What is a technical product roadmap?

Properties of a technical product roadmap

By a technical product roadmap I mean a document with the following properties:

  • it contains milestones that describe a user workflow with enough product detail to clarify the user experience. In addition it contains enough technical key details to give some guidance and constraints regarding the implementation.
  • each milestone typically describe a few weeks of work and fit an A4 paper. Much shorter milestones are also possible. Because each milestone should be concise and easy to read, it will usually refer to other documents for details.
  • it contains a glossary that explains all the key terms (this helps to keep milestone descriptions compact)
  • it should be an authoritative document, in the sense that there are no parallel documents that are also a source of truth for what the team will be working on.

The first and last points are the most important ones, because they ensure that people will read the roadmap and agree on the priorities that it describes. The roadmap should therefore not try to answer every question related to user experience and implementation. Instead, it should have just enough information to give the reader an impression of what the priorities are, how the product will behave and how that behaviour will be implemented.

Note that besides user workflows a milestone may also describe purely technical tasks. The intention should be though to direct all work in a milestone to a common goal that is summarized in the milestone title. Milestones that are upcoming should not have obvious gaps in explaining how the product will behave or leave important implementation questions unanswered. On the other hand, milestones that are further in the future will be more sketchy.

An example milestone

I will use the example of a website that allows users to share lists of dance move videos. The website can be used by people who want to learn how to dance. One of the product requirements is that some videos should not be made available to all users. This is because some dance teachers make videos available to their students but do not want these videos to spread to the whole internet.


  • Move - the combination of a description and a video that explain a dance move to a user
  • Move Author - the user who created the Move
  • Private Move - a Move that is only visible to the Move Author
  • Public Move - a Move that is visible to anyone. Public Moves must have a Public Video.
  • Public Video (Url) - a video url that has no sharing restrictions.
  • Regular User - a user who is not an Uploader
  • Uploader - a person who is allowed to add Public Videos. Uploaders will contact the Video Owner to make sure that the video is indeed freely shareable.
  • Video Owner - the person who produced/owns the video

Milestone 3: Users can create public and private moves

  1. A user can log into the website.
    • 1.1 If the user is not yet an uploader, then they can send a request to become one.
    • 1.2 A user can log in from different computers but no more than twice (to prevent a group of people from sharing one account).
  2. Uploaders and Regular Users can create a new private move.
    • 2.1 A move will have a title, description, video url and tags.
    • 2.2 The move will have a url that is only accessible to the logged in move author.
  3. An uploader can create a new public move.
    • 3.1 The uploader must confirm that its associated video is indeed freely shareable.
  4. A regular user can create a new public move if they use an already public video.
    • 4.1 If the uploader later reverts the decision to make the video public then the move automatically becomes private. If the video goes back to being public, then so does the move.
  5. The backend does not use data mutation to change public videos/moves into private ones.
    • 5.1 Instead it stores domain events from which the status (public or private) can be reconstructed.
    • 5.2 An administrator can view an audit trail that shows how the status changed over time.

Notes on the example milestone


As you can see, the glossary already explains several things about the application. It introduces important concepts, and to a certain extent, the behaviour of the application follows from these concepts.

Milestone goal

Ideally, every step in a milestone contributes to some overarching goal that is summed up in the milestone title. Usually a milestone describes a viable version of a workflow, but not the ultimate version. In future milestones the workflow may be updated and refined. For example, a future milestone can state that move titles are rejected if they contain disallowed words.

Level of detail

Point 1.1 of the milestone illustrates how certain details are left out: it doesn't say how the user can send a request to become an uploader. Maybe there is a contact form, or maybe there is an email address. Since this information is left out we can conclude that this topic is apperently not important enough to be detailed here. Similarly, in point 2.1 it's not stated which fields are required and which are optional, because this is not essential information for the roadmap. If a user story is added to a Scrum sprint for this feature then it probably will specify this information.

No repetition

In point 3 we don't repeat the fields of a move, because that is already mentioned in point 2 and we expect the reader to be reading the whole milestone. This is an important difference to a backlog with user stories that must be more self-contained.

Inclusion of implementation details

Point 5 shows an example of mixing implementation details (5.1) and features (5.2). In my opinion it's important to add key implementation decisions to the roadmap because the whole team should be on the same page about them. If the decision to use immutable data and domain events is controversial then it helps to make this information visible in a place where people can discuss this and sign-off on it before the implementation starts. Without this information you cannot claim that the team is aligned on the plan. Note that it's enough to outline the technical approach, the details can be described in other documents.