Vision Vs Strategy Vs Roadmap: What Sets Them Apart?

Vision vs Strategy vs Roadmap: What Sets Them Apart?

Juggling all the terms associated with product planning can get even some of the most seasoned product managers ripping their hair out. It’s truly like navigating a minefield, where one misstep could completely change the course of your product process. 

Let’s face it – you’ve probably wondered yourself just what on earth distinguishes vision vs strategy vs roadmap. These three terms are the big wigs of product development, but are they all just fancy words for the same thing?

In our quick guide, we’re set to:

  • Bring you easy-to-grasp definitions of vision, strategy, and roadmap.
  • Highlight their main characteristics — showing you that they’re more than just interchangeable terms.
  • Apply these terms to the real world and look at practical examples of these concepts in action. 

What Are the Vision, the Strategy, and the Roadmap in Product Development?

Whenever you’re developing a product, the most useful way to view vision vs strategy vs roadmap is by looking at each as a question you’re answering.

The vision, unsurprisingly, is the ‘why.’ It’s why you’re creating this awesome product in the first place and what you’re looking to achieve with it. Figuring out the vision is a chance for you and your team to forget about the tasks and tribulations you’ll face. It’s a time to simply dream about the potential of the product and what it can do for your audience. You could imagine a wellness app that transforms the day-to-day lives of millennials, employing high-tech features like custom AI recommendations and compatibility with wearable devices.

Now, dreaming is a ton of fun, but eventually, you’ll have to face the ‘how’ if you want those dreams to manifest. Among the trio, the strategy is your ‘how.’ It’s all the tactics, objectives, resources, team members, and more that come together as actionable steps to realize your product. The features you brainstormed are pretty fleeting at the moment, and just those alone would need to be broken down into specific, actionable tasks for designers, nutritionists, developers, and more.

A whiteboard view of a product roadmap in Fibery
A whiteboard view of a product roadmap in Fibery

So, we’ve got the ‘why’ (our vision), and we’ve got the ‘how’ (our strategy) – now it’s time for the ‘what’ and ‘when,’ which is our roadmap. The roadmap is exactly what it sounds like – it shows all the twists and turns that you’ll take to get to your final destination and when they’ll happen. After all the planning stages, you might think of rolling out essential features like user profiles within the first few months of your strategy. Then, perhaps you’ll choose to tackle those integrations with fitness watches in the next quarter.

At the moment, the roadmap might look a lot like an itinerary or timeline, which is part of the overall document – but it isn’t all that it is. The vision and strategy are actually both integral to a roadmap, meaning vision and roadmap and strategy are placed all on one dynamic canvas. Roadmaps aren’t just mundane lists or plans – they’re a visual narrative of all the answers to your product development questions!

Similarities and Key Differences

All three terms are seriously important to successful product planning and strategy – you can’t go without them. In tandem, they’ll help you define proper goals, give your product direction, and lay out the path to get to those goals. Vision and strategy play key roles in the broader mission within the roadmap itself.

If we separate these terms and look at them on their own, this is where we’ll spot the differences. The difference between vision and strategy is that the vision concerns picturing the end product and goals, and the strategy embodies the game plan. When we get down to it, ‘vision’ and ‘strategy’ also don’t exist as standalone documents like a roadmap does. They’re great as guiding principles, but they need to exist within a roadmap to take on a tangible format. It’s also not about pitting vision vs strategy against each other, as one can’t exist without the other.

Lurking in the corner, we’ve got the roadmap – the master plan that combines the dream, the plan of action, and everything in between. It’s the operational document you need to get all stakeholders and teams on the same page, eventually bringing the product out into the world successfully. Rather than differ from vision and strategy, it bridges everything together so the groundwork can get done.

Vision, Strategy, and Roadmap: Why You Need All 3

It’s not enough to have just one or two of these components in your product planning journey, and here’s why.

  • What Happens Without a Vision?: Without a vision, you might as well be lost. You’ll lack any long-term goals or purpose, which is the lifeblood of a product in the first place. Teams will be confused, and team members won’t understand what they’re contributing to the bigger picture, because there wouldn’t be one.
  • What Happens Without a Strategy?: Even if you do work hard on a vision, that vision will never come to fruition without a strategy to do so. It’ll chart a course for you, all while managing risks, allocating resources and teams, and helping you figure out the decision-making process.
  • What Happens Without a Roadmap?: You’ve got the vision and strategy, but if there’s no roadmap, all you’ve got are two abstract notions. The roadmap works to convert these components and others into tangible step-by-step actions with structure and sequence for an all-encompassing product journey.

The PM’s Hot Take

These constituents all exist for a reason. Without a vision, we don’t have a destination to aim for. Without a strategy, we don’t have the means to get to that vision. And without a roadmap, we essentially have a car with no fuel – there’s no drive for these ideas to move forward.

Vision, strategy, and roadmap aren’t standalone components – they’re all cogs that move when the others do – but it’s equally important to grasp their distinct roles to unravel their full potential in the product journey.

Conclusion

Mastering the intricacies of vision, strategy, and roadmap can initially involve a learning curve – at varying levels of steepness, depending on your expertise. But once you’ve got that down, you’ll be ready to walk the walk and talk the talk with true finesse.

Looking to streamline your product journey with an intuitive platform that integrates your vision, strategy, and roadmap? Get started with a 14-day free trial of Fibery and replace multiple planning methods with one single tool. For more insights on product management, swing by our blog for a few useful nuggets of wisdom.

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