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How to create your product roadmap

Adriana Landaverde's created plenty of product roadmaps in her time. Here, she shares her learnings.

By Amy Lewin

Adriana Landaverde is a product advisor and former chief product officer at green investment app Clim8 Invest. Before that she was VP product management at social platform Pollen and head of product management at investment company Nutmeg. She’s created plenty of product roadmaps in her time — the action plans of any product team — and shares some learnings here. 

This Q&A first appeared in our weekly Startup Life newsletter. For more insights like this, sign up here.

Super early-stage startups don’t need a very defined product roadmap.

The key mission is to find product market fit, so your roadmap should be about learning. Like, over the next two weeks we’ll focus on talking to users, digesting this information and then sharing it with everyone. It’s not about building something, it’s about discovering what needs to be built.

The product roadmap helps everyone be aware of what’s being done — and what’s not.

It should give clarity on what’s being worked on over the next month, and then a strong likelihood of what will be worked on in the second and third months. Beyond that, it’s worth including what’s coming and how soon — for example, if customer support are asking for a customer relationship management system (CRM), but it’s unlikely to happen for the next six months.

Work in two week sprints.

Nothing should change within those two weeks; what you plan is hopefully what you end up delivering. And if it’s not addressed, it goes into the next sprint. A monthly revision of the roadmap should be enough so it’s not too heavy on the management side of things.

Start with basic tools.

We used Trello at Clim8; it allowed us to understand what stages things were at. In the cards, we’d keep comments on progress, any delays, the reasoning behind taking a ticket ‘in progress’ back into ‘discovery’. I’d encourage anyone to try the basic tools and go from there; some are way too detailed for the wider company.

You need to be in sync with the rest of the leadership team.

It’s the responsibility of product, engineering and design to build and maintain the product roadmap — but you need to share it with the rest of the team as soon as you need alignment and input. You want to avoid any surprises.

More communication is better than none.

Sometimes communication can seem excessive, but I’d rather be on that end of the spectrum. That said, beware of creating content just for the sake of communication — make sure the tools, reports, tickets you’re using are reusable for multiple audiences. If you’re building another report or another layer on top of your roadmap, that’s too much.

The product roadmap is not a commitment.

There are certain things you should commit to — like running a Christmas campaign — and align all your resources to make sure those commitments are made. But those should take up about 30% of the time; the other 70% should be about making a plan and then learning — about your customer, competitors, code… You need to set the direction and aim for something, but that shouldn’t be interpreted as a commitment. That leads to a lot of demotivation. It’s not about the output; it’s about the outcomes you’re getting. If you’re going in the right direction, in the end that’s what matters.

Amy Lewin is Sifted’s deputy editor. She covers VC, mobility and diversity in tech, coauthors the Startup Life newsletter and tweets from @amyrlewin

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