Chapter 1

Use your product strategy and product vision to plan your roadmap


A product strategy and vision can make or break your product. If they’re vague, unreliable and thoughtless, your product and your team will lack a sense of direction. And as a consequence, having a product strategy and vision that no one follows will give you an aimless, messy roadmap. And that’s the last thing you want from such an important communication tool that relies so heavily on purposeful, well-defined direction.

Can you confidently say that your roadmap is reflecting your product vision and strategy? Here is a roundup of best practices for your product strategy and vision to help you ensure they’re serving your roadmap well.

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Ready to level up your product roadmap? Check out our complete guide for product managers.

What makes a good product vision?

A good product vision should be focused on the long-term outcomes and benefits you’d like to see in your product. Or as Roman Pichler put it in his book, Strategize: Product Strategy and Product Roadmap Practices for the Digital Age, your “vision describes the ultimate reason for creating the product.”

Take a look at these product vision examples and see if you can spot any long-term aspirational outcomes between the lines:

JetBlue: To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.

Linkedin: Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.

Ideally, your product vision should describe the impact your product will have on your customers’ lives. Your vision lets your team and your customers know exactly how your product will benefit them today and in the future.

One way you can build a solid product vision is by using Geoffry Moore’s product vision template:

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Your product vision isn’t just about creating an emotional response in your potential customers. It’s essential to the everyday decision-making process that takes place within your team. It guides and re-routes everyone in the product team back to what matters the most to the company.

In the most perfect scenario, a thoughtful and well-crafted product vision can inspire your team to strive for excellence in the work they do every day. When the product vision is done correctly, it can remind each member of your product team of how their role contributes to achieving that greater vision.

What should your product strategy be?

If your product vision is the long-term outcome you hope to deliver with your product, then your product strategy defines how you’ll get there. Your strategy is also the link between your roadmap and your product vision—the strategy turns the vision into actions you can take to achieve those long-term goals.

In general, you need to have a few basic elements for good product strategy planning. It includes:

Market and Needs: Understanding the target audience and the problems they face that you wish to solve in a way your competitors haven’t done before

Key features and differentiators: What your competitive differentiation is and how you’ll deliver that value to your customers

Your product strategy needs to be flexible and adaptable. Understand that your team will always be learning about the users and the product as it evolves and makes its way down the lifecycle.

Something you can do to make sure you have a solid product strategy is to ask yourself, and your team, the following product strategy questions. The answers should have been the foundation for your strategy back when you first built it from scratch, but they can be used to calibrate it:

  • What are the emotional reactions you’re hoping to get from your users every time you release a feature?
  • What unique purpose will your product fulfill in the market?
  • What are the valuable aspects you need to build into your product?
  • What resources (time, effort, money) does the company have to achieve that value?
  • What are the limitations and possible snags your product might face in the market?

The product strategy canvas

The product strategy canvas is a step-by-step guide designed to help product managers define their product strategy. By filling in the different questions and sections of a product strategy canvas, you can be confident that you’re on the right path: defining the things that matter the most to product success.

Roman Pichler’s product strategy canvas is a neat tool for developing a solid definition of who your target audience is, what their problems are, and how you can turn those problems into actionable tasks for the team to work on.

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Melissa Perri’s version of the product canvas is slightly different. It’s a more informal version of the in-depth version developed by Roman Pichler, but it can be a great exercise if you’d like to determine where your team members and stakeholders stand when it comes to the product strategy.

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It’s up to you to determine which version suits your needs depending on the maturity of your product.

Why is product strategy important?

A specific, customer problem-focused strategy leaves no room for ambiguity or confusion among your product team. Working on a product without a well-defined sense of direction and purpose leads to product goals that never get realized, a lowered sense of morale within the team who feels like they lack direction, and a waste of resources (misdirection inevitably results in creating the wrong things for the product).

The first battle in product strategy planning is defining all the elements that go into something like a product canvas. But the hardest battle comes in reinforcing it, ingraining it in the work philosophy of the product team, and in creating an unwavering conviction to stay in the path defined by said product strategy.

How should your product roadmap reflect your vision and strategy?

Your product roadmap doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If your vision is the long-term aspiration for the product, and the product strategy explains how you’ll achieve it, then your product roadmap is the visual tool that will visually communicate that how to anyone who’s invested in the product (your team, your stakeholders, and, in some cases, your customers).

We like to think of the roadmap as a statement of intent rather than an unchangeable map—it should depict how the product will evolve over each phase by mapping the tactical work sequentially. This means you have to be able to forecast how the product might grow, yet also be prepared for the inevitable changes that arise as your product grows and you learn more about your market and your customers.

A good strategic product roadmap reflects your vision and strategy and it also guides the execution of the strategy, it aligns internal stakeholders, communicates short and long-term progress of development, and seamlessly shares the product strategy with external stakeholders.

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If you’re building a feature-based roadmap, your best bet for making sure everything is aligned with the product strategy is by using a prioritization framework. The product team can use prioritization exercises to ensure that every one of their efforts is aligned with the product strategy. These exercises can help the product manager ensure that everyone truly understands the strategy and, when someone is missing the mark, to make changes where necessary.

Here at Roadmunk, our product roadmaps can be displayed in a timeline view or a bucket view. More importantly, you can use our product roadmaps for any framework and for any stage of the Technology Adoption Lifecycle Model.

Ready to start building your own product roadmap? Try our ready-to-use product roadmap template.

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