives into more mistakes to avoid in “10 Product Roadmap Mistakes to Avoid” 

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Learning Series
A product roadmap is a visual aid technique that a Scrum Team can use to share and discuss what is upcoming for the product at a high-level.