What's the benefit of roadmapping software?

So from what I know about roadmaps, it’s supposed to be very high level. Some people just do “Now, Next, Later.” or some others just put items broadly for Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4.

Given this, all I do for roadmaps is to have a PowerPoint slide and I make new boxes and drag them around to update the roadmap. Is there more to it? Why is there advanced software like ProductPlan or Roadmunk?

10 Likes

To me the point is that if you work in enterprise organizations there will be many roadmaps with a degree of interdependency and people with interests at varying zoom levels from team to exec portfolio level. Roadmap tools do help bring that picture together.

If you’re in a startup with a discreet end to end product area I kinda don’t see the point beyond what you’re already doing.

10 Likes

@Joel, I see. Let’s say Y2K is coming and our enterprise company needs to make changes to our products and tools and processes to account for it. So there may be one overall Y2K program roadmap view and all the individual Y2K roadmap items for each product needs to bubble up to it.

10 Likes

@Mario, Yeah exactly. That’s the sort of thing where you may want to track value at different zoom levels or with different lenses and having transparency through that kinda tool helps avoid a command and control type scenario coming in as the alternative.

The irony though is that type of tool seems quite common in fairly small scale organisations where it’s maybe disproportionate and you often have a battle getting it in big orgs where it’s genuinely needed because rolling it out is a bigger deal.

9 Likes

Stakeholders in general are uncomfortable with roadmaps that take into account the unpredictability of software development, don’t trust the teams to meet their goals, and want to have the ability to micromanage the process as it’s in progress. Plus, most orgs are not set up to have teams that are self-reliant and able to independently meet their goals.

Combine all these and you get the need to provide roadmap software that makes it easy to continuously update and share a Gantt-style roadmap as it becomes immediately outdated and give leadership the ability to easily view roadmaps across teams and within dev cycles. The higher quality of these visualizations gives the appearance of reliability that a simple excel chart or PowerPoint slide can lack.

IMO, you’re doing the right thing by not overthinking your roadmaps’ presentation. If your current process works for you and your team and stakeholders, no need to be tempted by fancy roadmap software.

8 Likes

IMO the roadmap softwares are more for insights collection and tying it back to informing the roadmap.

For example, ProductBoard has a Portal section which can be external facing for users to vote on which features are critical, important, or nice-to-have. You can embed this Portal into your own websites or products.

Anyway, ProductBoard can also integrate and pull in data from many other systems automatically and tie those back to roadmap items as well. The Insights tab for each roadmap item is where you can document other qual and quant data to tie to your decision-making.

PB will calculate a “user impact score” based on those user inputs and help you prioritize the roadmap.

That’s really more of the power behind it. It’s not meant for just looking at roadmaps in a high-level.

I’m not familiar with Roadmunk or ProductPlan so can’t speak to those.

7 Likes

I like how I can have multiple customer insights (like notes) in Productboard and associate them with a feature on the roadmap. There are other useful features too like prioritizing, tracking the value of the feature to one or more product objectives, integrations with other apps like Jira and Zendesk, etc. Could I accomplish this all with yet another spreadsheet and some linked docs? Probably. But I am already drowning in spreadsheets and docs scattered everywhere. So it is worth the relatively low cost.

6 Likes

If you want to have a truly informed roadmap, it can’t just stand alone. You need to inform it further with data (quant and qual) as well as connect it to problems. This is where product tools come in handy, a good one will do more than just roadmapping. This way when you have to pivot, change or present anything you have all the information in one place.

5 Likes

I do a status report in word.

I think of most PM software like I think of the magic bullet. Sure everyone already had a blender. But this was made for smoothies and seemed easier to clean, only to find out it came with clunky cups, lids, rings, and additional blender attachments. We bought it thinking it was easier, but then we had to figure out how to store the lids and blender pieces. Then after 3 weeks you learned how hard it actually is to make smoothies every day so you just give up and get lazy.

So cheers to the Product designers who made the magic bullet/PM software. But the people who buy them… I guess yeah it feels easier…

4 Likes

I don’t get it either. The more “advanced” reporting I’ve seen can be accomplished pretty easily with a spreadsheet. Every major productivity suite has templates for various chart types.

I feel like this is just more of the obsession with “tools” that people think are somehow relevant to their skills as a PM. I have yet to see any of this paid software used at big companies, so I have to wonder how companies with much shallower pockets are justifying this cost.

3 Likes

I don’t think that what you’re describing is a roadmap, although idk if there is a generally agreed definition.

For me, it’s my main tool, that I do for myself. It’s usually pretty elaborate and it includes all the problems, opportunities and the breakdown to feature ideas, functionality improvements, etc.

It’s the document I work with. Then, I just have some trimmed down versions to show to different stakeholders (execs, engineers, etc.), without displaying my whole kitchen.

2 Likes

When I first started, I tried a bunch of software but always ended up blocked with at least one important piece of functionality missing for my way of working and it got me angry.

Eventually, I chose Airtable, as it’s just more flexible, even though still not perfect.

2 Likes

What’s the benefit? Folks have already shared their personal experiences which will be most helpful here but also check out the vendors’ YouTube channels. Here’s a video from Productboard pitching the value of its roadmaps. It’s up to you to decide whether these value props will serve your needs.

1 Like

I’ve used Roadmunk and Aha! in the past.

My primary source of value was that I was able to build a sort of “master roadmap”, from which I would extract information that mattered to the audience when I had to do a roadmap presentation. Different people who have an interest in my product—from Senior Leadership to tier-1 customers—might care about different things.

My primary problem with those complex roadmap platforms, especially Aha!, within the big org I was working at, was that as soon as we went a bit deeper in terms of details on Aha!, and started experimenting with the platform functionalities, we ended up with multiple source of truths (me on Aha!, Project Managers with JIRA, the whole team on Confluence/Notion, etc.), which require multiple updating for any tiny change. This was a nice reminder for us Product people—use software that solve problems for you; if a slide with boxes and texts solve the roadmap problem for you, then perhaps you don’t have a problem that the advance software would solve. As usual, YMMV, so some other people may benefit from some of the advanced features.

Where I work right now (small scale-up, entirely Product-focused) all I do is maintaining a “now/next/later” roadmap with something as basic as Trello, which serves as basis for a roadmap presentation every time I’m asked to deliver one.