9 Types of Product Roadmaps: Pros, Cons, and When to Choose Each One
What type of product roadmap makes the most sense for your product? Here you’ll learn some options and how to choose between them.
You’re putting together a product roadmap to help your stakeholders understand your product plans and keep your teams aligned.
What should it look like? What roadmap style should you choose?
Here’s your guide to product roadmap types. I’ve broken them down into categories:
Use the following list as inspiration and to find the version that works best for your team.
Note: Before you start your roadmap, make sure you’ve firmed up your product vision and strategy. Find more on that here. Looking for product roadmap templates? Check these out. Looking for roadmapping tools? They’re here.
Roadmap types by information included
A product roadmap is ultimately a communications tool. Like any form of communication, they’re most effective when they’re targeted at your audience. So, the best roadmap style for you depends on what you want to communicate and to who.
Here are a number of roadmap styles that differ based on the information they contain.
1. Feature-based product roadmaps
Feature-based product roadmaps emphasize individual functionalities that will be delivered in the product. They typically include a detailed breakdown of features, their priorities, and estimated release dates or time frames.
Feature-based roadmap examples: Here’s an example of a feature-based roadmap for a 12-month time period.
An example feature-based roadmap over a 12-month period. Image source: Münch, Trieflinger, Roling, and Eißler, 2020.
And here is another example of a feature-based roadmap. The focus of this one is on the specific features planned for Q3 by status: those in progress now, those that are next in the queue, and those that are for later.
An example of a feature-based roadmap in Savio. Note that this one is structured as a Kanban-style board, but it doesn’t have to be. Similarly, you can use any titles for columns—it doesn’t have to be “Now, Next, and Later”.
Clarity and detail: They clearly specify which features and functionalities will be developed and offer time frames.
Stakeholder alignment: These roadmaps help align stakeholders by providing a shared understanding of the product's feature development priorities. The process of developing these typically requires agreement about what you’ll build.
Feature factory: Feature roadmaps can encourage companies to pump out new features from the backlog without careful reflection on customer needs or how those features contribute to a product’s vision.
Lack of flexibility: Roadmaps are planning documents and should be open to change so companies can adapt to changing market conditions. A focus on features and dates can be interpreted by some stakeholders as inflexible commitments.
Potential overload: When dealing with a large number of features, feature-based roadmaps can become overwhelming and complex, leading to difficulties in managing dependencies and maintaining a coherent product vision.
According to some experts, these cons make feature-based roadmapping inappropriate for many software development processes. One group of researchers says:
“The traditional [feature-based] procedure for the roadmapping process is not suitable anymore for an agile and innovative environment.” — Jürgen Münch, Stefan Trieflinger, and Dominic Lang.
Ideal use case: Feature-based roadmaps are particularly useful when you need granular visibility into the features you’re planning. They are suitable when product teams have a clear understanding of the desired features, their priority order, and the estimated timeline for their implementation.
2. Goal-oriented product roadmaps
These structure your product planning around specific business and product goals. These goals are essentially the reason you’re building the feature—they serve as a kind of justification. Roman Pichler has an especially good description of these on his blog.
Goal-based product roadmaps are seen as an alternative to feature-based roadmaps because they don’t keep you in a feature factory mode where your team is just working to pump out features. Instead, they help your team focus on what features will best accomplish your stated goals.
Goal-based roadmap example: Here’s an example goal-based roadmap.