How to Create a Product Roadmap Visualization | Lucidchart Blog
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The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Yet, many development teams continue to work and communicate through disparate, text-heavy programs like spreadsheets, wikis, and written reports in meeting after meeting after meeting.

In the fast-paced world of agile development, communication gaps and delays can cause costly time sucks and inefficiencies.

A product roadmap visualization can help product managers solve this communication quandary by collecting and organizing the business’s strategy, goals, and tasks into easily understood charts and process maps.

But what exactly does a roadmap visualization look like?

product roadmap example
Product Roadmap Template (Click on image to view larger in Lucidchart)

Parts of a roadmap visualization

A product roadmap provides the development team and other stakeholders with one source describing the action plan for the evolution of a product or solution.

Typically, a roadmap will cover a significant portion of time (a year or more) with a breakdown of high-level goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. In an agile environment, this roadmap allows developers to work toward concrete goals and deliver incremental releases while maintaining the flexibility to adjust to ongoing feedback, changing markets, and other variables.

To visualize this hierarchy of goals and tasks, the roadmap breaks down into several parts.

Stories

Stories are found at the granular level of your roadmap. A user story is a development task designed to accomplish a specific goal in the product. It describes the desired outcome for a piece of user functionality within a broader feature. In other words, a story illustrates a user persona’s desired function within a product feature.

Describing tasks in terms of the end user’s needs helps developers and other stakeholders stay in line with the product vision and focused on the underlying goals of each assignment.

User stories are typically completed during quick sprints. A group of related stories makes up an epic.

Epics

An epic is a body of work that comprises a series of related and interdependent tasks or stories (also called “issues”). They tend to span longer timeframes (often three or four months) with one unifying objective.

Initiatives

Initiatives are high-level efforts that often include work from teams across the organization. The work is broken down into epics, with contributions from multiple teams and stakeholders.   

Themes

At the highest level, visual roadmaps organize tasks under overarching themes. Themes are a simple way to label and categorize tasks within a project, and they often correspond to the organization’s goals or core values.

By tethering your project to goal-driven themes, your team will understand how their individual tasks relate to the broader objective. Additionally, you’ll be able to make better decisions about the product’s direction and secure buy-in from key stakeholders more easily—keeping your project on track and on schedule.

Let’s say one of your themes is to streamline the checkout process (to reduce cart abandonment). Tasks assigned to this theme might include reducing the number of steps to checkout (e.g., entering credit card info, creating an account, etc.), simplifying the checkout page, and adding multiple payment options.

However, when presenting the roadmap to other teams, leadership might suggest adding features that don’t quite align with the theme.

For instance, the marketing team might want to add a brief survey to capture customer insights into the buying stage. But this doesn’t align with your theme to streamline the checkout process.

Because you have a clear theme outlined in the roadmap, it’s easier to say no and justify your decision to stakeholders. While the survey could provide valuable data on customer behavior and preferences, adding it to the checkout process goes against one of the project’s objectives: streamlining checkout.

Structuring your content

Breaking down the project into strategy- and goal-driven work (from themes to user stories) keeps everyone on the same page, so the product remains on track through the entire development cycle.

To ensure everyone understands the strategy and their roles within the framework, you’ll need a well-structured roadmap. Every product roadmap visualization looks a little different, depending on the needs of the project.

However, for best results, you’ll want to include the following elements in your flowchart:

  • Timeframes
  • Swimlanes
  • Data linking
  • Conditional formatting

Timeframes and swimlanes visually distinguish who is responsible for each task and when. They clarify each team’s role throughout a project and improve task handoffs and communication.

Data linking is a powerful roadmapping feature that allows product managers and stakeholders to link and embed data (e.g., files, docs, content, etc.) to specific steps in the roadmap.

One of the key pain points for project managers is the breakdown of communication and information between teams. Data linking eases this burden by making the data accessible directly on the roadmap. That way team members don’t have to go hunting through folders or contact sheets to find the information they need, reducing communication bottlenecks and increases efficiency.

Additionally, conditional formatting is a design tool that visually organizes tasks based on preset conditions. For example, you could set the roadmap to color-code tasks according to their development stage or add icons to indicate their level of completion. This kind of formatting provides at-a-glance confirmation of task progress and team alignment.

Using visual modeling software is a smart way to keep all your data in one place while creating easily digestible content.

Using Lucidchart to level up your Jira product roadmap

Jira Software is a project management tool by Atlassian that helps managers track tasks, issues, and bugs related to software and mobile app development. If your company uses Jira Software, integrate with Lucidchart—our app lets product managers embed their roadmap visualizations and diagrams directly into their Jira Software issues for an optimized project management experience.

Lucidchart’s data linking feature makes it easy to keep your project information organized in one shared platform while hotspots and layers let stakeholders view only the most relevant information to them. As you track tasks and bug fixes throughout your releases on Jira Software, Lucidchart visualizes your progress in real time, so you and your team are always on track and on target.

Using data visualizations could shorten business meetings by as much as 24%, according to a study by the Wharton School of Business. With the fast pace of agile development, you can’t afford to get bogged down in lengthy project update meetings.

Resources like Lucidchart give you and your team the information they need, when they need it, all in one centralized location. No matter what development software you prefer, Lucidchart integrations make it easy to breathe life into your product roadmaps, so no one gets lost along the way. Start your free trial today!