Map, by agoasi, on Flickr. CC 2.0 licensed.

The marketers at Accept, my previous company, always wanted to position the product as an application for “roadmapping.” This seemed odd to me given that our core capability was sophisticated product requirements management combined with product release planning.

So I did some research on Google. Using adwords, I checked how many searches there had been in the previous month related to requirements management, and how many related to roadmapping. What I found did not surprise me.

  • 400,000 Google searches per month for “requirements management” and related terms
  • Fewer than 40,000 for “roadmapping”-related terms

People were – at least based on their searches – ten times more interested in requirements management than they were in roadmapping.

The explanation for this is simple. Requirements (or user stories, if you’re dyed-in-the-wool agile) are the currency of product planning and creation. And we don’t have a good way to manage them, especially when it comes to the complexity of their lifecycle. So every product manager suffers from what I’ve called “requirements chaos.” This affects us every day, in every way. ([tweetthis]”Requirements chaos” affects us #prodmgrs every day, in every way.[/tweetthis]) And causes all kinds of problems for our products, for our productivity as a product team, for the quality of the products.

Just because the search numbers are so out of balance, that doesn’t mean roadmapping isn’t a more valuable search term than requirements management for some other reason. Perhaps roadmapping is more interesting to executives than requirements. Or perhaps requirements management is “burned” via its association with some of the old school tools for non-product projects, like DOORS and Requisite Pro.

This is something that could be tested, of course. Be that as it may, the raw numbers are interesting, and what they indicate to me is that the big pain out there among product managers is requirements.

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