Is there a difference between a product release schedule and a product roadmap? People seem to use them interchangeably.

In recent years, product release schedule and product roadmap have become synonymous. But they serve two very different purposes. Here’s the difference.

A product release schedule is exactly that. It’s a schedule of product features currently planned or in development and the target or committed dates they’ll be released to market.

There usually isn’t much context around the features in terms of what it helps users accomplish and why it’s important to their success. The explanations are mostly about how the features work.

A product roadmap on the other hand is just the opposite. It’s more of a visionary document that states your intended direction but more from a customer value perspective than a feature perspective. Product roadmaps generally cover a specified time period such as a few quarters or a year.

As far as content goes, product roadmaps are more focused on the WHAT & WHY versus the HOW. They generally outline customer job tasks or workflows, why they’re problematic in their current state and how they’ll be improved. There’s usually very little detail on features and functionality.

Think of the the product release schedule as WHAT features are coming and HOW they work versus the roadmap which is WHAT are we going to help customers get better at doing and WHY does it have strategic value to their business.

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