6B’s guide to developing an agile product roadmap
A product roadmap is a definitive plan of action for how a product or service will evolve over a set period of time. It outlines future functionality and when new features will be released.
A well-thought out roadmap is an essential component to the successful launch of any new product or service, ensuring teams remain on track to achieve certain objectives. It also ensures transparency, making it clear to other delivery teams what you’re working on, helping to minimise the duplication of work while encouraging collaboration.
Here at 6B, roadmaps are a critical part of our work.
We recognise the structural and contextual importance they bring to projects and our teams’ everyday workflow. But when used in agile development, they also need to be flexible and responsive enough to adapt to changes.
So where do you start when creating one? Here’s our quick step-by-step…
1 – Define a strategy
It’s of paramount importance to the success of your roadmap to have a defined product strategy in place from the get-go – without one, you’ll be directionless. Before any work commences, a list of objectives that have the collective buy-in of your team need to be decided.
Your roadmap should be goal-orientated, featuring a step-by-step process of how you aim to achieve these goals. It needs to answer these fundamental questions:
- What do you want this product to achieve?
- Who will use this product?
- What value will this product bring to its end user?
- What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
- How is this product different to what’s already on the market?
When you’re able to pair these answers with the product vision, you’ll have a sturdy structure to base the rest of your product roadmap on.
2 – Communicate a coherent vision
The roadmap you create will be used by people from different departments across your organisation, and it will provide crucial context for what different team members need to do in order to achieve your objectives.
It needs to be accessible to all, so it shouldn’t contain any jargon. Each step should be a logical continuation from the last to bring you closer to your goals. To do this, your roadmap should have a strong narrative that every team member can follow.
First, split the user, customer, and business goals stated in the strategy into specific and measurable subgoals. Second, order the subgoals so that they form a coherent vision. Third, avoid the temptation to include goals or features to appease powerful stakeholders – this will help you steer clear of compromises that weaken your overall product.
3 – Keep it visual
If the roadmap you design consists solely of text and lists, it’s not likely to engage anyone. A product roadmap is primarily a communication tool, so it needs to speak to every one of your stakeholders, and do more than simply ‘tell’; it needs to be easily understood, inspirational and persuasive.
At 6B, we utilise flexible task management tools like Jira, which include a number of interactive features, to ensure every member of the team remains engaged and their input is valued.
Another reason for creating a visual roadmap is that it forces you to look at things from a different perspective, enabling you to distil your plan and discard initiatives that don’t serve your objectives.
4 – Tailor your roadmap to your audience
Once your roadmap has been built, it needs to be shared with your various stakeholders so everyone is on the same page when it comes to progressing your product or service.
A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Different internal teams want to see different information prioritised, and there will be certain information that you don’t want to expose external stakeholders to.
If you know each stakeholder has individual goals and concerns, you can’t turn up to each meeting with a copy of the exact same plan. Offer something relevant and specific to them. The result? Expectations become more manageable and stakeholders feel reassured that their concerns are being adequately addressed.
5 – Be wary of using time and dates
The decision to include dates on a roadmap isn’t one you should take lightly. Using dates or time frames on an internal roadmap helps to coordinate work with internal stakeholders such as the sales team or developers. It provides clarity, keeping your plan on track and making everyone aware of deadlines that can’t be missed – a seasonal product launch, for example.
However, when using an external roadmap that you plan to show to customers and users, it’s not a wise move to include specific dates or time frames. Users and customers will view the inclusion of dates as a firm promise, and this can increase the pressure on your team to deliver.
This can result in a toxic work environment with unsustainable work practices that leads to an inferior product being rushed through in order to meet an unfeasible deadline. Instead, you should opt for using larger time frames when detailing your roadmap to external audiences – a period of time that allows for change such as six months or a year.
6 – Review, adjust, evolve
It may seem counterintuitive considering the points we’ve discussed previously, but a roadmap needs to accommodate for uncertainty, particularly in an agile environment.
Of course it’s important to have a defined strategy in place with well-thought out objectives, but your roadmap should account for surprises and obstacles.
Committing to regular reviews of your roadmap – be it every month or every quarter – ensures that it can be updated and adapted based on team performance, changing priorities and market changes. By constantly reviewing and making iterations, you’re guaranteeing that your roadmap remains fit for purpose and will achieve the goals you set out at the beginning of your journey.
If you would like more advice on how to best develop an agile product roadmap to meet your business needs and how 6B could help, please contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0113 350 1290.