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The Role of the Now-Next-Later Roadmap in Product Management

Many road mapping tools can appear stiff and inflexible, with timelines and deadlines set in stone like a Gantt chart. But let’s face it, the real world of product management is more fluid, often throwing you curveballs. Priorities shift like sands, tasks are limited to your team’s actual bandwidth, and everything has to fit into the endgame.

So, what’s the secret to plotting out a roadmap without losing your agility?

Enter the Now-Next-Later Roadmap, a tool crafted for adapting on the fly while still setting clear directions for your projects.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • A deep dive into the nuts and bolts of the Now-Next-Later Roadmap
  • Solid reasons why this strategy stands tall in product management
  • An honest look at its challenges and limitations

Tailored for proactive product managers knee-deep in day-to-day demands but eager to keep future ambitions within sight. This guide aims to deliver clarity amidst project unpredictability.

What is the Now-Next-Later Roadmap?

The Now-Next-Later Roadmap is a valuable strategic tool for product managers, crafted to aid in the sorting and timing of tasks and objectives. It segments the path of product development into three clearly defined stages:

1. Now

Items landing in this bucket are top-of-the-list. They’re urgent and cannot be shelved. They tackle critical issues or high-priority projects vital to your product’s immediate health. 

For you, that means zeroing in on user-reported glitches that need quick fixes, responding pronto to customer feedback, or updating compliance measures right away. These duties call for prompt action to keep your product sturdy and dependable.

2. Next

Think of this as the waiting room where soon-to-be-dealt-with items sit patiently. They’re not quite as pressing as ‘Now’ actions, yet are definitely up next on deck. 

This includes tweaks based on user suggestions and upcoming marketing pushes currently being plotted out. Essentially a mix of tune-ups readying for their turn when resources click into place. 

Here’s where momentum is kept alive, ensuring smooth sailing from today’s focus toward tomorrow’s horizons.

3. Later  

And now, we look to the horizon. This is where you’ll find your big plans. The bold ideas and major changes are not yet in the spotlight but are certainly on their way there.

Think of it as a list of ambitious projects still in the wings: detailed research tasks or strategic deep dives that need careful planning and resources for later on.

As a product manager steering this ship, ‘Later’ means looking for what’s next and staying ahead of market trends and tech innovations that could signal new directions. It’s about preparing now so when opportunity knocks, you’re ready to spring into action.

What Makes the Now-Next-Later Roadmap a Standout for Product Management?

The Now-Next-Later Roadmap is a simplistic way to plan your project’s trajectory while integrating an agile mindset. Here’s why it stands out:

Crystal-Clear Prioritization

Breaking down tasks into ‘Now,’ ‘Next,’ and ‘Later’ gives teams crystal clarity on what to tackle right away and what can simmer on the back burner. 

It cuts through the noise, helping everyone avoid getting sidetracked by tempting distractions that don’t really move the needle.

Ready for Anything

Life in product management is full of surprise twists—the roadmap’s built-in flexibility means you can handle new developments without your plans falling apart. 

When priorities need to shuffle (and let’s be honest, they often do), you’re set up to swerve gracefully instead of scrambling.

Big Picture Sync-Up

This approach ensures everything you do lines up with where your company aims to go in the long run. 

With its strategic ‘Later’ view, it helps keep day-to-day work firmly connected to those ultimate goals—no more guessing if today’s hustle will pay off tomorrow.

Now-Next-Later Roadmapping in Practice

Imagine a SaaS business gearing up to roll out new AI analytics for its project management tool. These features promise users insight into their projects’ performance and how well they’re using resources.


Right now, the team’s zeroed in on sorting out user feedback issues, especially with the current analytics dashboard. They’re polishing up UI/UX design for sharper data visuals and squashing bugs that mess with dashboard speed. It’s all about keeping current users happy and making sure everything runs smoothly.


While tackling those urgent tweaks, planning for the brand-new AI analytics takes center stage next. 

The product manager is hands-on; defining what needs doing, lining up development work, and getting a group of users ready to test-drive it early on. This part’s key. It checks if people actually find the feature useful before throwing open the doors wider.


The big dream is smart predictive tools that use AI magic to make better guesses on project schedules and where best you can put your people or money. 

Getting there means starting groundwork research now, figuring out which AI tech fits best, and then convincing stakeholders this leap could set them apart from competitors later on when everyone loves what came first—the initial launch of those slick new analytics.

Now-next-later set up in Fibery
Now-next-later set up in Fibery

This story shows how Now-Next-Later keeps teams anchored today but also sailing steadily towards tomorrow’s breakthroughs, all while donning their long-term visionary hats.

Potential Challenges with Now-Next-Later

The Now-Next-Later Roadmap, while useful, isn’t perfect. Consider these potential issues:


The framework’s simplicity is usually a plus until it’s not. At times, it might strip away the complexities of tasks or projects, leading to missed details and an underestimated workload.

Decision Fatigue

Sorting tasks into categories sounds straightforward—until you’re bogged down in debates over where each task belongs instead of actually tackling them.

Future Neglect

The immediacy of ‘Now’ can overshadow ‘Next’ and ‘Later.’ When too much focus is placed on current tasks, future planning may suffer, potentially sidelining new opportunities and innovation.

The PM’s Hot Take

We value the Now-Next-Later Roadmap for its straightforward approach, but let’s be clear, it isn’t a cure-all. It acts more as a compass than an exhaustive map. 

Sure, it shows you where to go, but you’re responsible for navigating your own path through the thick of things. And occasionally, that terrain throws up challenges no roadmap can fully anticipate.


The Now-Next-Later Roadmap is a standout feature in the product manager’s arsenal. It shines by injecting clarity and adaptability into your planning process while keeping everything strategically aligned. 

That said, it’s not without its hurdles. Like any tool, how you wield it makes all the difference. Use its advantages well, stay aware of where it might fall short, and keep in mind: That this roadmap is more of an informed suggestion than a strict doctrine.

For anyone keen to explore further into the world of product management techniques, we’ve got a wealth of information just a click away

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