Product roadmaps represent the steps that you will take to implement your product strategy. They describe where you’re headed and what products will be introduced along the way. They are used to guide and to synchronize your company’s efforts. To be effective, your product roadmaps must comply with the three, golden rules of product-roadmap development.

  1. Your roadmap must be set in the context of your customers’ and competitors’ roadmaps.
  2. Your product roadmap must be expressed in terms of product capability requirements, not features.
  3. Your product roadmap must reconcile with engineering’s development strategy

To meet the requirements of these three rules, a suite of six roadmaps is required. Each roadmap creates a link in the chain that connects your external environment to your product plans. The six roadmaps, their contents, and when in the strategy development process they are developed are summarized in the table below.

Roadmap NameContentsWhen Developed
IndustryTechnology and performance targets for your customers’ products over timePhase-1 Environment
Market RequirementsMinimum requirements for your product to support your customers’ roadmap Phase-1 Environment
CompetitorResults of your analysis of your competitorsPhase-2 Situation
Product RequirementsCapability requirements for each product on your roadmapPhase-3 Strategy
Product ArchitectureDevelopment strategy to implement the product requirements roadmapPhase-3 Strategy
Top-Level Product Easy-to-communicate summary of requirements and architecture roadmapPhase-3 Strategy

Industry Roadmap

The word “industry” in the industry roadmap refers to the industry that will buy your equipment. Think of it as your target customers’ product requirements roadmap. It includes technology changes and performance targets over time for your customers’ products.

Some industries publish a standard roadmap that can be used as a starting point for industry roadmap development. The semiconductor industry’s International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) and the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (IRPV) are examples.

In cases where an industry roadmap exists, it is usually developed by a consensus of an industry consortium’s member companies. However, as an equipment supplier, it would be a mistake to assume that this published industry roadmap is your customers’ roadmap. It is not. It’s a watered down, pre-competitive version of what industry consortium members are doing and thinking. It’s like the external version of your own roadmap. The dates are padded, and a lot of the specifics are left out. While a published industry roadmap is a good place to start, it’s not enough for high-resolution, product-strategy development.

In the case of small or emerging industries without a consensus roadmap, it’s often up to the equipment supplier to aggregate an industry roadmap. Since the industry participants can’t get past their competitors’ lobbies, it’s not surprising that often the suppliers to an industry have the best overall view of that industry. As an equipment supplier, you may have to survey industry participants about their plans and then synthesize the results into a composite, industry roadmap.

This is exactly what happened when I was an equipment supplier to the manufacturers of high-brightness, light-emitting diodes (HB-LEDs) in the early days of the industry. I needed to develop my product’s roadmap, but this young industry didn’t have a roadmap of its own to guide me. It took many months of customer interviews before I had a multi-year roadmap drafted that described cost, brightness, efficiency, and reliability targets for HB-LEDs.  At the time, I viewed this accomplishment as simply a necessary first step to feed my roadmap six-pack. But when I presented my version of the HB-LED industry roadmap to the CEO and CFO of a major HB-LED manufacturer in Taiwan, it became clear that I had done much more.

Throughout my presentation, the CFO and CEO constantly whispered to each other. It was distracting, and I was concerned that I was way off track.  However, when my presentation ended, the CEO confessed that he had never developed or seen a roadmap for his own industry. The one that I had created was the first one that he had ever laid eyes on. “This is very well-done.” he said, “May I have a copy of your presentation so I can share it with my board of directors?”  The industry roadmap I had created helped my customers think about their own product roadmaps. It was an unexpected way to add value to my customer relationships.

Whether you participate in an industry that publishes a roadmap or not, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves to develop a roadmap with enough resolution to guide your product strategy. You’ll need to

  • Engage with industry-leading companies and the people in those companies that own planning for the future,
  • Attend industry conferences looking for trends and emerging needs,
  • Talk to your customers’ customers to find out what they are demanding from your customers for future capability, and
  • Ask customers “why” when they ask you to participate in joint development ventures or experiments to gain an understanding of the request’s context in their long-term plans.

For example, say you were assembling an industry roadmap for photovoltaic, solar-cell manufacturers.  Solar-cell manufacturers make their living by turning polysilicon feedstock into solar modules that produce electricity from sunlight. These modules are sold to homeowners, businesses, and electric utilities as an alternative energy source. The basics of the solar module manufacturing process are shown below.

Solar Module Manufacturing Process
Solar module manufacturing process

To create the solar-cell-manufacturers, industry roadmap, you’d organize your work in a table. Put key technical, economic, and performance attributes in the first column. Then add columns for each year of your roadmap.  And finally, populate it with the annual targets for each attribute listed in the first column. See the example below.

Industry roadmap example

Just remember in this step, you are creating your customers’ roadmap and not yours. So, it should be expressed in terms of your customers’ business, not yours. Not sure if you’ve got it right? Ask yourself, “Does this look like the roadmap my customers would present to their customers, investors, and partners?” If the answer is yes, you are likely on the right track.

Market Requirements Roadmap

As part of your strategy development, you’ll choose a problem that you intend to solve for your target customer. Market requirements are those things that your product must do to solve that problem. That problem is often referred to as the equipment’s application or use-case.

The market requirements roadmap describes the minimum that you as a supplier must do to meet the requirements of the industry roadmap. To create the market requirements roadmap, you need to understand the implications of the industry roadmap on the operation that your equipment performs. For example, if the industry roadmap describes targets for improving production yields, the implication for your equipment may be to reduce defects in the manufacturing step that it performs.

In form, the market requirements roadmap looks like the industry roadmap. First, create a table with the most important market requirements in the first column. Then describe how each of these will change over time in response to the industry roadmap. For example, if you supplied furnaces that turn polysilicon feedstock into crystalline ingots for solar-cell manufacturing, your market requirements roadmap might look something like the one below.

Market Requirements Roadmap
Example market requirements roadmap

For capital equipment, the market requirements roadmap is usually populated with the process requirements rather than the cost-of-ownership requirements. Process requirements are those things your equipment must be able to do to operate on the customers’ workpiece. Generally, cost-of-ownership targets are set by the competitive landscape rather than by a market requirement.

It’s also important to note that the market requirements roadmap does not describe the performance targets necessary for you to win your customers’ business; it only describes the targets you must meet in order to be considered. Winning business requires both meeting market requirements and delivering unique value. How to do that is coming up in the next two roadmaps.

The market requirements roadmap is developed in phase one (environment) of the strategy development process. It is used again in phase two (situation) to assess your situation versus market requirements. Here’s how.

  1. Start with the market requirements roadmap.
  2. Insert a column between the first and second column.
  3. Label the column with the name of your current product for this market.
  4. For each of the attributes listed in your roadmap, enter your current product’s current capability.
  5. Score your current product against the market requirements for each attribute for each year on your roadmap.
Situation vs Market Requirements Roadmap
Example situation vs. market requirements roadmap

Note that you are assessing the do-nothing scenario. In other words, you are answering the question, “What is my current product’s ability to meet market requirements overtime if I do not make any improvements?”  In a market where requirements are changing, you would expect your current product to fair worse as time progresses. Referring to the example in the figure above, you can see that the ingot growth furnace, Mr. Melty, won’t meet market requirements for material type and impurities performance attributes starting in year three. If you intend to continue participating in this market, you will need to address these deficiencies in your product roadmap.

Competitor Roadmaps

Your objective is to know your competition as well as you know your own company. This is a lot like a zero-defects objective. You’ll probably never get there, but you should never stop trying.

You need to not only figure out what your competitors are capable of now but also develop enough insight to predict what they will likely do in the future. Before you scoff at this as being more trouble than it’s worth, consider that every contest requires that this work is done. Whether it’s

  • War,
  • Sports,
  • Poker,
  • Politics, or
  • Chess

a huge factor in winning is the ability to predict your competitors’ moves. Winning the capital equipment game is no different. Therefore, before you can design your strategy to beat your competitors, you must develop a view of their roadmap to beat you.  To do this, you must develop a complete view of your competition that includes past, present, and future assessments of their

  • Financials,
  • Organization and key contributors,
  • Target markets,
  • Major customers,
  • Suppliers and partners,
  • Intellectual property,
  • Product and portfolio roadmaps,
  • Research-and-development spending,
  • Product-development speed,
  • Vision for value and competitive advantage,
  • Competitive issues,
  • Product specifications and architecture,
  • Customers,
  • Pricing, and
  • Responses to your positioning and value proposition.

Then you must synthesize your analysis into a product requirements roadmap for each of your competitors. For this roadmap first, determine the process and cost-of-ownership performance metrics that are most important to the purchasing decision for products like yours. Then determine from your analysis your competitors’ likely current and future performance against these metrics. Lastly, score your current product offering to your competitors’ roadmaps.  See the competitor product requirements roadmap example in the figure below.

Competitor Roadmap
Example competitor roadmap

Just like your situation analysis versus the market requirements roadmap, your analysis versus your competitors at this stage is also against the do-nothing scenario. This approach highlights the attributes on which your competitors are expected to gain advantage and therefore must be addressed in your product strategy.

Product Requirements Roadmap

Your product requirements roadmap is determined by coupling market requirements roadmap, your competitor roadmaps, and your vision for unique value.  The result describes how you intend to meet market requirements and beat the competition to meet your product line’s market share and profit objectives.  See the figure below.

How to Develop Requirements Roadmap
How to develop the product requirements roadmap

For example, imagine that you are the product manager for ingot-growth furnaces sold to the solar-cell industry. Your product requirements roadmap might look like the one shown below.

Product Requirements Roadmap
Example product requirements roadmap

The first column is populated with the same capability requirements you used in your competitor roadmaps. The next three columns are populated with the performance targets for each product on your roadmap. In this case, the targets are for the current product Mr. Melty, and planned products N+1 and N+2.

The last two columns contain your benchmark competitor’s current performance and performance at the end of the roadmap period. Your benchmark competitor is defined as the “one to beat” in each of your target markets.  And finally, your product’s capability is scored versus the current and expected benchmark competitor’s performance.

Creating the performance requirements roadmap this way communicates your competitive strategy. Your vision for competitive advantage shows up as the critical few performance attributes you are driving to be substantially better than the competition. Equally important are those attributes that you are prescribing to only meet the market requirements threshold. In our example product requirements roadmap in the figure above, it’s clear that the product manager intends to create a cycle-time and yield competitive advantage.

To create your own product requirements roadmap, follow these steps:

  1. Create a roadmap template like the one in the figure above.
  2. Select the same process and cost of ownership performance metrics you selected when creating your competitor roadmaps and list them in the first column.
  3. Select your benchmark competitor. (a.k.a. the “one to beat”)
  4. Enter your benchmark competitor’s current and expected future capability in the last two columns.
  5. After the first column, insert a column for each product on your roadmap, including a column for your current offering if applicable.
  6. At the top of each column, Indicate the expected release date for each of the products on your roadmap.
  7. Specify the requirement for each capability metric for each product on your roadmap.
  8. Score each of your products’ requirement targets to indicate where you have a disadvantaged, advantaged, or neutral position.

Architecture Roadmap

The architecture roadmap looks a lot like the performance roadmap, but instead of performance metrics and targets, it contains subsystems and subsystem architecture descriptions. See the figure below.

Architecture Roadmap
Example architecture roadmap

The left-most column contains the name of each of the major subsystems of an ingot-growth furnace. Then, for each subsystem, a description is entered for each of the products on the roadmap.  Finally, the shading on the architecture roadmap indicates whether subsystems in each product are:

  1. Reused existing designs
  2. Modified versions of existing designs
  3. New designs

This shading helps to communicate the design risk plus the time and money needed for development. For example, a lot of new designs on the architecture roadmap typically indicates that more money and time is needed than one with mostly reused and modified existing designs.

The product requirements roadmap is owned by the product manager. The architecture roadmap is owned by product development. Together these two roadmaps describe what must be done and how you plan to do it. During strategy development, product management and product development must iterate on these roadmaps until they align on:

  • Number of products planned
  • Introduction dates
  • Expectations that planned architecture changes will produce products that meet performance requirements

Top-Level Product Roadmap

The top-level product roadmap summarizes your requirements and architecture roadmaps into a graphical, easy-to-communicate format. At a glance, you can see how you compare to the competition on product release timing and key-attribute performance. See the figure below for an example.

Top-Level Product Roadmap
Example top-level product roadmap