Why Creating And Leveraging Road Maps Are Key For Business Success

Maziar Adl is the cofounder and CTO of Gocious, a cloud-based SaaS solution for strategic product planning.

As better AI technology rapidly improves organizational efficiency, leaders are under increasing pressure to showcase innovation and bring successful products to market.

That’s easier said than done. According to a 2021 McKinsey executive survey, 86% of executives said that “innovation is a top three priority, yet fewer than 10% say they are satisfied with their organizations’ innovation performance.”

In today’s high-pressure climate, leaders of any product-based company or manufacturer need to lean on the skills of a knowledgeable product manager to stay at the forefront of innovation. Product managers play an essential role in the organization through their ability to streamline the workflow, identify opportunities for innovation, build an effective product road map and maximize the team’s ability to execute a product strategy.

What A Product Manager Really Does

Many product managers are challenged in their role because it exists at the intersection of business operations, technical expertise and customer experience. As a result, leaders struggle to understand and clearly define a product manager’s responsibilities, or product managers get charged with tasks that go beyond their scope. This leads to breakdowns in communication, lack of focus and burnout for product managers who are overloaded and misunderstood.

Let’s be clear: Product managers identify opportunities to develop and launch the next generation of products and then guide the rest of the team in ensuring that the product is successful.

Though the roles are often confused or mistakenly interchanged, product managers have a different scope of responsibility than project managers.

Both roles do involve planning, coordination and expert communication. However, a product manager focuses on the strategic direction of the product, customer needs and long-term success, whereas a project manager is responsible for managing the execution of specific projects, ensuring timely delivery and meeting project-specific goals.

Product Road Maps: The Blueprints For Innovation

Successful product development is like building a house. It requires thoughtful research and planning, carefully sourced materials, and teamwork under a systematic process to bring the plan to life.

In this analogy, product road maps are the blueprint—a product manager’s essential tool for visualizing the building process. A product road map serves as a shared source of truth for product development teams, clearly mapping out the milestones and dependencies all stakeholders need to know. Equipped with this information, product managers can make informed choices, manage efficiently against setbacks or risk, and be more agile.

It’s a fitting comparison because product development is a time-consuming, expensive process planned over years. Product managers can’t succeed unless they break down a big product strategy into smaller parts. Product road maps are helpful in breaking down these long-term goals to help teams better work together along the way.

Four Product Road Map Best Practices

Product road maps are essential to any business looking to achieve their innovation goals. Here are four ways that leaders and project managers can improve their product road maps for long-term success:

Align Road Map With Company Goals

The best product road maps help minimize errors and streamline product development. These efficiencies start when leaders and product managers are aligned from the start. A way to ensure that success is making sure road maps always refer to the company’s mission and goals. That way, no matter which way the market changes, product teams are always developing in the direction of the company’s vision and future.

Share Road Map And Product Strategy With Teams

Product strategy shouldn’t be a top secret for internal stakeholders. For a team function as cross-functional as product management, a lack of transparency can kill productivity.

Everybody in the organization should be able to access a product road map and understand how it fits into the greater product strategy. Keep product road maps in a centralized, accessible location. Don’t assume everyone knows the information is equally available, either; share updates as road map priorities change to ensure collaborators are aware strategic resources are open and available to them.

Take Advantage Of Cross-Functional Collaboration

The biggest breakthroughs in product development sometimes ignite through an outsider’s perspective. Teamwork is one of the biggest assets a product manager can harness to their advantage. Use product road maps to facilitate cross-functional collaboration whenever possible.

Watch out for dedicating too much time to the little details when presenting to different audiences of stakeholders. Communications should be tailored to the audience, but clear visuals and customized data can make a product road map effective no matter who’s listening.

Keep It Flexible

Just like your overall business strategy, product road maps shouldn’t be set in stone. Road maps need to be flexible to account for many variables such as changes to the business ecosystem, supply chain snags, risk exposure and even another global pandemic. The right product for your customer may need to shift alongside those unexpected twists and turns the market brings.

By following these steps, leaders and product managers can work together to stay resilient, work toward common goals and develop the next big product customers will love.

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