Interesting piece Chris.
I’m guessing you guys have an excellent level of discipline and the team is pretty tight — which keeps you on the same page. That’s great, but it might not be the case for everyone else.
In most places where I see a product roadmap missing, you also see a lot of other problems (lack of a general strategy, teams with different priorities, poor communication etc.). It doesn’t feel a coincidence to me.
I think product roadmaps are useful for a number of reasons. But, here are the biggest two — they force you to consider your product strategy (what’s important short-term and long term) and also they help different teams be on the same page (dev, marketing etc.)
Also, some products lean themselves to longer view roadmaps. I worked on an MMO game and many features were very large and took 6 months to complete and had multiple parts to them. And we might work on several at the same time. That requires some longer term thinking and planning. Often marketing campaigns were multi-month. Also we had various seasonal events which required upfront planning. And with approx. 250 people working on the product (half of that dev, the rest supporting teams), it was very important for everyone to know our strategy and roadmap.
Thaaaaat said, I’ve certainly changed my view to how long they should go out in the last couple of years. I more think about roadmaps as an organised list of priorities ideas now. You tackle the top few, release and then regroup. They should be fluid. Normally things get shuffled about and you do the next few and repeat. Things change (strategic areas to focus on, specific things you want to build and the priorities of these things) too much to plan much further in advance in most cases.
I wrote some stuff about that here — https://medium.com/@daniel_clough/what-i-ve-learned-about-product-roadmaps-in-the-last-6-months-17d4dd60d997#.4l32ibiok