What Is an Agile Roadmap?

Contrary to popular opinion, agile is not about working without a plan; it is about being flexible with a plan and the path you undertake. Oftentimes, agile development teams are roadmap-averse because they don't see the point of making a roadmap or a plan that's susceptible to change. However, when done right, agile roadmaps bring value to the table and make the software development process transparent and fluid.

This brings us to the important question:

"So What is an Agile Product Roadmap, Anyway?"

An agile product roadmap serves as a navigational tool by offering high-level context for the team's day-to-day work and allowing you to set strategic goals as well as high-priority themes with the freedom to course-correct as the product development progresses. What's important to remember is that you should communicate to your stakeholders that your agile roadmap might change, set the right expectations from the very beginning, and get buy-in from them.

Moreover, agile roadmaps communicate your strategy and thrive on being responsive to changes and requirements in the competitive business environment. If you are wondering about the ideal time frame of your agile roadmap, consider the following factors:

  • Understand the kind of organization you have
  • Deep dive into understanding the type of product you have
  • Gauge where your product is in its lifecycle

That said, an important question that most product owners and agile teams struggle with is:

"How can I maximize the long-term strategic themes and goals along with short-term agility and unpredictability?"

A fair concern. This is where building a well-thought-out agile roadmap comes into play.

How to Build an Agile Roadmap? A Step-By-Step Process

Moving on, let's quickly understand how you can create a foolproof agile roadmap:

Step 1: Start by focusing on your business goals and KPIs. Make sure that the objectives and KPIs are clear and measurable.

Step 2: Think about your product vision as a long-term aspirational goal that you want to achieve for the product.

Step 3: Get a pulse of the customer's requirements by talking to them consistently and use their insights for your product strategy. You can use qualitative and quantitative research tactics to get a more in-depth understanding of the customer landscape or engage in A/B testing to move ahead in the right direction.

Step 4: Next, you'll want to think about the pain points/problems you want to solve and center these on themes within your product roadmap.

Step 5: Now, it's time to prioritize your themes with respect to your objectives, KPIs, product vision, and resources.

Step 6: Finally, build your product roadmap taking into account the market trajectories and trends, value propositions, and engineering limitations, and keep iterating as often as needed as planning in an agile environment is an ongoing process. On a more granular level, break the initiatives into epics in the product backlog, and dissect them further into user stories.

Also, make sure to share the roadmap with the relevant teams so that everyone is on the same page and "in the know" at all times.

Moving on, let's look at the best practices to keep in mind when making an agile roadmap.

Top-8 Tips and Best Practices When Using the Roadmap

  • Share the roadmap on the Cloud: If you want your teams to stay current and use the roadmap as the 'holy grail,' you'll need to share it with teams and allow them to access it on the fly. You can use collaboration tools that provide alerts when the roadmap template changes.
  • Consistent and shorter review cycles are key: Oftentimes, agile roadmaps are plagued with problems of nearsightedness. One surefire way to counteract this is by focusing consistently on short-term tactics and long-term strategic goals simultaneously. This makes quarterly reviews a must-have.
  • Stay focused on the right things: Make sure that your agile roadmap is more high-level and strategic in nature and goal-oriented/ theme-centric/outcome-based in approach.
  • Keep your roadmap real and actionable: An agile product roadmap requires plenty of prior research and validation before you build it. So make sure that you've spoken to your customers, gathered all the necessary data, and engaged in product discovery before the development begins.
  • Keep it story-oriented: An agile roadmap worth its salt is one that communicates a coherent story about the product's growth. Moreover, every growth stage is built on the developments of the previous stage, making it contextual and effective. 

Pro tip: To help you get started, you can segment your customer's needs and requirements, KPIs, and business goals underlined in your product strategy into specific, realistic, and measurable sub-goals. This becomes the foundation of your roadmap story. As a thumb rule, avoid adding features into your roadmap to avoid steering off the path.

  • Keep it simple and easy-to-understand: Your agile roadmap should be minimalist in the sense that it should only capture what truly matters. You can keep your user stories and epics in the product backlog.
  • Get strong buy-in: Collaborate with your stakeholders at all times and keep them abreast of the changes in real-time. As a pro tip, remember to say 'no' if you think that the ideas being floated by the stakeholders and other members are turning your roadmap into a 'features only dump.
  • Ensure that your goals are measurable: Every goal and objective in your agile roadmap should be measurable, specific, and realistic. You can follow the SMART framework for the best results.

Closing Thoughts

By now, it must be crystal-clear that agile roadmaps focus on outcomes, not outputs, and cover themes instead of laser-focusing on product features. What product teams and development teams need to remember is that agile roadmaps are perfect for shorting timelines, maximizing productivity, empowering swift and informed decision-making, and encouraging a flexible style of working–factors are that priceless in an unpredictable agile environment.

So as long as your agile roadmap empowers you to work with speed as well as transparency, and collaborate in real-time, you're doing justice to your agile development process (and your stakeholders).