Many product teams live in a very fast changing environment, constantly focusing on customer feedback, small sprints to deliver quick features that build upon each other and being flexible to swap priorities as needed to drive business growth in an agile world. In this framework, many wonder can we really build long term product roadmaps in an agile world? And if so, what would that even look like? How would you possible keep up with the changes?
So Can we really build long-term product roadmaps in an agile world?
Yes! Here is why:
Product roadmaps are designed to provide a long term visibility into where you are going. Product roadmaps should include your strategic vision and broad strokes of changes to grow your product and business. Agile by default implies a specific development lifecycle which really works in how we implement a specific release or set of changes for a product. A product roadmap lives in a much higher world than the agile process. A product roadmap sets the stage to understand where you are and where you want to be in give years. An agile sprint, is a specific set of features or requirements that need to be completed within a given iteration that boils up into the product roadmaps in an agile world.
Yes, agile can change and pivot often and deliver early and often. This doesn’t matter as it relates to product roadmaps. Product roadmaps do not care if you are using waterfall development methodology or agile development methodology. A product roadmap is simply showing the larger objectives you need to accomplish to grow your product and business. The smaller details on how you accomplish this, are defined in requirements, within features and releases and those granular details should not be within the product roadmap but instead defined within the release itself at the time to do the release.
In a world that moves in small steps to define a large picture, it is even more important to have that product roadmap in place and a long term roadmap at that. Think of your product roadmap within an agile world like building a very large and complicated puzzle that is made up of thousands of pieces. Each agile sprint is a puzzle piece. If you do not know what the puzzle looks like you have no idea where to put each piece or how the pieces go together to resemble a finished picture. Your product roadmap is the finished picture so as you are putting together your sprints you know what it needs to add up to at the end. As a result, a product roadmap can be and should be built in an agile world to maintain a rudder on why you are building what you are building and what each sprint should be adding to.
So next question then would be if we can really build long-term product roadmaps in an agile world, how would we go about managing it?
An agile world can create some difficulties not as much around the product roadmap itself but managing the feature changes, the communications, funneling customer feedback into your funnel and driving your product forward with as much information as you can. The best way to do this is to find product management software that allows you to:
Communicate Your Product Roadmap: You should be able to show your team and users what your plans are on where you are heading. If it changes, your product roadmap should be updated in real time to reflect that so they are on the same page as you.
Communicate with your team: Your team may have questions on features that have been prioritized for a release. Within the agile world, requirements are not as formal so you need to be able to quickly answer questions and move the ball forward on the features included in the sprint. A strong product management software option should allow you to see your releases, features and track team questions and answers along with the requirements for those in a consolidated location.
Get Customer Feedback: Your customers need to be a huge part of your agile cycle constantly getting you feedback about their experience and using customer feedback management you should be able to respond to the customer feedback by promoting it to features for your product roadmap or closing the feedback loop with them.
While many agile shops try to focus on execution, the reality is that to be successful you need to do the work of product planning regardless of your development lifecyle methodology. Always remember that product management sits on top of your execution of a given release. It drives the release to make sure you are building the right things and the product roadmap is the vision that helps keep everyone on the same page of why you are building what you are building. So Can we really build long-term product roadmaps in an agile world? Absolutely can you build a long term product roadmap in an agile world using the right product management software and always understanding the roadmap drives the releases so without one, you are flying blind.