The Roadmap Reality

May 10, 2024

Everyone who works in digital products understands the importance of a product roadmap. A well defined roadmap helps align disparate teams and keeps everyone on track to achieve the overall business goals. That is why the creation of a product roadmap has become one of the most typical first steps when developing a new product or updating an existing one. 

In the enterprise world this often involves having to navigate the murky waters of competing stakeholders and priorities. You could be forgiven for thinking that the creation of the roadmap is the difficult part - “Lets just get this roadmap sorted and then we will be all set!” On the contrary, we at Furthermore have found that the initial roadmap creation is the easy part and it is the ongoing adherence to the roadmap that is by far the more difficult task.

There are many reasons why a well intentioned product team can end up with an ineffective roadmap. Unless it’s managed correctly and updated constantly, a roadmap can end up being irrelevant or, even worse, damaging to the business. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see and the steps product managers and teams can take to address them.

1. Forgetting the metrics

This is a big one we see day in and day out and one that is very easy to succumb to when working your way through a busy backlog. When the team is focused on designing, building and releasing new features, it can be difficult to make space to look back at the performance of previously released features. But without constant measurement, there is no way to know if your decisions are having a positive impact. While the act of releasing a new feature is an accomplishment, it should never be the goal. The feature should be something that helps your users or your product achieve a goal. If it's not doing that, then why release the feature at all? Every single item on your product roadmap should be directly tied to a product goal, and be supported by multiple metrics for which you have established baselines. That way, 6 months (or however long) after launching a feature you can review those metrics and prove that it has had a positive impact. If not, time to tweak and iterate. If someone in your organisation isn’t consistently measuring and analysing product performance against an agreed set of goals and KPIs, it will be very hard to know success when it happens. For small teams who don’t have the resource to dedicate someone to this full time, it should at least be baked into the product manager’s role. 

2. Getting caught in the feature request trap

Gosh, this is a tricky one. And so common. Most B2B products are reliant on selling to, and retaining, large business customers. And often times those big customers can have significant leverage over your product. If a new customer requests a tiny feature to be added to the product before purchasing, most product teams are going to seriously consider that. Better to add a new feature than lose a big contract. And while that is absolutely understandable, it’s important to be aware of when and how often this is happening and carefully monitor how it impacts the rest of your roadmap. TIme and time again we have seen products whose roadmap is entirely made up of features a specific customer has requested, and all the other ideas that are supposed to drive the product strategy get put on the back burner. Rather than immediately adding customer requests into the backlog, it’s important to take a beat and think strategically. What’s the problem they are trying to solve? Does it really need a new feature or can it be solved with something that already exists in the product? Is it a problem that applies to many customers or just one? Is it a direction that aligns with the product vision? Although difficult, it's important that the product leadership take ownership here and decide when it’s appropriate to accommodate a customer request.

3. Ignoring the commercial truth

The flip side of the previous one, many teams end up getting hyper-focused on solving the problems of existing users and lose sight of what might be needed to acquire new ones. This totally depends on your business model and how you acquire customers, but for those B2B products who depend on demos to sell into businesses rather than free trials, there can be a big disconnect between the features that retain users and the features that help acquire new ones. For example, while changing how a navigation is organised might have a huge impact on the user experience of a product, it’s probably not going to be a very exciting selling point when presenting your product to a potential new customer “Check it out! Our nav is more useable now!” When prioritising a roadmap it's important to balance the ‘business as usual’ features with the ones that are going to sell well. 

4. Creating a static roadmap

The folks we mentioned before who think that the initial roadmap creation is the biggest challenge often fall into this camp. Every few years they will create a roadmap and then it will remain unchanged until a few years later when they create a new one. In our humble opinion, this is not how a roadmap should work. A roadmap should be a living artefact, constantly evolving alongside the business, the market, the customers, the team etc. A business is never really static so the roadmap shouldn’t be either. A lot can change in multiple years, especially in digital. If you don’t have the ability to update your roadmap over time, you will ultimately end up creating features that are no longer relevant or needed. At the very least, you should be reviewing and updating your roadmap with the product team quarterly, if not more often. If done regularly, it doesn’t need to be some huge undertaking. Dedicate a few hours every few months, get the team together and look at the goals and the KPIs alongside any new customer feedback, new business developments etc, then make some updates and re-prioritise the backlog. It can be intimidating but over time it will become routine and making regular updates won't be quite so daunting.

These are, of course, just a few of the common mistakes that are made when managing product roadmaps. It is by no means an easy task and it’s the reason that talented product managers are always in high demand. If you are struggling with a ineffective roadmap just try to remember the ABCs of roadmapping:


Or you can always give us a call. We love to chat product strategy and would be happy to help implement best practice techniques for your organisation.

This article was written by Shane Henderson, Shane is an Account Director at Furthermore. Furthermore is a digital product and service design agency based in London.

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