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6 roadmapping responsibilities for product managers
As a product manager, you have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to your company and your customers. Creating and updating your product roadmap is one of your most important contributions—but it's not easy to get right.
Last updated25 Oct 2022
If you’re just starting out as a product manager (PM) or have moved into a new role, the breadth of your responsibilities can be overwhelming. There's a lot to do—from setting strategy to presenting the product roadmap.
This chapter of our Product Roadmaps guide will dive into the key roles and responsibilities of the product manager throughout the roadmapping process. Our goal is to help you understand what PMs are responsible for (and what they’re not), and how to do the role justice. Dive in to start planning how you and your team can create real value.
Enhance your roadmap with product experience insights
Insights from Hotjar help you build your roadmap on a solid, user-centric foundation.
Roles and responsibilities in product roadmapping
The product manager is the driving force behind a product roadmap. They lead the charge in collecting research, coordinating actions, planning ahead, and moderating the discussion about product roadmap strategy and initiatives.
That said, the best product roadmaps involve cross-functional collaboration. Since your work as a product manager impacts other groups, you need their input and participation to deliver a product roadmap that visualizes, prioritizes, and plans for the experience you'll deliver to your customers.
The more inclusive your roadmapping process is, the greater organizational alignment and support you'll have when you release that new experience.
Let’s outline the typical people and teams who have a hand in the product roadmapping process:
The product manager owns the roadmap and manages the entire product lifecycle through it. They are responsible for collecting ideas, prioritizing them, and adding them to the roadmap.
Along with their team, the PM’s mission is to ensure a viable product in the market. To do so, the product manager:
Serves as the strategic lead in product roadmap planning
Defines the product vision and strategy that guide the roadmap
Gathers, manages, and prioritizes market and customer requirements to prioritize the roadmap
Creates the product roadmap to capture the strategic plans and timeline for what the product team will deliver
Acts as the customers' advocate, articulating user needs
Works closely with engineering, sales, marketing, and service teams to make sure the initiatives defined in the roadmap support customer satisfaction and business goals
A product manager’s workload includes collecting research, ideas, and feedback; translating and prioritizing these materials into specific features and initiatives; and ultimately building the roadmap itself.
Keep reading to learn about other key players in product roadmapping, or jump to the list of roadmapping responsibilities of a product manager.
The product owner acts as a liaison between the product manager and the development team. They connect PMs with developers and other team members by breaking down the roadmap’s themes, epics, goals, and vision into executable chunks of work.
In larger organizations and agile teams, when the volume of work becomes too large for one person to handle, many companies divide the strategic and tactical product work.
While the product manager focuses more on strategy and customers, the product owner concentrates on supporting internal teams, particularly development.
The mission of the product owner is to ensure that each product delivers maximum value to the user. In the roadmapping process, product owners:
Review the product roadmap with the PM and ensure priorities are aligned
Translate the roadmap’s themes, epics, and other strategic items into actionable user stories that the development team can work on
Request additional clarity on the importance of specific items added to the roadmap—always pushing to understand why
Support the development team by gathering requirements and prioritizing the product backlog
Ultimately, the product manager and product owner both work towards the same goal: delivering an experience that customers love.
Pro tip: for small and mid-sized companies, there may not be a need for two distinct roles, PM and PO. If you don’t have a product owner, you might instead bring in a project manager to translate the strategic roadmap items into actionable tasks for development.
The development representative is a key player in developing a product roadmap. Their work usually involves working closely with engineering—as either the development manager or the head of the department—to bring the product to life.
In the roadmapping process, their role is to keep the roadmap realistic and in touch with the abilities and needs of the development team. The development representative:
Evaluates the product resources, timeframes, and effort levels required to develop various features the product team is considering
Provides insights into how achievable those initiatives are, based on their position and perspective in the development team
Shows how upcoming work relates to each cross-functional release, and a timeline for completing it all
Identifies cross-functional dependencies and performs resource planning
Analyzes the team’s skill sets and whether they can execute the roadmap with their existing resources—or will need to hire out
When the team needs decision-maker approval for roadmap initiatives, it’s time to pull in an executive stakeholder, which could be the VP of Product or even the company’s CEO. This exec tends to be pretty hands-on with most facets of the company, and especially with the product roadmap.
In the roadmapping process, they:
Approve the overall product vision, as described in the roadmap
Help secure a budget to enable the execution of the roadmap
Offer ongoing reviews and approvals for strategic updates to the roadmap
The extended product team
This group—which often includes representatives from product marketing, design/UX, and customer support—is responsible for choosing what gets built, marketing what is new, supporting the new customer experience, and measuring the performance of it all.
The extended product team:
Provides more user-centric insights to inform the roadmap, based on user research and customer feedback
Cultivates customer empathy to learn more about their challenges and the features they would like to see in the future
Approaches customer needs with curiosity, equipping the product manager with insights into customer requests and information about their experience
6 responsibilities of the PM for roadmapping and how to get them done
Every company and team structure is unique depending on your industry, product, and customer base. Your product management maturity can vary depending on factors like organizational goals and the size of your team or company.
Still, as a PM, you're responsible for making sure that these stakeholders are brought into the roadmapping process and that they understand the trade-offs made to generate the most customer and market value.
Even with stakeholder feedback, the product manager is fully responsible for ensuring the product vision is fulfilled.
Let’s take a closer look at the different responsibilities that PMs bear when it comes to the roadmapping process—and how each of them feeds into the bigger picture:
1. Setting the product’s vision and strategic direction
Now that you’ve pulled together the right people, you’re ready to begin your product roadmap planning.
Each product decision, even early on, should be rooted in strategy. You’ll want to kick off your strategic discussions by first making sure you:
Lay out major areas of investment
so you can prioritize what matters most and achieve your product goals.
Crowdsource, develop, and curate ideas
for product initiatives that will deliver value to customers.
Get to know the problems that you solve for customers
so you can understand and represent user needs.
Define a vision for a product
that takes into account both product and business goals.
Align stakeholders around the vision
for the product to generate excitement and buy-in.
Monitor the market
and develop competitive analyses to differentiate your product.
Pro tip: build trust in your ability with evidence-based decision-making.
One key trait of successful product managers is their ability to always know the ‘why’ behind every initiative on the product roadmap.
Evidence is much more compelling than your opinion—or anyone else’s. Use real-world user data, customer feedback, and metrics on your product to inform the best way to build a product roadmap. Let your analysis help guide your decisions:
Analyze session recordings to find areas of your product that might be causing frustration
Incorporate feedback widgets to understand where customers are getting stuck, and prioritize fixes that have the biggest impact
Use surveys to collect direct feedback and hear what’s delighting and annoying users in their own words
A product manager who understands the market, represents the voice of the customer, and uses data to their advantage has a better chance of winning the trust of any leaders in the room to do the right thing.
A Hotjar feedback widget in action
2. Selecting a roadmap type that fits the product development process
Compelling product roadmaps rally your product team around the most important work and clarify why your efforts matter. Depending on your goal and the audience it’s intended for, you may need to build different types of product roadmaps.
Each type of roadmap displays similar information, but presents it in a different way, highlighting certain elements and minimizing others:
This type of roadmap highlights the big picture, outlining measurable, time-bound objectives, both long- and short-term, and the plan for when the team will accomplish them.
Strategic initiatives roadmap
This roadmap describes the high-level efforts you are pursuing to achieve your product goals, with the focus placed more on individual initiatives.
An epics roadmap groups related features into epics, to help you visualize upcoming work delivered across multiple product releases, communicate key focus areas, set release dates, and make prioritization decisions.
This roadmap showcases the timeline for what is coming (and when) to customers and other teams.
A portfolio roadmap details planned releases across multiple products in a single view, providing a strategic overview of your plan to leadership and a broad view of how multiple product teams work together.
This type of roadmap helps visualize what activities need to happen to deliver upcoming releases to market on time—what needs to be done when, and who is responsible for delivery.
An example of a release product roadmap created in Aha! Roadmaps
3. Prioritizing and building the product roadmap
One of the realities of your work as a product manager is constantly being faced with limited resources for your product development—regardless of your company’s size or budget. Building a successful roadmap involves prioritizing ruthlessly, while balancing the needs of customers and stakeholders.
Product roadmap prioritization is one of the defining responsibilities of a product manager. It involves:
Continually weighing competing factors
This includes individual aspects like your products, your company’s resources, and demands from various stakeholders.
Prioritizing product features and capabilities
Do this by ranking them against the strategic goals and initiatives, then defining feature requirements and the desired user experience.
Creating a realistic timeline
Make sure it highlights both what you will build and when you will launch it. This helps you stay transparent with stakeholders about your prioritization and roadmap process.
Note: for more insights into this process, check out our full guide on product roadmap prioritization.
Pro tip: learn to say ‘no,’ and explain why in terms that stakeholders understand.
You'll get plenty of requests from every corner of your organization—a request from an executive for an idea their gut tells them will be great, a plea for a new feature that will help close a deal from a sales team rep, a request to fix a bug, or an idea for an improvement from a customer.
But if those requests will undermine your strategic objectives for the product, you will often have to deny them. The key is how you articulate why you cannot accommodate the request. Develop a prioritization framework and get comfortable saying ‘no’ or ‘not now'.
The more strategic and evidence-based you can make your roadmap, the more likely your stakeholders are to understand when you need to say ‘no’.
4. Presenting and sharing the product roadmap with stakeholders
Part of your job as a product manager involves getting buy-in from stakeholders for your most important work, and making sure they understand why those specific efforts matter. That’s when your product roadmap presentation comes in.
Evangelizing your product roadmap across your organization with a presentation will help you:
Generate excitement and get buy-in from executives, cross-functional teammates, and customers.
Share data-backed decisions
Bring evidence-based decision-making to your communication with both internal and external stakeholders.
Keep your goals customer-centric and align with your users’ needs and wants, as well as your business objectives.
Depending on who you present your roadmap to and what you try to convey to them, you might need to make more than one presentation. With a little help from some product roadmap templates and a few key tips on designing a great product roadmap presentation, you’ll be well on your way to securing buy-in and alignment.
5. Updating the product roadmap with changes and new information from all teams and stakeholders
Once you’ve done a good job of selling your product strategy, it’s time to take all that feedback and put it back into your roadmap. This will help you improve and have better ongoing communication with your stakeholders around your roadmap.
Keep your roadmap updated and accessible by:
Staying focused on the customer
Reviewing work that is completed and making sure the product meets customer expectations.
Analyzing and reporting on progress for specific initiatives from cross-functional collaborations.
Relying on feedback
Digging into user feedback, reflected in both qualitative and quantitative data.
Pro tip: take a data-driven approach to decision-making.
Don’t let intuition tell you and your team which initiatives make sense to develop. Instead, provide relevant data to inform their thinking.
Data can help validate or challenge whatever the team is being asked to work on. You could collect this data from:
KPIs and metrics your team is already tracking—like activations, churn, upsells, and revenue
Back-end analytics that look at the efficacy of what you’re doing
Direct customer feedback to gather information on what’s important to your users
Heatmaps and session recordings to spot issues and determine which bug fixes and product optimizations should be top of your list
The more grounded the data you have to present, the better your chances of convincing your stakeholders to see your viewpoint.
A Hotjar heatmap in action
6. Troubleshooting obstacles and bottlenecks in the product development process
The key to maintaining the team’s buy-in to a roadmap is to continuously work through a collaborative process. Sometimes, that takes some troubleshooting.
Even a crystal clear roadmapping process—with activities lined up and aligned with the various stakeholders involved—can involve obstacles like workflow management, product engineering issues, and the exponential pace of innovation.
PMs are responsible for knowing exactly how to keep everyone motivated and on track by:
Ensuring effective cross-functionality between teams and making sure everyone documents their work correctly.
Setting a schedule
Setting periodic roadmap review sessions, ideally on at least a quarterly basis.
Creating a 'shared brain' across larger teams to empower independent decision-making.
The results of this should go into an improvement plan to determine what’s worked well with the process, and what can be improved upon.
Next steps in product roadmapping
A good product manager works with the broader team and understands how the organization delivers value to customers. Because you play a central role in your organization, you’re in a unique position to define the success of your product.
Be ready to learn the same lessons on repeat, and ask a lot of questions. Allow yourself the time you need to become the go-to product expert at your organization and keep optimizing your roadmap—it will be central to your success, and the success of your product.
Enhance your roadmap with product experience insights
Insights from Hotjar help you build your roadmap on a solid, user-centric foundation.