Q&A: Can I pick your brain about roadmaps?

I’m asked questions about product management from time to time. Here’s one I’ve answered recently:

Hey Jock,

I would love to pick your brain about roadmaps.

To give more clarity to my team (which is working on two mandates/sub-projects), I would like to empower them with a roadmap/timeline of the project. We already have one, on Confluence that I’ve printed next to our whiteboard. But it’s not “ours”.

Any recommendation in terms of shape/content? Should it be extremely detailed or high level? More generally, how to craft the best roadmap/product timeline for my team?

And for its creation? Any convenient tool or Excel template for this?

Thanks so much for your help!

P

Read on for my reply.

Hi P,

Thanks for letting me know how you’re getting on.

Teams should have their own roadmaps. If a team is working on multiple products or components, then the roadmap should show at a high level (i.e. this item will take a team a sprint or more) everything they’re working on (including housekeeping tasks) in the same place. If it takes up the team’s time, put it on the roadmap. The product manager should update the roadmap at least once a week.

You should probably have some kind of short roadmap update session every couple of weeks with all the teams together.

I favour no timescales on roadmaps, just now / next / later. Items have in ‘now’ have more detail, a bit less on the ‘next’ and minimal detail on the ‘later’ (which may not even happen).

Finer detail (the breakdown of a sprint-sized item into smaller tasks as needed) on what’s been worked on right now should be in the backlog. This should be kept up to date by the team itself several times a day, and reviewed every day at team standup.

Your roadmaps and backlog need to be highly visible. You can have your team roadmaps and backlogs on a big screen or up on a physical board, or both. It doesn’t matter as long as the team and passers-by can see them easily at all times. If your teams are remote from each other, you have to work extra hard to achieve this.

There are plenty of roadmapping and backlog tools out there. I’ve always tended to use physical boards + post-its, combined with Trello or ProdPad, as they give me lots of flexibility. Just make sure you lock down the access to anything sensitive, particularly in Trello.

Hope that helps. I talk more about roadmaps on the blog: The secret behind meaningful roadmaps

Cheers,

Jock


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The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management by Jock Busuttil

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