One of the biggest misconceptions new Agile teams have is that they’re supposed to entirely abandon the concept of a roadmap for the sake of constant adaptability. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Agile teams still have roadmaps, long-term plans, and commitments. The difference is, their roadmaps are built a little differently to allow for the flexibility necessary to react to new information quickly.
Roadmaps are essential for giving teams context around their every-day work. But they must be able to respond to shifts in the competitive landscape, user’s needs or desires, user’s responses to new releases, and any other new, relevant information that’s acquired along the engineering journey.
Building your agile roadmap
The basic definition of a roadmap is a plan of action for how, when, why a product will be built and delivered over time. The roadmap is built by the Product Owner and includes detailed information about the product’s functionality as well as when those features will be available.
To build a roadmap, a Product Owner must take into account a lot of information from market performance and the competitive landscape to value propositions and engineering resources. These considerations are expressed in the roadmap as initiatives and timelines.
Using your roadmap
At a minimum, your roadmap needs to be readily available to the entire product team, so your team understands the vision behind their work. Even better would be to make your product roadmap available to your entire company, so all departments are continuously up-to-date on the current state and future expectations for the product.
Some organizations still rely on spreadsheets and powerpoint files to create and share their roadmaps, but this method of creating a static document that then must be emailed or stored away on a shared drive is ineffective. Version control can become a nightmare, and there’s no easy way to ensure that everyone in the company is regularly checking the roadmap for updates.
Luckily, modern collaboration tools—like our very own Backlog project management tool—make it easy to build an interactive timeline that ties your initiatives to your teams work assignments and tasks and automatically notifies participants of changes.
To ensure that your roadmap is useful to the team, make sure it stays up-to-date and that all projects are broken into detailed units of work with assigned team members responsible for completing them. Using the Scrum framework, you can use a combination of user stories, sprints, versions, and epics to divide and organize your teams work.
Evolving your roadmap
As new releases reach your users, markets fluctuate, and competitors innovate, the team can easily adjust the roadmap in response, creating a well-informed, strategic roadmap that addresses new and old considerations. Rather than going ahead with a long-term plan regardless of changing external factors, your product can remain poised for continued success.
The ability to measure results, research solutions, and pivot timelines as you go is the fundamental advantage of an agile roadmap. The roadmap will always evolve as the team learns more about its customers, the market, and the product itself.
Common pitfalls of the agile roadmap
There are a few common pitfalls agile teams run into when first adjusting to an agile roadmap:
- If the roadmap is updated too often or too drastically, the team can lose confidence in both the roadmap itself and in their leadership team’s strategic vision.
- If the roadmap isn’t updated often enough, the product can fall behind in regard to market expectations, leaving it perpetually one step behind of its competitors.
- If the team gets to caught up in too many short-term iterations, they can lose sight of larger, long-term goals, making it impossible for the product ever to reach its full potential.
As with most things in life, the answer is simple: everything in moderation (even moderation.) Remain flexible enough to make quick changes when necessary, but try to leave roadmap reviews to a bi-monthly or even quarterly basis. The key is to strike a balance between short-term tactics and long-term strategic goals.
What are your tips for creating and implementing an effective roadmap on your agile team? Let us know on Twitter!
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