Product Management

Product Roadmap vs. Product Backlog: Know the Difference!

Learn the difference between Product Roadmap and Product Backlog, they are both important tools for successful product management.
Ewell Torphy
4 minutes

A product backlog is a prominent tool that gives you the necessary details to progress in the next few months. But the tool isn’t the best suited for product growth in the long term. Here product roadmap comes in. It tells you the long-term story about how the product is likely to develop.

Since both are important tools for successful product management, product managers must know the difference between the two.

So, let’s walk you through the difference between product roadmap and product backlog to ensure a better understanding of both tools.

Product Roadmap vs. Product Backlog

A product roadmap is a strategic product-planning tool that outlines the vision, direction, priorities, and growth in the long term, say, a year. It is a plan of action that streamlines the company with the short and long-term product goals and the ways to achieve them. A product roadmap helps obtain funding, makes stakeholder collaboration easy, and facilitates coordination. Thus, it plays a vital part in developing and releasing different products.

On the other hand, a product backlog lists and prioritizes the details at a task level. It contains the necessary details about creating a product including workflow diagrams, user stories, epics, UI design sketches, and mock-ups. A product backlog is a tactical tool, unlike a roadmap, that directs the development team. It helps to track the product progress over time.

A product roadmap comes first, considering the product development process. It lays down the strategy, vision and direction. Whereas a product backlog comes after a roadmap. It is derived from the roadmap and talks about the task specifics needed to create the perfect product.

How Product Backlog and Product Roadmaps are Different?

Both product roadmaps and product backlogs play important roles in product development. And each tool has its benefits and drawbacks. By using both tools appropriately, the right product can be created.

  • A product roadmap is focused on the overall product development strategy. Whereas a backlog focuses on the task specifics and details.
  • A roadmap is mainly for the executive team and other stakeholders. Whereas a product backlog is primarily for the development teams.
  • A roadmap intends to communicate the overall strategy to the stakeholders, while a backlog communicates the task details and steps to execute the plan.
  • The timeframe for a roadmap varies. Typically, it may be 3-12 months or a longer period. A product backlog is usually meant for one or two sprints.
Product Roadmap vs Product Backlog

How does a product roadmap relate to a product backlog?

A product roadmap creates the base for a product backlog. In fact, a backlog is derived from the roadmap. While a roadmap tells the likely product growth in the long term, a backlog comprises the details necessary to continue the product progress. In short, a product roadmap provides the umbrella for the backlog.

That means if you have a realistic product roadmap, your product backlog will have the right inputs. So, you must determine the product roadmap first to get the plans, priorities, and big-picture strategy. Then you can start translating the bigger picture into a backlog of specific tasks, stories, action items, for the development team to work on.

Product managers must undertake the following practices to leverage both product roadmap and backlog and work effectively.

1. Derive product backlog from product roadmap

As we have already mentioned, the right roadmap will also lead to the right backlog. You can create a roadmap that provides the input for your backlog.

For instance, set the right product goals in the roadmap, that is, the goals that indicate the benefits your product should provide such as increasing engagement, improving technical aspects, acquiring users, etc. These goals can, then, be the focus on your product backlog. Using this approach, you’ll have a product backlog that’s concise and easy to update. Hence, as long as your product grows, such a backlog will be beneficial.

2. Keep the product roadmap and the backlog separate

Ensure that you minimize overlaps between the two tools. Incorporating too many details in a roadmap and making the backlogs too future-oriented may blur the lines between the two. This may result in a product roadmap that is complex, elaborate, and difficult to manage. Further, such a roadmap cannot provide the right base for a backlog.

So, keep both the tools separate and use their strengths for your benefit. Let your roadmap be the overview of the journey and the backlog, a document that captures the specifics.

3. Always sync the roadmap and the backlog

You must maintain both tools parallelly. That means keeping them in sync. Keep both the tools updated and ensure that they tell the same stories to the stakeholders. For this, you must regularly refer to the roadmap and ensure that the prioritized items in the backlog align with the roadmap’s strategy, priorities, and objectives.

Manage your Product Roadmap Better with Zeda.io

It is always from a good product roadmap that you can build the right product backlog. Zeda.io’s live roadmap feature lets you build roadmaps and share them at the team, product, and customer levels. You can customize the roadmaps as per your requirement. These live roadmaps will provide clear visibility and up-to-date information for positive progress.

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