Not a project plan! The term “Product Roadmap” is at best, a very loosely defined term. The most MECE definition, however would be from the esteemed Roman Pichler, creator of the GO product roadmap and the product vision board.
“A product roadmap is a powerful tool to describe how a product is likely to grow, to align the stakeholders, and to acquire a budget for the product.”
Unlike a project, with somewhat clear start and end points, a product goes through multiple and ongoing cycles of continuous iteration, feedback and deployment.
The graphic above is one of the first few results for a google image search of “Product Roadmap”. This looks remarkably similar to a Gantt Chart, like the one below (from teamgantt.com)
A product is in constant flux. Priorities change, personas come and go, new technologies emerge. It’s nearly impossible to capture all these changes in such a linear process with any kind of time frame.
Not a list of features/backlog. A roadmap is a high level artefact mean to convey overall product strategy and vision and ensure alignment with business objectives. It’s meant to get buy-in from the entire organization and communicate customer feedback. Obviously, the backlog has to be dealt with and detailed features have to be planned, this is just not the place to do it.
A great example from Roman Pichler: