Feature-by-Release Roadmaps: Explanation and Guide

Groups of baloons in the sky, representing features grouped by releaseGroup your features by release in a feature-by-release roadmap. Here’s what you need to know.

Want a quick, visual way to organize your features around their release? The feature-by-release product roadmap might be for you.

Here’s everything you need to know—what the feature x release roadmap is, pros, cons, when it's useful, and how to make one.

Feature-by-release roadmaps TL;DR

  • Feature-by-release roadmaps are visual planning documents that outline the development and launch schedule of a product's features.

  • They let you see at a glance what features you’re planning to launch in each release.

  • Drawbacks include that they often display limited information and rarely link planned features with customer feedback and requests.

  • Start making a feature-by-release roadmap in Savio—try it for free.

What is a release-by-feature roadmap?

A feature-by-release roadmap is a strategic document that outlines the sequence for the development and launch of a product's features across specific versions or releases. It serves as a guide for product development teams and communicates the product's evolution to both internal and external stakeholders.

Like all product roadmaps, these are dynamic tools, often adjusted based on internal and user feedback, development progress, market changes, or shifts in strategic direction.

Examples of a feature x release roadmap

Here’s an example of a feature-by-release roadmap. Notice that features are separated into vertical swimlanes by release. Then, they’re further categorized by theme.

Here is an example of a feature x release roadmap for software development. Source.

Here’s another example of a feature x release roadmap that we built in Savio. Notice that this one is designed as a Kanban-board style roadmap and also displays customer feedback information, so you can justify the product decisions you make (i.e. it’s an evidence-based roadmap, too).

Here is an example of a feature x release roadmap for software development. Source.

Is a feature x release roadmap right for you?

There are many different types of roadmaps, so is this the kind that makes sense for you? Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Pros

Here are some of the benefits of a feature-by-release roadmap:

  • Clarity and transparency. It provides clear communication to all stakeholders about what features are expected to be delivered and in which release.

  • Prioritization. It helps teams prioritize their work. By laying out features release-by-release, it becomes easier to focus on what needs to be done next.

  • Alignment. It ensures that all teams involved—from design and development to marketing and sales—are aligned on the product's direction.

  • Customer and stakeholder engagement. It helps manage customer and stakeholder expectations. By sharing a roadmap (where appropriate), customers and stakeholders can get a sense of the product's future direction, increasing engagement and trust.

Cons

However, there are also some drawbacks. Here are a few of them:

  • Limited flexibility. This type of roadmap ties features to specific releases, so it can limit flexibility. If a feature takes longer to develop than expected or if a new, high-priority feature comes up, it can disrupt the roadmap.

  • Over-promise and under-delivery. There's a risk of over-promising and under-delivering, especially if the roadmap is shared externally. If a feature gets delayed or deprioritized, it can lead to disappointment or loss of trust among customers or stakeholders.

  • Focus on features, not problems: This roadmap focuses on delivering features, which might lead teams to lose sight of the problems they're trying to solve for users. It's crucial to ensure that features align with user needs and not just to develop features for the sake of having new ones.

  • Missed opportunities. If teams focus too much on the roadmap, they may miss out on innovation opportunities that fall outside its scope.

To mitigate these potential drawbacks, it's important for product teams to view the roadmap as a flexible guide rather than a rigid plan, and to prioritize regular updates and effective communication.

When to use

A feature-by-release roadmap is typically best to use in the following circumstances:

  • Mature products. This approach is beneficial when dealing with mature products that have predictable and well-defined development cycles. Since these products usually have a clearer understanding of their user needs and market positioning, it's easier to plan out features and releases.

  • Large organizations. In large organizations or in contexts where many different stakeholders are involved, a feature-by-release roadmap can provide a clear and straightforward way to communicate the plan and keep everyone aligned.

  • Long-term strategic planning. If your organization values long-term strategic planning and has a clear vision of the product's future, a feature-by-release roadmap can serve as a useful guide.

However, it's important to remember that a roadmap should be treated as a dynamic tool that can be adapted based on changing circumstances, and not a rigid plan that must be adhered to at all costs. The ultimate goal of product development is to deliver value to users, so the product strategy should always be flexible enough to respond to changing user needs, market conditions, and business priorities.

How to make a feature-by-release roadmap

Here is a general step-by-step guide to making a feature-by-release roadmap. For more detailed advice and tips, check out our “How to create a roadmap” article.

Step 1: Define your goals

Determine the overall strategic objectives of your product. These goals should align with your business's wider objectives and act as the guiding principles for your roadmap.

Step 2: Identify key features

Brainstorm and list all the features you want to include in your product over the given period of time. This list (really, it’s your backlog) can come from a variety of sources including user feedback, competitive analysis, internal suggestions, and more.

Guide: How (and where) to get feature ideas

Step 3: Prioritize the features

Use a prioritization framework (like RICE, MoSCoW, the value vs. complexity matrix, or Savio’s prioritization strategy) to decide the order in which you'll tackle these features. Consider factors like business value, user value, development effort, risk, and strategic fit.

Step 4: Estimate development time

Work with your development team to estimate how long each feature might take to implement. This doesn't have to be an exact science but should give you a rough idea of the time required.

Step 5: Plan your releases

Divide the features among different product releases. Consider the business impact, user needs, and your team's capacity when deciding which features should go into each release.

Step 6: Create a timeline

Using the estimates from step 4, create a timeline that includes when each release is planned. This timeline should be flexible enough to account for potential delays or shifts in priorities.

Step 7: Document your roadmap

Use a tool or platform that allows you to visually represent your roadmap. This could be a specialized product roadmapping software tool like Savio, or something simpler like a spreadsheet or diagram in Google Sheets or Excel. Make sure the roadmap is easy to understand and accessible to all stakeholders.

Step 8: Communicate the roadmap

Share your roadmap with all relevant stakeholders, including your development team, other internal teams, executives, and (if appropriate) customers or users. Be clear that the roadmap is a plan, not a promise, and it may change based on a variety of factors.

Step 9: Review and update regularly

Schedule regular reviews of your roadmap to ensure it's still aligned with your business goals and user needs. Update it as necessary based on new information, feedback, or changes in your business or market.

Get started: Begin your feature-by-release roadmap in Savio—try it for free.

Other roadmap types to consider

Not yet decided on feature-by-release roadmaps? Here are some of the alternatives you can choose instead.

Roadmap types by what information is displayed:

Roadmap types by workflow framework:

Roadmap type by design style:

Last Updated: 2023-07-04

Kareem Mayan

Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.

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