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Do you ever find yourself scratching your head over the term ‘what is product roadmap in agile?’ Every time you dive deeper into agile practices, it feels like there’s another layer to uncover. However, understanding the product roadmap might seem daunting at first, but here is the good news:

It’s not as complicated as it sounds!

If you tweak how you approach agile, the product roadmap will soon become a clear and valuable tool. So, let’s straighten out this concept and understand its pivotal role in successful agile projects with me.

So What is Product Roadmap in Agile?

An image of a paper with doodling of a product roadmap

An agile roadmap is a flexible plan of action that helps product development managers achieve their product vision. It provides a visual representation of upcoming product releases, epics, and features, showing how each contributes to the overall product strategy. This roadmap allows managers to be nimble and adapt their plans based on customer feedback and other relevant data.

Unlike traditional waterfall roadmaps, which follow a linear approach with defined features and completion timelines, an agile product roadmap embraces change and allows for continuous improvement. Product teams use a high-level overview of the product goals and initiative or a more detailed plan of upcoming work and timelines.

The Difference Between a Waterfall Roadmap and an Agile Roadmap

Before the advent of agile development methodologies, waterfall roadmaps were the norm. These roadmaps followed a sequential approach, where features were defined upfront and each phase of work was completed before moving on to the next. In contrast, agile type of roadmaps are designed to be more flexible and responsive to change.

Goals

At the heart of the waterfall roadmap lies a business-centric focus, where the primary emphasis is on financial key performance indicators (KPIs). These roadmaps often align with the company’s fiscal objectives and rarely deviate once set. In stark contrast, agile, spearheaded by the agile team, primarily consisting of the development team and the product owner, is distinctly customer-centric. The roadmap focuses on delivering the most value to customers and the business early and often. While waterfall might concern itself with fiscal quarters and annual reports, agile looks into product discovery, seeking to understand and cater to the end-users needs and desires.

Planning Horizon

Waterfall roadmaps, historically, have a broad scope, often spanning multiple years. They are crafted with a long-term vision, sometimes at the risk of losing flexibility. On the flip side, agile insists on shorter planning horizons, usually measured in months or quarters. This approach ensures that the product backlog, which is constantly curated and prioritized, remains relevant and responsive to the ever-changing market conditions.

Planning Cadence

The traditional waterfall roadmap is typically revisited and updated annually, adhering strictly to predetermined benchmarks. Agile, however, being dynamic in nature, calls for the roadmap to be reviewed and adjusted on a quarterly basis, if not more frequently. This allows the product owner and the agile team to accommodate changing priorities and fresh feedback, ensuring the roadmap provides genuine value.

Resource/Capacity Planning

While building a roadmap in the waterfall model, there is an upfront allocation of resources. Major projects are earmarked with resources much in advance, sometimes leading to inefficiencies or bottlenecks. In the agile paradigm, resource allocation is more dynamic, influenced by sprint velocity or team size. The product manager’s role here is to ensure a balance between the available resources and the tasks in the product backlog.

Investment

When organizations decide to go with a waterfall product roadmap, they are essentially committing to a concrete plan and timeline, usually on an annual basis. Agile, however, champions flexibility. It permits incremental investments, allowing organizations to adapt based on feedback, product ideas, and data from product discovery sessions.

Collaboration

Waterfall roadmaps traditionally follow a sequential pattern, segmented by departments, limiting cross-functional interactions. Agile, in comparison with tools like Atlassian product suite or even a simple product vision board, emphasizes cross-functional collaboration. The roadmap template in agile fosters concurrent work across teams, promoting product marketing synergy and ensuring that product roadmap examples are holistic and inclusive.

Flexibility

Arguably, the most prominent difference lies in flexibility. Waterfall roadmaps, by design, offer limited wiggle room. Adherence to a predetermined plan is paramount. But with agile, the sky’s the limit. The guide to agile product development stresses adaptability. As the product manager continually keeps the roadmap attuned to market needs, roadmap changes become not only acceptable but expected. This limitless flexibility allows adjustments based on ever-evolving priorities and feedback, ensuring that strategic product goals support the product holistically.

In short, creating an agile product roadmap is an art and science that pivots on flexibility, collaboration, and customer-centricity. It’s a tool, a guide, a vision board that helps product teams maneuver the complex waters of product development with precision and confidence. Whether you’re looking at product roadmap examples or trying to build a roadmap from scratch, remember that its true essence lies in its ability to evolve, adapt, and deliver value.

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How to Build an Agile Product Roadmap? Step-by-Step Process

An image of a man excited about what is product roadmap in agile

A guide to making an agile product requires careful planning and collaboration across cross-functional teams. By following these seven steps, product managers can create an agile that aligns with their product plan of action and enables them to deliver value to customers efficiently.

1. Start with Product Procedure and Goals

A clear product plan of action is the foundation of any successful product roadmap. Begin by defining the problem you are solving for customers and setting clear goals for what you want to achieve over a specific time period.

In an agile environment, goals are typically set on a monthly or quarterly basis, with clear metrics for measuring success. 

2. Translate Goals into Initiatives

Once you have defined your goals, you can break them down into initiatives, also known as epics. Initiatives represent the themes of work that will support your product vision and help you achieve your goals.

These initiatives will be further broken down into features and user stories, which will guide your development team’s priorities.

3. Gather Cross-Functional Feedback

To build a comprehensive and realistic agile type of roadmap, it’s essential to gather input from all cross-functional teams involved in product planning and delivery. This includes engineering, marketing, design, sales, customer support teams, etc.

Incorporating feedback from these teams ensures that your roadmap captures all necessary workstreams and timelines.

4. Define Product Features and Tie Them to Strategic Initiatives

Once you have gathered feedback, it’s time to get back to the product roadmap to outline future product functionality or user stories that will bring your strategic initiatives to life. Features represent the new functionality that you will deliver to customers, and they should be prioritized based on their alignment with your product strategy.

Linking each feature to the overall product strategy ensures that your team is working towards the same goals.

5. Plan Your Product Releases

Organize your features into product releases to deliver incremental value to customers within a defined timeframe. Your release cadence can be daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on your product and business needs. It’s important to differentiate between releases and sprints or iterations.

Releases deliver new customer experiences, encompassing all cross-functional work necessary to bring those experiences to life.

6. Capture and Integrate Customer Feedback

Customer feedback should be an ongoing part of maintaining your agile roadmap. Collect feedback through various channels such as user interviews, usability testing, and usage data. Purpose-built idea management software can also help you collect, rank, and prioritize customer feedback, allowing you to promote the best ideas to features on your roadmap.

Regularly mapping features to the product strategy helps you make informed decisions about upcoming adjustments.

7. Measure Results Regularly

Monitoring progress toward your goals is crucial in an agile environment. Regularly review results and adjust your agile roadmap based on the data you gather. Evaluate how each release or feature impacts key metrics such as customer acquisition, retention, conversion rates, and churn.

Analyzing performance data allows you to make informed decisions about upcoming features and ensures that you are delivering value to customers.

By following these steps, product managers can build an agile roadmap that provides a clear plan of action while allowing for flexibility and adaptation. An agile roadmap serves as a guide for making tradeoff decisions, measuring progress, and ultimately delivering value to customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer some of the frequently asked questions about this topic!

What is the primary distinction between Agile and Waterfall roadmaps?

The main difference lies in their flexibility and focus. Waterfall roadmaps are linear, with set plans often spanning years and limited flexibility, primarily focused on business-centric goals. Agile roadmaps, conversely, emphasize adaptability, short planning horizons, and are more customer-centric.

How often should an Agile product roadmap be updated?

Ideally, an Agile product roadmap is reviewed and possibly adjusted on a quarterly basis. However, due to its inherent flexibility, it can be updated even more frequently, especially if there’s significant feedback or changing market conditions.

Can Waterfall and Agile methodologies coexist in a product’s lifecycle?

Yes, some organizations employ a hybrid approach. They might use waterfall for high-level, long-term planning and agile for execution and iterative improvements. This approach seeks to combine the predictability of waterfall with the adaptability of agile.

Why is collaboration emphasized more in Agile roadmaps?

Agile methodologies prioritize cross-functional collaboration because of their customer-centric nature. Agile believes in gaining diverse insights to better serve customer needs, and this often requires concurrent work across different teams, from development to marketing.

Final Note

As a product manager, I’ve found that building an agile roadmap is crucial. It enables me to deliver value quickly, maintain a clear product strategy, and adapt to changing priorities and feedback.

Remember, an agile roadmap is flexible, not set in stone. Regular reviews and updates keep it aligned with our product strategy and goals.

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