As a manager of products, you depend on various tools and objects to assist you in documenting and communicating your work. The most popular examples are release plans. These are two similar tools that are often confused. However, there are important differences between them that are worth looking into.

What exactly is a roadmap?

Product roadmaps are an illustration of the way products and features are developed within a business. When done properly, the most significant feature of a product roadmap is to unite the entire team in a single objective. They also:

  • Give the “why” of the features or product being designed (aka”the concept)
  • Communicate the most important plans to both internal and external stakeholders
  • Give a general direction for the process of developing products and demonstrate how desired results are expected to be obtained.

Roadmaps are typically more abstract documents showing the steps to your product’s vision. They’re often based on clear, quantifiable goals and inspiring goals aligned with the specific results you’re trying to attain for your customers, either your product or business.

It’s difficult to understate the importance of a clear plan of action. At Saasfe, the importance of a clear and inspiring roadmap is among the fundamental elements for Product Excellence, as well as in-depth insights from users and a clear strategy for the product.

Also Read – Free Product Roadmap Tools

What is a Release plan?

Release plans; On the other hand, they are the operational plan of how you’ll complete the work you’ve decided to complete and the date to be completed.

The distinction is crucial as both documents serve to share information with your stakeholders. Product advisor and thought leader Rich Mironov writes, “I see roadmaps as communication tools rather than decision-making vehicles.

A lot of people claim their aim is to have an outline. However, I’m not sure our goal is to create a solid product strategy in which we make tough decisions and prioritize the best items. The roadmap is merely an expression from this.”

Don’t create unrealistic expectations for people involved at a time that you are at the very least (the beginning of the project). Instead, you should make use of your roadmap to explain the bigger idea of how the product affects business objectives. After that, you can drill down with the release plan to explain the dates and milestones to help you get there.

The primary components of roadmaps as well as release plans

Roadmaps aren’t just standalone documents. They’re the culmination of many Product Excellence best practices, including:

  • A tool that is organized to collect and organize feedback from employees who deal with customers and eliminate bottlenecks that block customer feedback.
  • An efficient method of surfacing valuable information hidden within the feedback.
  • A method that is objective and uses these insights to prioritize tasks on the roadmap for product development.
  • A closed loop system to share the roadmap with customers, stakeholders and other stakeholders and to get feedback

A good roadmap can help you know the current situation, what’s happening and when (in general terms in the twelve months or more) and the reasons. Here are some of the main components roadmaps may comprise:

  • Timingline: Even within the world of agile, it’s crucial to establish expectations about the dates that short-term, medium-term and long-term features are scheduled to roll out so that other teams can make plans around the release dates. We’ll be sticking to general time frames; we’re not discussing particular dates or deadlines here.
  • Solution: Communicate the features that you are planning to release within the timeline above. You can be as general or as precise as you’d like, but you must provide the reasons behind each feature to provide context.
  • In the strategic context, Let every team member know the direction of the product and the reason you’re building these features in the next. At present, only 44 per cent of the teams responsible for product development believe their roadmaps are reflective of the strategic perspective behind the product they’re creating. If certain decisions on the roadmap aren’t easy for some people, the strategic context can help them be aware of the reasons behind the difficult choices even if they don’t believe in them.

The release plan is an e-book that will include all of your Backlog of product items as well as the timeline to address the backlog items. Be aware that your release plan will be based on an incredibly shorter period of time than your road map–think about three or six months instead of the entire year.

Main Difference Between Roadmap and Release Plan

Roman Pilcher offers an excellent explanation of the major differences between roadmaps and release plans. He writes:

“A product roadmap describes the way a product is expected to change over multiple significant releases. Contrary to the release plan that is the release plan, it’s planning for the product that goes beyond the individual release or project. It outlines the path you’d like your products to go during the twelve months to a year. It’s like a map can help to plan a road journey.”

Here’s a brief overview of some of the most significant distinctions between the two.

RoadmapRelease Plan
High-level overview that outlines the processZoomed-in, in-depth view of the steps involved.
It covers a longer period of time, usually around 12 months.The coverage is usually for a shorter period, typically 3 to 6 months.
Most often, it is employed to interact with key people in the executive and customer-facing teams.Commonly used to create an alignment between engineering and product teams
Concentrate on the reason you’re doing something based on customer feedback and your strategy.Concentrate on the task at hand and make a commitment to completing it

Why do you require both the roadmap and release plan?

As we’ve discussed in the past, release plans and roadmaps are two distinct but related tools. If you’re trying to record and convey your top-level vision and the various points you’ll reach on the way, that’s where your road map will be helpful. If you’d prefer to be a bit more specific on what’s to come in the near term and when these tasks will be completed, it’s best to use your release plan.

Product managers always have to balance to walk the line between being strategic and tactical. They must decide the direction of your product and the best way to achieve it.

You don’t work in a single place. An array of people are involved, including your executive team, your customer-facing team, and engineers who have their own preferences and areas of focus.

Creating a roadmap and release plan–and making distinct distinctions between the two helps ensure that everyone can access the information that’s most relevant to them.