Roadmap Planner 2.9.5 Screenshot 2. The image below has been reduced in size. Click on it to see the full version. Marketing Roadmap Planner. Download our Marketing Roadmap template along with simple instructions to use with your team to map out your marketing activities throughout the year. Use the roadmap to: Determine major trade shows, product launches, and significant company events.
A product roadmap is a tool that you can use to forecast a product’s development, milestones, budget, and timeline, and to align stakeholder expectations. To save time and ensure you include all the requisite information, you can start with a product roadmap template. Choose from the free, downloadable product roadmap templates for Excel, Word, and PowerPoint in this article.
We’ve also provided free, customizable product roadmap templates in Smartsheet, a work execution platform that empowers you to better plan and manage product development with real-time collaboration and work automation.
Free Product Roadmap Templates
One of the benefits of using a product roadmap is the common timeline feature, which helps teams visualize their work. Using a template can also save you time by standardizing the roadmapping process. Below, you’ll find several free, downloadable templates in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint formats.
If you need to create a more comprehensive strategic plan, check out this article for free, downloadable templates.
Multiple Product Roadmap Template
Manage multiple products with this simple roadmap by creating a monthly and quarterly timeline for the various teams working on your products. By combining products in one roadmap, you can see how multiple initiatives fit together and reduce the number of documents to review. Use different colors to track progress or designate different teams, or personalize the template to suit your needs.
Download Multiple Product Roadmap Template
Excel Word PowerPoint Smartsheet
Agile Product Roadmap Template
Create an Agile product roadmap to guide your development process. Highlight stages of development on your timeline, including features, releases, and testing. An Agile roadmap can provide long-term guidance for your product strategy by helping you to prioritize key initiatives and keep teams focused.
Download Agile Product Roadmap Template
Excel Word PowerPoint Smartsheet
Features Roadmap Template
A features roadmap template provides a timeline for key features, and it tracks development and releases. Whether you’re communicating with external stakeholders or your own team members, use this template to describe where features should go and to depict progress.
Download Features Roadmap Template
Technology Roadmap Template
Use a technology roadmap template to link technical solutions with strategies. Additionally, align the various development teams with a given product so that responsibilities are clearly defined. A technology roadmap can be used internally or shared with outside partners who depend on your company’s technology. You can also use it for planning organization-wide initiatives or for individual teams. Modify the template and timeline to fit your particular project. You can find more templates for technology roadmaps here.
Download Technology Roadmap Template
Releases Roadmap Template
Use a release roadmap template to ensure that your release timeline is on track and your product update will be successful. With this roadmap, you may combine initiatives and features for different teams to help foster collaboration and communication, and clearly outline the release management process to maximize team efficiency.
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Enterprise IT Roadmap Template
An enterprise IT roadmap can offer benefits to larger organizations that undertake multiple IT initiatives. Use the template to map all IT projects across your organization so you can coordinate resource allocation, forecast technology needs, and communicate with multiple teams. This template also shows a clear connection between technology improvements and overarching business goals and strategies.
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IT Strategy Roadmap Template
Use this template to outline your IT strategy. The form provides space to outline the phases, elements, and timing of an IT project and provides a visual summary of your IT roadmap. The template is available in both Excel and PowerPoint formats, so you can use the version that best suits your presentation needs.
Download IT Strategy Roadmap Template
Excel PowerPoint Smartsheet
Sprint Roadmap Template
In Agile methodologies, a sprint is a predetermined period of time in which a team will accomplish a single goal — often a feature or project milestone. Use this template to plan your sprints and keep a close eye on release dates. A sprint roadmap is great for shorter-term planning, and it keeps teams organized and on track.
Download Sprint Roadmap - Excel
Consulting Project Roadmap Template
Use this flowchart-style roadmap to chart the phases of a consulting project. The deliverable of a consulting project may not be a product, but it can still be useful to outline the relationship as it progresses, agree on key objectives and timeline, and allocate resources. This template is available in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint formats, and it includes both general phases and specific tasks common in consulting projects. You can also edit the form to fit the needs of your project.
Download Consulting Project Roadmap Template
What Is a Product Roadmap?
A product roadmap provides a long-term view of where a product is going and how development teams plan to get there. A roadmap can help secure funding for product development, set product goals that align with business objectives, and prioritize initiatives for a streamlined process.
An effective roadmap is more than a timeline that highlights product releases and features, however: The document is also used in high-level planning of strategic initiatives and is an important tool for communicating internally with team members and executives, as well as externally with customers. Ideally, a product roadmap is a living document that a product manager updates daily to drive development and guide the process of reaching long-term goals.
Some benefits of using a roadmap include enhanced collaboration and accountability among team members, stronger relationships with customers and partners, and more comprehensive review and planning as part of product management.
What to Include in a Product Roadmap
Depending on your needs, a roadmap may be goal-oriented, focus on features, or create a schedule for sprints (if supporting an Agile development process). For example, if you’re working on a product that already has a predictable and stable market, when it’s easier to anticipate growth, it may be most effective to focus on features. For a new product with more uncertainty, organizing your roadmap around goals may be a better strategy.
Regardless of the format or focus of your roadmap, it should describe how you are going to carry out your product strategy to achieve your final objectives. Each step in the roadmap should build on the last so that you have a cohesive plan for product growth. Since roadmaps tend to change over time, your map may be more detailed when it comes to short-term goals and strategies. You will likely modify the map as needed and add more details as they become relevant.
Of course, it is possible to use multiple types of roadmaps together. You may want one detailed roadmap that focuses on IT architecture related to your product, another for marketing, and another for the overall development process. If you’re new to roadmapping, keep it simple — both to ease management and to ensure that you create an effective communication tool. It’s also wise to create a collaborative roadmapping process, as sharing the map with stakeholders can help foster relationships and ensure buy-in. Finally, it’s a good idea to keep your audience in mind when creating a roadmap and to adjust the map accordingly.
Here are some key elements typically included in a product roadmap, as well as tips for creating an effective map.
- Product Strategy: Developing your strategy requires a product vision, which is typically based on concrete information about your target audience, the unique benefit that your product provides, and your business objectives. This vision will be your compass for where the product is headed and will help ensure that each goal moves your team toward its high-level objectives.
- Releases: The way you customize releases will depend in part on your audience. Internal and external release dates may differ; for example, customers may be interested in your plan to release certain features, while internal stakeholders may want the roadmap to highlight how certain releases relate to strategic goals.
- Features: Your strategy should drive your roadmap, so prioritize the features that will move you toward your goals. Ranking customer requests can help prevent creating a random selection of features. One technique is to choose a golden feature (an essential feature that has the highest priority for a release) and to tackle that feature first. The golden feature should be an item that is simple to communicate for ease of marketing, but strong enough to capture customers’ attention.
- Goals: Set realistic goals and include milestones with measurable benefits. Your goals have to be quantifiable so that you have some way of determining success. Identify the metrics you will use to track your goals.
- Dates: There are differing opinions about using specific dates in a product roadmap. If you’re working on an internal roadmap that outlines the tasks of various teams (from development to marketing and sales), it may be helpful to include specific dates. If your roadmap is for customers and you do not have to meet any seasonal marks, it may work better to show releases in progressive order without dates.
- Costs: Determining the costs for developing and delivering your product will help ensure that your plan is achievable, and it may be vital for securing an appropriate budget. Use your roadmap and previous experience as a product manager to determine labor costs, as well as infrastructure, licenses, and other expenses. If costs are too high or you don’t have access to necessary resources, adjust the roadmap or change course.
Build More Collaborative, Transparent Product Roadmaps with Smartsheet
Creating a well-thought-out roadmap is critical to the success of your product development efforts. But that’s just one factor to consider. You need a solution that allows you to plan, track, automate, and report on the many moving pieces in one location, share progress with internal and external stakeholders, and receive alerts when items change, all in real time.
One such tool is Smartsheet, a work execution platform that enables enterprises and teams to get from idea to impact — fast. Top program management leaders rely on Smartsheet to help align the right people, resources, and schedules to get work done.
Use Smartsheet to create consistent program elements, increase speed, and improve collaboration with scalable options that fit individual work preferences. Hold yourself and your team accountable, improve visibility into team priorities, and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Try Smartsheet to discover how you can maximize your product development planning efforts, today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is an Agile Product Roadmap?
An Agile product roadmap is a streamlined tool used to describe how a product is likely to change or grow over time, align stakeholders and gain buy-in, and acquire the project budget.
Agile project managers must be nimble as changes can occur frequently and unexpectedly. Therefore, having a product roadmap in place helps to eliminate any questions or confusion that might pop up as the Agile project progresses.
What Is Roadmap Planning?
Roadmap planning is a specific planning technique that supports both strategic and long-term plans, yet allows the flexibility to change project plans as objectives and initiatives change.
A roadmap helps to match both short and long term goals with an appropriate project plan that lands teams on time and budget for their specific project.
What Is a Roadmap in Business?
In business, a roadmap is used to provide a framework around a strategic plan, guiding organizations to the end-goal with high visibility through step-by-step instructions.
A roadmap enables all team members to understand goals, take action, and make appropriate decisions in a timely fashion.
How Do You Create a Technology Roadmap?
To create a technology roadmap, first identify the strategic objective or project priorities for the future goals of the organization.
From there, define the needs of the team to achieve these goals, and prioritize the order of the tasks to accomplish them. Measure costs and estimate an accurate budget for the project, and establish realistic timelines for your team to hit.
Lastly, appoint a specific team, usually comprised of IT team members, to drive the project and make sure the roadmap is being followed and updated as needed.
Discover a more collaborative, real-time way to manage product roadmaps.
Creating a product roadmap is a vital part of every product manager’s role.
Roadmaps are essential for coordinating the product development process. They ensure that ongoing day-to-day tasks align with and contribute to your higher level business strategy.
Why are product roadmaps so effective?
They can be used to:
- Prioritize tasks and initiatives
- Track progress toward goals
- Coordinate activities across teams
- Build consensus and understanding within teams
- Create transparency, internally and externally
They’re a staple for any growing business, and should be developed alongside other fundamental business reports like the marketing plan and the business plan. They can even help inform your marketing growth strategy.
Plus, with Venngage’s professional business roadmap templates, creating a roadmap for your next project will be easy.
What is a product roadmap, anyway?
A product roadmap is a high-level visual that maps out the evolution of your product over time. The product roadmap highlights where the organization is, where the organization wishes to be, and how it will get there. It is serves as a helpful guide for teams to plan tasks and execute on the strategy.
They are produced by business owners or managers for the purpose of communicating product strategies, tools and initiatives to both product developers and external stakeholders.
Basically, they’re the one document that will keep the development of a product on track, and generally ensure that everyone involved in the process is on the same page.
How to create a product roadmap
A product roadmap follows a similar format to a Gantt chart – a type of horizontal bar chart that displays the duration and timing of a number of tasks or initiatives in all one place.
Since roadmaps should be agile, ever-evolving documents, it’s best to design them using strategic roadmap templates, and edit them in a tool that allows more flexibility (so that they’re easy to edit and update as priorities change). Your product roadmap will need to highlight a specific timeline, identify the projects within that timeline, and include the departments tackling each project.
Visualize and track project progress easily and effectively with one of our Gantt chart templates.
Roadmaps have traditionally been made from scratch in Excel or Word, which is rather tedious and time-consuming. Plus, the end product looks like a glorified spreadsheet.
The flexibility of using a simple design tool, and working with a roadmap template makes the road-mapping process much easier (and less time-consuming!).
Let’s walk through how to build a product roadmap in a flexible tool like Venngage.
Planning a product roadmap
Before jumping into the visualization stage of roadmapping, you’ll need to figure out two key details: who you’re creating the roadmap for, and how far into the future you want to plan.
The content and presentation of your roadmap must to tailored to your audience, as different audiences will have very different needs.
External stakeholders, for example, will likely want a higher-level view of strategic initiatives, which should be planned out over the course of a multiple quarters to a few years. They might be more interested in general time horizons like near term, mid term, and future:
Internal members of the product team, on the other hand, will want a more granular view of specific features and tasks. It usually makes sense to plan these out over the course of weeks or months, instead of years.
Aside from aligning with your audience’s needs, the timeframe must also be reasonable. It must be long enough to produce significant developments in the project, but short enough that it’s possible to project accurate deadlines.
It’s standard practice to create product roadmaps by year, by quarter, by month, or by sprint.
Once you’ve identified your audience and a decided on a reasonable timeframe, you can start assembling the other pieces of the product development puzzle. That includes:
- High-level goals and initiatives
- Low-level tasks and their time requirements
- Task priorities
- Key milestones
- Task dependencies
Once you have all of those key pieces listed out, you’re ready to building your product roadmap.
Creating a product roadmap
As I mentioned above, a product roadmap usually comes in the form of a Gantt chart.
A Gantt chart is a type of horizontal bar chart which displays activities, tasks, or goals along the y-axis and dates along the x-axis. Each bar in the chart represents a task, and spans from the task start date to the task end date (from left to right) to indicate the duration and timing of the task.
You can create a professional product roadmap from scratch in four simple steps:
- Add a bar for each task or activity
- Group bars by team or initiative
- Stack bars by feature
- Sort bars by start date or priority
I’ll breakdown each step for you.
1. Add a bar for each task or activity
Start by laying out the timeline of your from left to right, creating divisions by day, week, month, or quarter. Then, add a bar for each scheduled task. Begin each bar at the expected start date of its task, and extend it to span to the expected task deadline.
I’ll touch on a special case where you might want to vary bar height later on, but in most cases, you’ll want to make sure the height of each bar is consistent among tasks.
2. Group bars by team or initiative
Next, create some visual groupings within your tasks. Sometimes referred to as “swimlanes”, task groupings are used to add hierarchy and improve readability of Gantt charts and roadmaps.
Task groupings will depend on your business and your goals.
If you’re trying to coordinate the activities of multiple teams in one roadmap, tasks should be grouped by team. If the roadmap is focused on higher-level product goals, tasks can be grouped by initiative.
Regardless of the grouping criteria, add whitespace between groups to make the them visible at a glance.
3. Stack bars by feature
Sequential tasks that are part of the same initiative should appear in the same row. This helps to reduce wasted space and signify dependencies between tasks.
4. Sort bars by start date or priority
With your bars stacked, it’s up to you to sort them as needed.
Since we naturally read from left to right and from top to bottom, it’s a good idea to place earlier initiatives (or prioritized initiatives) closer to the top.
That’s all there is to it.
Following these four simple steps will give you a perfectly functional product roadmap. If you want to take your roadmap to the next level, however, you can style it based on the specifics of your product, your goals, and your audience.
Let’s review some best practices for roadmap design and styling.
Designing a product roadmap
Use color to categorize tasks by status, or priority
Color in a product roadmap is best used to display some key information about each task, like its status or priority level.
For maximum information density, use color to categorize tasks into groups that aren’t already indicated elsewhere. For example, in our sample chart from above, our tasks are already grouped by team. We can work in an additional layer of detail by using color to categorize tasks by status (e.g. planned, approved, in development, or completed):
Or by priority (e.g. high priority, mid priority, or low priority):
Use bar fill level to indicate task progress
Another way to layer in extra information is to treat each bar like a mini progress bar. The percent fill of each bar can used to represent the level of completion of each task.
While this extra visual indicator can help ensure that projects stay on track, it should be used with caution.
Progress bars will need to be updated regularly, which can be a pain.
Plus, seeing that progress toward you goal can give you a misleading sense of accomplishment. It can be difficult to accurately estimate progress toward a goal.
Use arrows to indicate dependencies
Lines and arrows appear in roadmaps to indicate connections between related tasks, similar to what you might see in a flow chart.
Most often they’re used to indicate dependencies among tasks. That is, an arrow originates at a task that must be completed before the task it terminates on begins.
Use diamonds to represent milestones
Another standard Gantt chart symbol is the diamond, which is used to indicate key project milestones like release dates, review dates, or sign-off dates. A milestone can be any event that has no duration (i.e. any event that can’t be represented by a bar on the roadmap).
Milestones tend to be important project checkpoints that should clearly stand out against the task bars. It’s usually a good idea to style them in red, black or dark grey to make them conspicuous:
Source: Beyond Brewing
And if possible, place milestone markers in line with the tasks they apply to.
However, if you have milestones that apply to multiple tasks, or if you want to include more detail like dates or release numbers, you might find your chart getting cluttered. In this case, it’s better pull important deadlines out into separate timeline that runs alongside your chart, with key dates denoted with small flags:
Use a dotted line to indicate the current date
It can be helpful to include a visual indicator of the current date as a comparator for task start and end dates.
Using a light dotted line that extends from the top to the bottom makes it equally easy to compare dates across all tasks.
Use bold outlines to highlight critical tasks or paths
A critical path is a series of tasks that have direct impact on your project end date.
If you wish to draw extra attention to a critical path in your roadmap, use a single highlight color to outline tasks and emphasize dependency arrows.
Red is usually a safe bet to use as a highlight color, but other colors can work too, just as long as they contrast with surrounding colors to create visual salience.
Not sure how to pick a salient highlight color? Read all about color selection in our article about communicating with color in infographics.
Eliminate unnecessary detail
My last recommendation for building a product roadmap is to avoid including very minor tasks or extraneous detail. The most effective roadmaps focus more on big picture themes than task-specific details.
An alternative to the standard product roadmap
If your focus is solely on high-level product strategy, a Gantt chart-style product roadmap might be overkill. There are a few simpler options out there for mapping out project tasks over time.
Keep it simple with a project management timeline
A simple project management timeline can be used to outline major events in the product development process in chronological order. It’s really all you need if just want to map out high-level goals.
You can even add a bit more detail to this type of project timeline by scaling each task by its duration. This provides a quick visual summary of a single project from start to finish, as you can see in this home build timeline:
If you go the route of the simple project timeline, you may want to be more diligent about tracking progress on a weekly basis. Complement a high-level roadmap with a weekly product release summary like this one that includes product features and bug fixes:
An effective product roadmap can boost communication within an organization, leading to better alignment within and among teams, and leaving more time for real work to get done.
Whether you create a product roadmap from scratch or from one of our easy-to-use templates, apply these design tips to ensure your roadmap communicates effectively:
- Use color to categorize tasks by type, status, or priority
- Use bar fill level to indicate task progress
- Use arrows to indicate dependencies
- Use diamonds to represent milestones
- Use bold outlines to highlight critical tasks or paths
Need some inspiration to get you started? Check out a roundup of our favourite product roadmaps, with even more tips and tricks.
You can also check out these other blog posts for more helpful strategy and planning resources: