5 Biggest Challenges of Complex Product Roadmaps and How to Manage Them

Posted by Maziar Adl
Maziar Adl
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Illustration: Smart Phone Parts Product development is a complex process. While hardware and software developers each have their own unique set of challenges, software integrations into hardware products have greatly increased their complexity. Navigating these new challenges requires a product manager with strong leadership and organizational skills to manage them. Product roadmaps are a useful tool with several features that helps to guide and keep track of the process. 


1. Track and Manage Dependencies

Product development engages multiple teams and multiple components to assemble a finished product. With certain elements of production being dependent on the completion of others, these dependencies must be tracked and managed effectively, or product delivery may be compromised. 

Connected Roadmaps and illustration of phone

Use Product Roadmaps to Track Dependencies

The product manager is responsible for identifying, planning, and tracking dependencies. These dependencies will vary depending on the type of product being built and may include the following:

  • Feature dependencies where one product feature must be completed before moving on to the next.
  • Technical dependencies where code must be written for one feature before new features can be added.
  • Resource dependencies that require components and raw materials sourced externally.
  • External dependencies, where you align with external partners to develop a particular aspect of the product.

Product roadmap management software is a useful tool for highlighting and tracking these dependencies. 


How to Track and Manage the Dependencies 

In order to effectively track these dependencies, it is important to include and organize them on your product roadmap.  

  1. Identify dependencies on the product roadmap - Include external team dependencies as well as cross-team dependencies for day-to-day tracking. 
  2. List dependencies in sequence - Visual roadmaps are an effective tool that allows you to plan and organize your roadmap better.
  3. Allocate resources - It is essential to factor in resource dependency when working with multiple teams and resources.

Keeping track of progress on the product roadmap is crucial to ensure all dependencies are managed. Update and share the roadmap with your product teams so they are aware of any short-term delays that may affect the long-term product goals.


2. Improving Communication Between Development Teams

Illustration: Single source of truth in the cloudsProduct development is complex because there are many moving pieces to the puzzle at all times. With several teams engaged in bringing a product to market, keeping them informed and aligned with the production process is important. 

In order to enhance communication, it is crucial to offer information that is relevant and easily accessed by all who need it. Problems with outdated information and version control are common when teams use tools that don't integrate, such as text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations shared only by email. These often lead to multiple versions that get lost in the sea of other communications. 

Product roadmap tools are ideal for providing cohesiveness and transparency of information related to the product in development. As your single source of truth, product roadmaps help to keep your agile teams aware and accountable for their role in the process. 

Use product roadmap management software to:

  • Engage key stakeholders - a roadmap should be easily accessible to all teams and serve as a single source of truth that is reliable.
  • Align your teams to the larger business goals - understanding the long-term business goals helps to align product development in the right direction.
  • Define the product vision - helps to relay what the product hopes to achieve in the market. This helps to inform which features are needed to achieve this. 
  • Keep teams aligned to the product strategy - use timelines to manage dependencies and get the finished product completed on time. 


3. Managing Long Timelines

Illustration: Ream rowing togetherWhile the product roadmap is useful for guiding the day-to-day activities of the production process, a different type of roadmap is also required to manage longer timelines. 


Agile vs. Traditional Roadmap

Longer timelines require a more agile roadmap as opposed to a traditional roadmap. Traditional roadmaps feature clearly defined end goals with a process to take you from product ideation to product launch. However, when managing longer timelines, these traditional roadmaps can only succeed if they have agility built into them.

You need to factor strategic thinking into a long-term timeline. Products with roadmaps that span several years are subject to the following:

  • Resource and supply chain problems 
  • Changes in the industry, such as technological advances or larger policy issues
  • Changes in the market, including new competitors or heightened customer demands

While you may have expectations on how a new product will perform, you can only understand if your product meets the need once it is released. User experience reviews will inform how you proceed with feature updates for improved results. 

Creating a strategy that iteratively introduces features and products into the market either to various segments or from Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to a mature one, or frequent prototypes that are virtual or physical, will allow you to revisit the roadmap frequently and make updates and corrections to realign the product with business and market objectives.


Develop Long Term Timelines Around Outcomes

An agile long-term roadmap should focus on outcomes rather than using feature updates to guide the process. In addition, managing longer timelines effectively requires the ability to pivot quickly and adapt to change.


4. Integrating Hardware and Software

Illustration: Connected carThe development of software features in hardware products requires product manufacturers to adapt the production process to integrate new systems and product teams. The ability to successfully meet this challenge depends on scaling production to meet these new demands. Some aspects of scaling include:

  • Hiring software teams to design the software technology
  • Providing adequate communication tools to promote close collaboration between software and hardware teams
  • Mapping software and hardware dependencies on the product roadmap

Software integration also generates the need for new support systems: 

  • Teams that can gather, analyze and summarize user data generated by the software to create useful information for informed decision making
  • Customer support systems for product users to help manage the new technology


5. Providing Clarity to Non-Technical Teams

Illustration: Path to targetA fundamental role of the product manager is to provide information to their product teams. As one single document is ineffective in meeting each stakeholder's needs, we need several documents to meet the needs of multiple audiences. Traditionally, this may have taken the form of: 

  • Spreadsheets for the finance and sales departments 
  • Presentations for company executives
  • Text documents for engineering and design teams 

Product roadmap software provides an interface that allows you to personalize the view for different audiences. With each document configured to encompass multiple views and performance metrics, this reduces paperwork for the product manager, allowing more time for them to focus on product development tasks.


Customize the View With Key Performance Indicators

With product roadmap tools, sales figures and related KPIs are easily presented to company executives, product sales teams, or any audience involved in product decisions. Conversely, a view that focuses on the technical aspects of a product may have little relevance to the product sales teams but be of significance to the design and engineering teams. Providing relevant, actionable data to your audience is vital to enhance productivity


Facing Challenges With Product Roadmap Management Software

Product roadmap software is the tool that helps to streamline the production process. As your single source of truth, it serves to align and guide your teams so they can work productively to meet your company's business goals.

Gocious is the provider of Product Management and Roadmap Management software so that product managers and product teams can boost their communication and decision making on the direction of their product portfolio. Book a free live demo with us today to learn more

Topics: Product Management, Product Development, Product Roadmap

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