This post was originally published on February 6, 2017, and updated most recently on February 11, 2021.
While many teams struggle to decide if a product roadmap is even necessary when working in an Agile context, we can assure you that it absolutely is. And, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you’re getting the most out of yours.
Creating an effective roadmap in any environment is not easy, but especially on an Agile team where changes occur readily and frequently, you have your work cut out for you.
Here are five tips to help you create a practical and useful agile product roadmap.
1. Focus on goals, not features
When working in a dynamic environment, a necessary shift takes place: Your team begins to focus on goals or objectives rather than features. Features are still an important part of any roadmap, but they are derived from your goals and, ultimately, in service to them. They are never more important in and of themselves than the goals they adhere to.
Any goal-oriented roadmap should include these five key elements:
- Goal: The stated goal
- Reasoning: How the release supports the goal
- Features: The features necessary to meet the goal
- Metrics: The metrics used to determine when/if the goal is met
- Timeline: The estimated timeframe needed to complete the goal
This way of orienting your roadmap is useful for any dynamic work environment, not just Agile teams. Anyone working in a rapidly changing market or with quickly advancing technology will find goal-oriented planning a much more efficient way of running your business.
2. Think product strategy first
Before you jump into goal setting and thinking up cool new features, make sure you’ve done the necessary prep work to validate your product.
A valid product knows its vision, target group, the problem being solved or benefit being created, the key features of the product, and the overall business goals. Strategy always comes first; you should never have to work backward from a roadmap to discover your own strategy. Do your homework first, then figure out how to best implement your strategy via your roadmap.
3. Create a narrative your team buys into
If you were to read your product roadmap like it was a story with each piece building on one another leading to a final resolution, would it make sense?
Talk yourself through the narrative your roadmap creates to see if you’re telling a coherent story. When you visualize the growth of your product/business and walk through each part as your roadmap predicts, you may start to see your own “plot holes.”
Most importantly: Don’t depend on just your perspective when vetting for these “plot hole” gaps. Your roadmap needs to make sense not just from a development standpoint but also to your marketing, sales, and other business groups as well. Even the best roadmap is worthless if the people required to develop, market, and sell the product aren’t behind it. If you want your roadmap to function and your company to be on board, you need to collaborate with all key stakeholders to create and update the product roadmap.
4. Leave the details for the product backlog
While being thorough is important, the roadmap itself should be concise and easy to understand. Remember, the roadmap is about capturing goals, logically deriving features, and defining metrics and expected timelines.
The details, including epics, user stories, scenarios, etc., are derived from the roadmap, but belong in the product backlog.
5. Stay flexible
This one should probably go without saying; you’re in an Agile environment now, aren’t you? You’re going to need to review and adjust your roadmap regularly as circumstances change.
Depending on the Product Owner’s preferences and your specific industry, you may want to review the roadmap once a month or leave it to once a quarter. The frequency with which you revisit these considerations is dependent mostly on how dynamic your environment is. In short, it’s up to the Product Owner’s discretion.
Communicate your product roadmap
One you’re created your product roadmap following these five steps. Make sure to share it with your team in a way that everyone can easily understand. Know that each team member you are relating it to probably has different interests in the the level of information shared. A higher up executive probably only needs to know an overall idea and the strategy, whereas your developers will need to know more of the nitty gritty of the tasks they’ll be working on.
What are your top tips for creating an agile roadmap? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve come across? Let us know on Twitter!