The Visual Roadmap

One day before I end my career as a product manager, I’d like to manage a roadmap completely spreadsheet-free. But I’ll admit that I haven’t succeeded yet (despite trying some pretty great tools).

sigh.

However, the real crime isn’t Excel, it’s Powerpoint. Or rather the repetitive task of updating “the roadmap deck”. There are a host of problems with the roadmap deck and they range in severity from majorly annoying to business-wrecking – but that’s a whole separate set of posts.

Assuming you are one of the many PM’s who is still stuck with spending hours every quarter (or worse – every month) updating how you communicate your feature backlog and/or roadmap in a summarized view, maybe this tool can be of use for you.

I set out with the goal of creating a tool with which I could communicate to execs without spending hours creating and updating slides. Since our backlog was more or less a table anyway, it only took some minor structural upgrades to make it Tableau-friendly. Check it out!

The Funnel Summary is useful for simply conveying the overall status of everything – ideas, real initiatives, active programs, technology overhauls, zombies (those initiatives that never go anywhere but never die because the person who cares about them is too important) as well as recently completed things.

Funnel by Phase is one I like for a specific purpose: New Programs. I incorporated the Strategic Focus Level definitions from Mark Payne’s excellent book on innovation: How to Kill a Unicorn because they are useful for categorizing often-nebulous initiatives like unfamiliar markets and finding new applications for an existing technology or service. To me that is a useful shorthand for communicating the complexity of any given initiative.

 

Roadmap communication is one of the most complex and difficult aspects of product management and like any communication, it needs to be set up based on the needs of the audience. It can quickly consume way more time than it should and that’s a big problem. This approach certainly doesn’t solve the “roadmap deck” problem, but as a way of automating a clear, visual status, it has saved me a significant amount of time.

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