Goal-Based Roadmaps: Explanation, Guide, and Template

Person with confetti, representing achieving your product goals with a goal-based roadmapGoal roadmaps embed business goals into your planning process. Here’s how to decide if they’re right for you.

Goal roadmaps are the new feature-based roadmaps.

I see more and more product leaders skeptical of the traditional feature-based product roadmaps. They worry that focusing on features can lead you to become a feature factory, pumping out new features without thinking about the bigger picture and whether they really deliver value to your customer.

Sure.

I absolutely connect with the desire to deliver value to the customer. And I’m on board with making sure you prioritize features to your roadmap consistently with your goals.

I also think you can do those things with a future-based roadmap… but if you think a goal-based roadmap works better for your team, have at ’er.

Here’s what a goal roadmap is, what it looks like, the pros and cons, and how to decide whether it’s right for you.

What is a goal roadmap?

A goal-based roadmap is a strategic planning tool product managers use to make sure their product plans align with their product and business goals.

Like all product roadmaps, goal roadmaps (also called goal-based roadmaps and goal-oriented roadmaps) are designed to keep your teams aware of and aligned on your product plans. What distinguishes the goal roadmap is its focus on high-level objectives or goals.

Whereas traditional, feature-based roadmaps focus on specific features or deliverables, a goal-based roadmap emphasizes the outcomes or results that will drive the business forward. Each item on the roadmap is tied to a specific, measurable goal that directly contributes to the broader objectives of the business. These goals guide decision-making and prioritize activities that bring the most value.

Example goal roadmap: The GO roadmap

One of the most popular versions of a goal roadmap is Roman Pichler’s Goal-oriented (GO) roadmap. His roadmap includes:

  • Date. The release date or time frame. Roman argues for using wide time-frames for customer roadmaps, and narrower ones for internal teams.

  • Name. Include the name or version of the release.

  • Goal. The benefit the product should offer.

  • Features. The output you need to achieve the goal. He says to include 3-5 key features or deliverables.

  • Metrics. These are the things you can measure to see if you’ve met your goal.

Here’s an example of what that could look like:

An example of Roman Pichler’s GO roadmap. Source.

Example 2: A goal-based roadmap in Savio

You can use Savio to make goal-based roadmaps, too.

  1. First, establish your business goals. For example, maybe this quarter you want to reduce churn.

  2. Next, identify the features that accomplish that goal. For example, filter and sort for features that have been requested by churned customers or at-risk customers.

  3. Prioritize those on your roadmap. You can also add a tag in Savio to show you which goal each feature is contributing to.

Here’s an example of what it could look like:

An example of a goal roadmap in Savio. Notice that each feature has a tag to represent the goal that it supports.

In this example, you can see that “reduce churn” is the goal indicated on the feature. In other words, the intention behind prioritizing the Zapier integration is to reduce churn.

Savio also lets you display relevant customer feedback data, like cumulative MRR, opportunity revenue, and priority of each feature request, among other data. That helps your teams see directly how this feature is connected to the goal of increasing churn.

For example, it has a high cumulative MRR, meaning that lots of paying customers want it. Building it would make a big difference for your current customers.

Is a goal roadmap right for you?

Goal-based roadmaps have some clear advantages, but they’re not for everyone. Use this section to help decide if goal-oriented roadmaps are right for your team.

Pros of goal-based roadmaps

Here are some of the advantages of goal-based roadmaps.

  • Focus on outcomes. A goal-based roadmap ensures your team is focused on achieving key business objectives rather than just delivering outputs or functionality. This can help ensure that all efforts are directly aligned with the overall goals of the business.

  • Flexibility and adaptability. Because they focus on goals, instead of specific features, goal-based roadmaps tend to be more adaptable. If market conditions, technology, or customer preferences change, the team can adjust the features but still work towards the same goals.

  • Clearer Prioritization. When you tie each feature or initiative to a specific, measurable goal, you can make prioritization clearer. Teams can readily assess the potential impact of different features and decide which ones should be prioritized to deliver the most value.

  • Encourages innovation. Goal-based roadmaps focus on the "what" rather than the "how". That encourages teams to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to achieve the set goals.

  • Improved team alignment. Goal-based roadmaps provide a clear picture of what the organization is trying to achieve. This clarity can foster better alignment across different teams, helping everyone work towards a common purpose.

Cons of goal-oriented roadmaps

While goal-based roadmaps can offer numerous benefits, they are not without their potential drawbacks. It's crucial to be aware of these to effectively leverage this approach:

  • Stakeholders want specificity. Goal-based roadmaps focus on high-level outcomes rather than specific tasks or features. That’s often not what your teams want—they may want to know exactly what you’re going to build and when. The lack of specificity can sometimes lead to confusion or misunderstanding about what exactly needs to be done.

  • Difficulties in estimation: As they are not tied to specific features or tasks, goal-based roadmaps can make it challenging to estimate timelines and resource requirements accurately.

  • Potential misalignment: There's a risk that different teams could interpret the goals differently, leading to potential misalignment. Regular communication and clarification are necessary to keep everyone on the same page.

  • Goals aren’t necessarily tied to customers. One of the criticisms of feature-based roadmaps is that you can end up producing features that aren’t tied to customer value. But that’s true of goal roadmaps, too: It’s not hard to set goals that aren’t tied to customer value. If you want to be customer-centric, you have to make sure that’s reflected in the goals you choose.

  • Goal inflation. If not properly managed, goal-based roadmaps might lead to setting too many goals or overly ambitious goals, which can result in disappointment when these are not met.

When to use goal-based roadmaps

Given that profile of pros and cons, when should you consider using goal-based roadmaps? Here are some situations where they might be especially beneficial.

  1. New product development. When you're developing a new product, the exact features you need probably aren’t clear. A goal-based roadmap keeps the team focused on high-level business outcomes, allowing for flexibility and innovation in the steps taken to get there.

  2. High uncertainty. In industries where technology, market trends, or regulations change rapidly, goal-based roadmaps are advantageous. They allow teams to adjust tactics and features quickly while still striving towards their original goals.

  3. Complex projects. For complex projects with many stakeholders, a goal-based roadmap can clarify the strategic objectives and desired outcomes. This high-level view can be easier to digest and more useful for decision-making than a detailed feature-based roadmap.

  4. Customer-centric organizations. If your business values customer satisfaction and feedback, a goal-based roadmap can help. It keeps the focus on delivering value and outcomes to the customer and can adapt based on customer feedback. (Just make sure your goals are related to customer value and satisfaction.

How to make a goal-based roadmap

Great, so how do you put a goal-based roadmap together? Here’s my suggestion.

Note: For more detail, check out our guide on building your product roadmap.

Step 1: Set your product vision, strategy, and goals

Every roadmapping exercise should start with a clear understanding of your product vision and strategy, and this is especially important for goal-based roadmaps. What is the big picture “why” of your product?

Learn more: Product vision guide

As part of that exercise, decide on your specific business and product goals for the sprint, month, or quarter, too. Some possibilities include:

  • Reducing churn

  • Increasing trial-to-paid conversion

  • Increasing expansion revenue

And so on. Ensure that your goals align with your overall business or product strategy. If there's a disconnect, your roadmap might lead you off course. Choosing these specific goals will help you when it comes to prioritizing feature requests.

Step 2: Collect feedback and feature requests

To set up a good system for prioritizing features on your goal-based roadmap, it’s useful to know what your customers are asking for. That tells you which features can help you achieve which goals.

So, establish a feature request tracking system.

That means making sure that all your customer-facing teams (customer success, sales, customer support, etc.) can easily centralize the feedback they get into one place where your product team can access it.

Step 3: Identify features to achieve your goals

Now, for each goal you specified, identify the features or improvements that will help you achieve it.

For example, if your goal is to reduce churn, figure out what actions you can take to move the needle on your churn rate.

In practice, this list will look a lot like your product backlog or feature request vault. And if you use a tool like Savio, you’ll be able to look at each feature request and see how many churned customers, current customers, and others are requesting the feature.

Guide: Where to get new feature ideas

Step 4: Prioritize features to your roadmap.

Now, choose the features you’ll build first.

This isn’t easy—In fact, it can be the most difficult part.

I’ve written about prioritization before, so if you want detailed advice, you can check out those pieces:

Here’s the biggest tip I have as you move forward: use your customer feedback to help you decide what to build. Listening to your customers helps you build a product they actually want and also helps you build loyalty.

Step 5:  Allocate resources and set timelines

You’ve got your priorities, and they’re based on your goals. Now make sure they fit in your Dev budget and assign rough dates for when you think they’ll be done.

Remember: roadmaps are planning documents and they are uncertain. That means that you (and your stakeholders!) should be prepared for them to change.

Image source: Comic Agile

Step 6: Decide how to display the information

You’re building a goal-based roadmap, so any product features you put on it will be associated with a specific business goal. But there are a number of ways you can display a goal-based roadmap visually.

  • Roman Pichler uses a grid system

  • Savio uses Kanban roadmaps

  • You could use bars with swimlanes

It’s up to you. Think about the best way to display the information you want to communicate and what design elements can help make it clearer.

That decision is also connected to the roadmapping tool you decide to use—Powerpoint, Google Sheets, a purpose-built roadmapping tool, or something else.

Make all those decisions at this step.

Step 7: Communicate the roadmap to all stakeholders

At this point, you just need to share your roadmap with your stakeholders.

Get feedback from internal stakeholders. Make any changes necessary. Then publish and share with the rest of your internal and external stakeholders.

Goal roadmaps best practices

To be effective, your roadmap needs to meet the needs of all your stakeholders and align your teams on your product plans. Here are some best practices to follow to make sure it’s successful.

Tip 1: Define clear, measurable goals

Try to make your goals specific, measurable, and achievable within the time you set. When you make goals specific and challenging, you increase your chance of achieving them.

Specific goals also reduce confusion and help your teams understand why you’ve made the product decisions you have.

Tip 2: Align your goals with business strategy

Your goals shouldn’t come out of nowhere. They should correspond directly with your product vision and strategy.

If there is a disconnect, it's likely your roadmap will lead you off course.

Tip 3: Stay flexible and adaptable

One of the key advantages of a goal-based roadmap is its flexibility. Don't be afraid to adjust your plans as circumstances change, but keep your goals in sight.

Tip 4: Make changes regularly and communicate them

Remember that a roadmap is a living document. Make sure to review and update it regularly to reflect the current situation, progress made, and any changes in your business strategy or market conditions.

Share your roadmap with all relevant stakeholders, and ensure it's easily understood. Regularly update your team and stakeholders on progress towards goals, and any changes that are made.

Tip 5: Use customer feedback

This is my biggest tip. Customer feedback is gold because it helps you achieve and maintain market fit—i.e. It helps you build a product people want to buy.

Use product management tools like Savio to gather customer feedback and use this valuable input to inform your goal-setting and roadmap creation.

Other roadmap types to consider

Remember, the best roadmap format for your team will depend on your specific context and needs. Goal-based roadmaps are just one tool in your toolbox, and they can be used alone or in combination with other types of roadmaps. If you’re not sure they’re the right fit, here are some other options to consider.

Roadmap types by what information is displayed

Roadmap types by workflow framework:

Roadmap type by design style

Up Next: What are the other types of roadmaps?

Last Updated: 2023-06-12

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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