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What is a product portfolio roadmap?

While product managers are responsible for the direction of individual products these products are usually part of a larger portfolio under the leadership of the head of product or chief product officer. The portfolio, also known as a product line, can contain many different products, all managed by different product managers. The product portfolio roadmap is therefore a tool used by the head of product to communicate how the plans for the various products within the portfolio fit together to create a complete product strategy.

Rather than simply a combination of all the product roadmaps, the product portfolio roadmap lays out the complete strategy of the product department – where it is heading from a top-down perspective. Because it is such an important strategic document that sets the direction for the entire product team, the product portfolio roadmap is usually created only once or twice a year. At the same time, it can of course be updated at any time if significant changes are made to the company or product team strategy.

Product portfolio roadmap vs Multi-Product roadmap

The difference between a product portfolio roadmap and multi-product roadmap is that the goals in the portfolio roadmap are cross-product. This means that one goal could contain initiatives from various products.

For example, if the company offers services to interior designers then one goal could be improved communication with customers. This goal could include an initiative to add mobile push messages under the responsibility of the product manager for the mobile app and another to integrate with a new CRM system under the responsibility of the product manager for integrations.

Why create a product portfolio roadmap?

It is essential for the person in charge of the product team to take control of the overall approach, to ensure that everyone is on the same page and heading in the same direction.

This is because products are not created in isolation – so it would be a mistake for each product manager to create their strategy without considering the overarching needs and aims of the entire product team, and indeed the company.

For example, take Google’s suite of documentation products: Docs, Drive, Sheets, Slides etc. Even though each of these products is a separate entity, they need to have a shared strategy or there could be mismatches in direction. It is therefore the responsibility of the head of product to set this strategy and ensure that a roadmap is created so that they can communicate the strategy to internal stakeholders such as upper management and external stakeholders like leading customers.

Interactive Product Portfolio Roadmaps

The easiest way to create an accessible, shareable and interactive product portfolio roadmap is to use a product management platform like Craft. In the past, product teams were used to using regular documentation tools such as Excel or PowerPoint to create and share their roadmaps. These days, however, the advent of product-team specific software has made it much easier to build a roadmap, particularly a portfolio roadmap.

The benefits of using Product Management Software to create a portfolio roadmap include:

Access data from all products 
With Craft, the head of product can access the roadmaps and backlogs of each member of the product team to get a good overall picture of the current product situation. This can ensure they are much better informed even before holding a meeting to discuss the makeup of the product portfolio roadmap.

Build the roadmap easily
Roadmap tools like Craft’s are created to make building the roadmap a breeze. Just double click to add a goal and then click on the plus sign to add initiatives to that goal. So once you have your plan, creating a good looking roadmap shouldn’t take very long.

Liveshare that roadmap
With your roadmap finished, you want to be able to share it. With a tool like Craft’s roadmap builder you can simply create a link and send it to the stakeholders. And with liveshare, any time you make changes to the roadmap it will be automatically updated in the version you sent out.

What are the benefits of a product portfolio roadmap?

Strategic consistency is of vital importance when building and maintaining a product portfolio and even just the process of creating a product portfolio roadmap can work to ensure this consistency. Each product manager is naturally focused on improving and advancing their own product . So it is up to the head of product to take a bird’s eye view of the entire situation and be less swayed by the specific aims and focuses of any one product within the portfolio.

Building the product portfolio roadmap allows the team to see the bigger picture and the head of product to ensure all of the products fit into the strategy of the product team and the company. The discussions in portfolio roadmap meetings may also bring up some interesting ideas that could influence the direction of the product team.

How to Create a Product Portfolio Roadmap

These are the 5 steps that should be taken to build a product portfolio roadmap:

1.Confirm the company strategy

The product team is just one department in a company and the head of product needs to consider all parameters and influences when creating the product portfolio roadmap. So, before starting the product portfolio roadmap process it is essential that the head of product meets with the heads of all departments to discuss the company’s vision and goals. This is where using a product management platform like Craft is particularly useful – both before and during the meeting the head of product can use the platform to check the roadmaps and feature lists of each product and use it to inform the meeting.

2. Set the goals

With the company strategy and vision confirmed, the head of product needs to set clear goals for the product department. Each product manager’s initiatives will then fit into these goals to ensure a complete product strategy. When setting the goals, the head of product needs to think strategically – what does the product team want to achieve in the short and long term and what is the best way to get there? Goals need to be relatively specific but also leave some room for manoeuvre.

3. Add initiatives to the goals

Once the initial product goals are decided, the product team should come together to discuss how the plans they have for each of their products fit into the strategy and goals. This is where product-line alignment and consistency comes in – there is no point in a product manager “going rogue” and developing a whole raft of features that don’t fit into the overall goals and vision of the product.

Like all strategic roadmaps, the product portfolio roadmap is made up of goals and initiatives that need to be implemented in order to achieve those goals. By the time the product team meets, each product manager should have already created their own roadmap, so they can then suggest which of the initiatives they are planning to implement fit into each of the product portfolio goals.

4. Prioritize

Inevitably, there are going to be many different goals and initiatives that have been added to the list, especially in teams which contain many product managers and products. The head of product therefore needs to prioritize – to decide which are the most important goals and initiatives and the order they should be implemented. This prioritization stage is a crucial step which can influence the entire product line. While each product manager has their own vision and prioritization, it is important that all the products fit together.

So the portfolio-level prioritization can often force some product managers to change their plans, meaning they will need to either bring forward or delay the implementation of certain initiatives. Once the prioritization is completed the goals and initiatives need to be divided into releases.

5. Build the roadmap

There are two ways to approach the task of creating the actual roadmap document.

  • One is to write everything down separately and then once it is clear, add it to the roadmap.
  • The other is to add everything to the roadmap as you go along – this makes it much easier to visualize what’s happening. And when you use a tool like Craft, it’s simple to move things around on the fly.

The important thing when creating the final document is to make sure it isn’t too detailed. There may be numerous initiatives that will contribute to a goal, but it’s better to keep it simple and only list the main ones. If you like, you can add lanes into the roadmap to divide it into different types of goals and initiatives.

Once the roadmap is built it’s worth sending it to the product team and any other colleagues internally to get their opinion. And then you’re ready to share it with management and customers in meetings where you get to promote and discuss the vision of the product team.

Product Portfolio Roadmap Templates

Like with any roadmap, it is possible to start from scratch, using a blank roadmap. When using a tool like Craft this can be a good idea, however it is also worth checking out various product portfolio roadmap templates you can find online. Using a template ensures a more focused process and removes the fear you may have of starting a totally new, blank document.

Examples of Product Portfolio Roadmap

You can find numerous examples of product portfolio roadmaps online. Here is a basic example we built in Craft, showing the timeline of an interior design application from MVP to its first six months. As you can see, the product is split between mobile and desktop, but the goals for each include initiatives from various products.

Try Craft Now – get a Free Trial

Craft’s Product Management Platform includes a powerful roadmap tool that can be used to build a dynamic portfolio roadmap. Try it out right now with a 14-day free trial or book a personal live demo with one of our product experts.