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Last updated on 4/7/20

Manage Changes to your Roadmap

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Managing Change

A roadmap is a communication tool that helps to share the product strategy - the "how" behind the team's plan to make the product vision a reality. Plans and strategies (even product visions!) can change. When they do, it follows that the roadmap may change too.

Here are three tips to help manage changes in a roadmap::

  1. Set the right expectations with confidence percentages

  2. Use a disclaimer

  3. Be clear on why

1. Set the right expectations with confidence percentages

It is important to emphasize the fact that a roadmap is going to be based on what the product manager knows today. As she learns more, the roadmap might change.

Some product managers will put a percentage on their roadmaps to illustrate the level of confidence they have that certain themes will be addressed. In the roadmap below, the Near-Term items are 80% likely to be tackled/delivered while the Medium-Term items and Far-Term items are 60% and 40% likely respectively to be delivered.

This is perfectly natural. If the business signs a partnership deal, for example, it may impact the roadmap. The further out your plans, the less confidence you can have that you won't be adapting in some way to the changing needs of the business (and therefore change the roadmap).

Indicating a confidence percentage on a roadmap
Indicating a confidence percentage on a roadmap

2. Use disclaimers

It is important to place disclaimers in public roadmaps.

If stakeholders and customers fail to read the disclaimer, it is their fault for having false expectations - not the product manager.

Below you can see how Slack has used a nicely worded disclaimer in their public roadmap for developers:

Disclaimer in Slack Platform Roadmap for Developers
Disclaimer in Slack Platform Roadmap for Developers

3. Be clear on why

It can be productive to review the roadmap regularly and check if you are still on track. If changes to the roadmap are required, then it is because the product manager has some knowledge (some input, some new learnings) that drive this decision. It is always good to share any changes with internal stakeholders.

Ultimately, if you have clear Objectives and Key Results, and you are using themes to help describe the areas of the product that will be focused on, then you still have flexibility for learning, adapting, and choosing solutions without changing the roadmap. A theme to "Reduce Fraud by 10%," is a high-level description of what you will do which leaves you a lot of room to decide how you will accomplish the task.

However, if you adjust the roadmap because the objectives have changed, you should share the rational. Whenever a roadmap changes, you are typically saying "yes" to something as much as saying "no" to something else. Focus on the features and themes that have been added and the objectives they support when explaining roadmap changes.

Summary

  • When the strategy of the organization changes, the roadmap may change too.

  • There are three important tips for managing roadmap change:

    • Set the right expectations with confidence percentages

    • Use a disclaimer

    • Be clear on why

Thanks for taking this course!

  • You have reached the end of this course on Building Product Roadmaps. You should now be clear on the difference between project plans and product roadmaps and understand that a product roadmap is a strategic communication tool that outlines the areas of future intended focus (rather than a list of features) using themes and broad timeframes.

  • We also examined how to uncover customer and stakeholder needs as well as impact maps and customer experience maps. In addition, you learned how a product backlog is an important artifact and how to prioritize elements from the product backlog into your roadmap.

  • I hope that you have enjoyed this course and feel ready to create more effective Roadmaps in the future for whatever project you are working on.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement