Agile Project Management is a continuous process of planning and guiding project development. Today, one of the biggest myth is that agile development does not conform to long-term planning. In agile software development, the entire agile project is divided and completed into smaller sections. Implementing agile methodologies in project management drives good value to the project and encourages Project Managers to deliver superior quality output. Likewise, having a product roadmap in place is extremely compelling to an agile project management team as it furnishes a framework for the daily tasks and a better understanding of the competitors’ mindset. It is often quoted that an agile roadmap which is planned properly is easier to locate and understand. Before we comprehend how an agile roadmap could enhance projects, we have to understand what does an agile project management roadmap comprise of.
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is an outstanding action plan which construes how the product is expected to evolve over time. An agile product roadmap expedites the learning curve and adopts reforms. A goal-oriented roadmap primarily focuses on project objectives, business goals, and outcomes like customer acquisitions, augmenting engagement, and eliminating design debt. In simple terms, a product roadmap initiates the emergence and development of a product or solution to a project. It outlines the product performance and develops the existing features.
By using a product roadmap in agile development it encourages the project team to work together to achieve long-term goals for successful project delivery and be responsive to the changes in the competitive landscape. For this reason, various agile teams tend to share a unanimous product roadmap.
Focus on building a product roadmap
While building a product roadmap, many factors need to be considered by the project team. Some of which may include taking into account the design constraints, market conditions, and value propositions etc. Once these factors are logically implied, they are denoted as agendas in the product roadmap. Some of the steps to create or build a product roadmap are listed below:
1.Begin with a game plan
An agile product roadmap starts with a solid game plan which includes your product’s vision and goals. It is primarily focused on solving the customers’ problems. Having a game plan in place makes it easier for a project to function effectively and keeps a close eye on the risks that a business is likely to face.
2. Analyze strategic initiatives
Sorting the initiatives (also called epics by some teams) help in achieving the business goals. The strategic initiatives are generally fragmented into features and aids in communicating the product roadmap strategy to investors without much hassle. As a team member, identify and analyze the strategic initiatives what best suits your business needs.
3.Work with multi-disciplinary teams
Building an agile roadmap definitely necessitates incessant communication and coordination among different teams within the organization. For example, it requires mobilizing the contributions of various departments like QA, sales, and marketing, software development, legal etc. which are essential to delivering a complete product to the customer. Collaboration across parallel and multiple domain teams is an important element of an agile roadmap.
4.Optimize customer experiences
An agile roadmap needs to be built in such a way that the products coming from its development entices the existing customers and delivers a new customer experience. As a product manager, you are responsible to take care of important milestones in your business such as product launch or software upgrades and coordinate across multiple work streams. An agile roadmap should be designed in such a way that it communicates with the customers effectively about their needs and expectations.
5. Apprehend new ideas
An agile roadmap should be designed in a way which gauges customer satisfaction and happiness. You should collect time-to-time customers feedback to understand how receptive is the product and how to improve it and prioritize new ideas for a better future release. Clubbing customers feedback with the project goals should pave a pathway of what to build next.
6. Review outcomes
Organizations which follow agile approaches progress towards their strategic goals and evaluate their development metrics with higher velocity. For this reason, your agile project roadmap should be well adjusted to the vision and business goals and inspected at least once in a month or quarter to accommodate any new changes accordingly.
Share the roadmap with your team
After building the product roadmap, it is important that it should be shared with the entire project team. This would ensure that each team member has a better understanding of the project’s strategic vision, business goals, and direction. Although different organizations adopt a variety of ways to share the product roadmap which may be either in the form of spreadsheets or slides or may have a chart explaining the entire plan. Any modifications in the product roadmap should be well-informed to the team so that they can adapt to the changes accordingly.
How to use the product roadmap?
Remember to link your project team’s work to the roadmap so that you know where you stand in terms of project progress. Break down the initiatives to capture the backlogs and contemplate what may be causing the roadblocks. A product roadmap would make it easier for you and your team to keep track of the deliverables without compromising the project objectives. Using the product roadmap in the right context would also ensure the agile practices are being followed religiously to make short-term decisions which do not impact any future output.
If your team is using a goal-oriented roadmap, try to assure that every goal is determinable. This way it allows you to know if the goal has been met or not. If your goal is customer acquisition, then verify what type and number of customers are you targeting.
Always remember that setting up a target is important to understand the status of your project goals. Ensure that you have a pragmatic target, and the goals on the roadmap conform to it. Thereafter, choose the metrics that will enlighten you whether a goal has been properly met or not and if a product release has delivered the desired benefit.
Ideally, the product roadmap should portray a rational picture about the likely growth of your project. With each release, your product should progress from the previous one and move closer towards the project’s vision. Within the organization, work closely with the cross-functional teams to ensure that your project is on the right track. Externally, your product roadmap should aim at reaching more prospective and existing customers. In the end, ensure that your product roadmap is precise and practical enough to cater your product to the respective audience. The essence of an agile product roadmap lies in the fact that you evolve the product with time as per the market trends.
Shape and develop the product roadmap
Keep the product roadmap as simple as possible. Do not add too many details to it. Develop or enhance only those areas which need attention and resist the temptation of making any further changes. Your agile roadmap should have features which are focused and goal-oriented.
At times, agile development proves risky in certain scenarios. It is often observed that team members fail to coordinate and make strategic decisions if a product roadmap is frequently modified without notice. Sometimes, the team may be too engrossed in calibrating the long-term efforts and end up concentrating on shorter iterations only. For this reason, it is essential to shape up the roadmap accordingly as you progress in the project. This allows you to leverage the knowledge and ideas of all the team members for successful project delivery.
On a concluding note, we may affirm that if you are in an agile environment, you are bound to encounter change. Try to keep the product roadmap evenly focused on both short-term tactics and strategic, long-term goals. Regularly review and upscale the roadmap maybe once in a month or quarter depending on the project and market dynamics. Bear in mind that this policy works well in any size organization, but a single roadmap can connect multiple agile project teams to inspect, develop and communicate accordingly.
About the Author
Maria Thomas is a Marketing Manager and Product Specialist at GreyCampus with eight years rich experience on professional certification courses like PMI- Project Management Professional, PMI-ACP, Prince2, ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), Big Data, Cloud, Digital Marketing and Six Sigma.
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The other day I read about the benefits of solution conceptualization, which talks about planning ahead to customize a product to meet the customers’ requirements and this article broadened my knowledge on the topic. A great article outlining the many benefits of having a product roadmap. The information on shaping and developing a product roadmap was of great help. A must-read for enthusiasts of agile project management.