🗺 Good roadmap, bad roadmap
Create roadmaps that actually work
Why do you need a roadmap?
Roadmaps or not “for the business”. They are for your users.
Roadmaps can be extremely useful if done right.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – General Dwight Eisenhower
What value does a roadmap bring?
Roadmaps bring focus
By agreeing on what to work on in which order you bring focus to your organisation. It helps focus effort on the highest leverage activities.
Roadmaps create shared understanding
Roadmaps give everyone the opportunity to share their ideas. If you take stakeholders through the decision-making process they understand why you work on something.
Roadmaps make execution easier
By planning more than 1-2 sprints ahead, teams can get complex work done. Good roadmaps break down projects into tasks with timelines and accountable people. This gives a clear path to how you can reach your goals. This will in turn help you deliver. If you don't do this, you will be forever stuck picking up "low-hanging fruit".
Roadmaps help you coordinate
Once projects are broken down into tasks, you'll see that some of these tasks need to be done by people outside your team. You might need help from internal teams (finance, marketing, other product teams) or external partners. If they know what to expect, you can prevent these tasks from becoming blockers.
What makes a good roadmap?
So roadmaps can bring a lot of value, but how? What makes a good roadmap?
Focus on outcomes for users, not on deliverables
A roadmap solely focussed on deliverables sucks. It's about the results for your user. Example: Adding a new payment method is not a goal in itself, it's a means. The outcome might be an increased check-out conversion.
Progress is measurable
Find a way to quantify the outcome for your user. Track if your improvements move the needle. If there's nothing to measure during the project, make sure to at least measure after you complete it. Did the user get the outcome they needed?
Tasks are assignable
Clear ownership is the only way to achieve great outcomes. Assign tasks to people, not departments or teams.
The sequence of actions is clear
"First we need to do X to be able to do Y". Having a clear view on the order of operations prevents a lot of pain.
Goals are realistic
An unrealistic roadmap is demotivating for your team and misleading for stakeholders. Don't do this! Talk to your team, be critical.
What makes a bad roadmap?
We also noticed a few common pitfalls:
If projects are not connected to vision, it will feel like a random bag of features. Not good for motivation. Not good for decision making when things need to be changed later. Create a compelling story of where the product is going and how these steps help it get there.
Trade-offs are not explained
There is never a wrong or right decision. You are trying to find the optimal path, and will have to make trade-offs while doing so. Explain these trade-offs. This way people know you take their opinion seriously, and they can in turn help you improve your thinking.
Organisation takes roadmap too literal
The map is not the territory - meaning that what you write down now is your best guess of the optimal path for the new quarter or year. It should be treated as such, instead of as a permanent to-do list.
Goals are not ambitious
Unambitious goals never inspired a team to do great work. By planning too little you will have to deal with Parkinson's law. Also, I have no idea how you will get a sign-off on an ambitious roadmap 😅
That’s it! We hope these pointers help you improve your roadmapping process.
Please reach out if you have any further suggestions on how to build a great roadmap.
Two final tips to really nail your roadmap for 2022
Work with roadmap scenario's
Describe different scenarios; what if we focus on X instead of Y? This allows you to explain the trade-offs. After explaining the different scenario you can decide together with your stakeholders on what the optimal scenario is. This helps increase buy-in, as stakeholders are actually part of the decision-making process
Keep your roadmap up to date
As the quarter or year progresses, you will learn new things. You might change your mind. Or projects take longer than expected. In short; your roadmap will change. Make sure to keep it up to date if it does. When changing the roadmap, versioning is recommended. If you do this, you can include the reasons for changes.
Useful stuff 🛠
If there's no existing process or roadmap in your company yet, you can use this template as a starting point: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1zlx3RuidNOW40Zf7gh07p2SqoR53Ungv9JFT-PhHwxI/edit#gid=184965050
Visual roadmap template
If you want to try a more visual approach, check out my bullseye template
Where to get roadmap ideas?
Lenny explains how to source great ideas for your roadmap.
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