What makes a product roadmap “complex”?

What differentiates a “complex” roadmap with a “simple” roadmap. Isnt it subjective as to what point something is complex or not ? Why cant people just say “i made a roadmap” ? Reason I’m asking is bc people keep writing “complex roadmaps” on their resume and i was wondering what is making it inherently complex? Bc a complex roadmap to a APM could be trivial to a pm.


People do this because they think it makes their resume seem more impressive. :grin:


I assume a complex roadmap has a significant amount of dependencies. Please correct me if I’m wrong.


So is that like 2, 3, 7+ ? What’s the cut off?


I think the baseline and threshold will depend on your product. If it’s atypical to have zero outside dependencies in your product development process, then one dependency would be significant and complex.


The main key for me is uncertainty, which could apply to a variety of things, including the market problem itself, market sizing, and technical feasibility, among others.


Maybe the process of creating the roadmap itself is complex but I agree that a roadmap itself isn’t (or shouldn’t be) complex.

Still, planning out the next few months for something that has few dependencies and moving parts, and maybe has some basic features with relatively known scope is different than doing the same planning for a more complex product. More dependencies and unknowns means it’s probably more challenging to make a good roadmap. But the end result should be the same.


Oh ok. But like isnt that expected for a product roadmap though? U basically just made a gantt chart if a person does just like at April 1 i’ll release feature xyz lol


For me a simple roadmap is a list of features or releases you want to get done in a certain time frame.

A complex roadmap could end up looking similar but is backed up by lots of data and research. Stack ranking with frameworks, estimations, competitor and user research (user voting?), full business cases written proving ROI, linking directly to multi year strategy and presented with executive recommendations and options for potential strategic pivots if required.

If I ask an APM to write me a roadmap they produce something they ‘think’ is correct. If I ask a PM they produce something they know is correct for X,Y,Z reasons.


A roadmap is neither a list of features or releases though. A roadmap isn’t a delivery plan.


Complexity is always assumed. Anything complicated over time needs a plan.

What you need to balance is complexity, validated need on what you’re delivering and executing well to deliver without wasting time and money while shipping something that’s going to be profitable.

Profitability or value can be anything from client satisfaction to raw money profit to a tool that makes a team more efficient.


But my question is… what’s making it complicated ?


Well it depends on the PM and whether they can synthesize a myriad of details and make it easy to understand.

From one perspective we can say that it’s the PMs job to make all the complex information easy to understand and digestible by anyone else - that’s the real goal of the roadmap.

If a roadmap is too complicated we might also say, the roadmap needs more work. It’s not done.

Things that have to by synthesized into a roadmap to make it easy to digest:

  • are you displaying all the important info in an easy way to understand?
  • the big picture of what is being delivered when and why.
  • are you taking wild ass guesses or can you deliver the pieces on time?
  • do you have a clear understanding of what dates you can miss and your critical path?
  • have you identified the best deployment of resources?
  • if you’re stepping up your game, have you identified your opportunities and experiments?
  • Do you have any idea of what’s happening next quarter versus future quarters? You should be showing less detail and people doing deep dives into 2 and 3 quarters out are red flags. Because everyone’s crystal ball is broken.

The list goes on and on…


IMHO words like simple, complex, complete, technical, etc all may have relative meaning at a company. If you don’t prefix a roadmap and do the due diligence and planning, dependency, technical identification it’s still a roadmap, but may simply imply more to effort went in to weigh concerns, or plan dependent things like consumers or technical details that impact a timeline.

In the end it should simply serve to radiate information about where you’re going and who’s coming along and adjust as you learn more.


So if this is not common sense, then for people who aren’t doing this, then what are they making ?


Well psychology 101 teaches us there is no such thing as common sense. Especially with remote teams being spread out.

Roadmaps should be the result of a lot of investigation.

If they are not then they’re a whole bunch of make believe BS that’s wrapped in dreams and politics that will surely blow up sooner or later.


You hit the nail on the head - roadmap complexity is incredibly subjective; “complex roadmap” doesn’t mean anything different than “roadmap.”

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What’s more interesting than a complex roadmap is an outcome-driven roadmap, if you really want to make your resume look good, that’s the “it” roadmap!