Product Roadmap: Lessons Learned From Google

Ann Vladimirova
4 min readJul 6, 2021

Whether in person or virtual, workshops are a great way to capture the best thinking of your group and get everyone on board. While you can happily work with only business goals on your roadmap, adding user goals helps ensure that the people who should benefit from the product are not forgotten. I have therefore included a row in the template above that encourages you to state when you intend to meet the goal and realize the desired outcome or benefit. This encourages your stakeholders to remain dedicated to the product vision and ensures that your roadmap is never out of date. Building and presenting a product roadmap is an essential part of a product manager’s job. When a product manager needs to communicate the strategic plan for the product — a vital part of a product manager’s role — the spreadsheet does not offer any compelling visual framework. And you as a product manager should put these initiatives together into the big picture for the executive buy-in. Typically a product manager designs the product roadmap. But that’s OK in my mind, as long as the product roadmap is regularly reviewed, updated, and improved. Explaining the differences, how often each version will be updated, and how it will be communicated is an important part of managing your stakeholders.

Are you managing multiple products? Workshops are absolutely crucial at the start of the process, and it’s good practice to continue to hold them frequently throughout. While I find it very beneficial to work with goals, in practice these have to balance with time frames or dates-at least when you create an internal roadmap whose purpose is to align and guide the stakeholders and development teams. Sample goals are to acquire new users, retain users by enhancing the user experience, or accelerate development by removing technical debt. For example, getting likes is merely good for the company ego, but getting active users will actually bring revenues for the company. One way to think of this is that whereas a startup will be focused almost entirely on acquiring new customers, an established enterprise will dedicate some of its resources to capturing new users and some resources to continuing to support and satisfy its existing customers. Because a mature enterprise will have had its products in the market, its product roadmap will look more well-rounded than that of a startup. Given that the roadmap should be a high-level strategy, make sure you create broad headings/themes under which you can put in clusters of similar features or initiatives.

Make sure you document this in a language that your stakeholders understand. So, make sure your roadmap is hosted somewhere visible to stakeholders — perhaps somewhere that would fit into their existing working habits, such as a frequently used internal resource. This step should also include setting a product vision that your roadmap will direct stakeholders towards. Setting up a business or even an organization is one of the most difficult tasks in today’s world. And an agile roadmap reflects quarterly (or even monthly) commitments. I like to start creating a GO product roadmap by identifying the desired outcomes or benefits the product should create over the coming months. Customers — Start with getting feedback from customers who are using your product. Whether you’re using a scoring model or some other kind of model to evaluate and prioritize opportunities, the technique you’re using is ultimately less important than the conversation that you’re having with your stakeholders.

I recommend using one product goal at a time. The last row states the metrics, the measurements that help you determine if a goal has been met and if the desired value has been created. This will help stakeholders to focus their efforts and be more engaged in hitting that target. Goal-oriented roadmaps focus on goals or objectives like acquiring customers, increasing engagement, and removing technical debt. For example, at Yammer, our strategy for a while was to focus on teams working in Yammer groups, and we had a yearlong goal of reaching a certain number of such groups; or at 8fit, one of our strategic objectives was to increase customer lifetime value (LTV), and we had a yearlong goal of moving a certain percentage of new billings to a credit card (as opposed to through the app stores). This will help you make better decisions in choosing whether to pick your senior management’s favorite project or build a feature demanded by your target customer. Finally, here are a few more thoughts to help you build the most effective product roadmaps and, ultimately, to give your products the best chance of success. Breaking it down into these themes will also help readers see the whole process clearly as well.