Agile Roadmaps: Guide, Examples, and Template
Build flexibility into your product development process with Agile roadmaps. Here’s what you need to know.
Sure, “agile” is super buzzwordy these days. It’s come to mean a collection of very specific frameworks (Kanban, Scrum, LSD, for example) rather than the relatively loose set of principles that it originally was.
Still, I think agility in software development is kind of exactly right and that those original principles that began the agile movement are still bang on. Let all software team remember that the first one is, “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer.”
This article is about how to create a product roadmap that supports your agile way of building. I’ll explain what agile product roadmaps are, what they’re good for, when they’re good for it, and how product managers can make them.
Portfolio roadmaps—TL; DR
Agile roadmaps are roadmaps that are consistent with agile principles—they’re customer-centric, flexible, fast, and promote building excellent, working software.
“Agile roadmaps” is an umbrella term that encompasses Kanban roadmaps, Scrum roadmaps, and other agile-framework-specific roadmaps.
There’s no single right way to make them. The most effective agile framework is the one that supports agile principles in your team.
Pros include that they adapt and respond to changing conditions and needs. Cons are that they
What is an agile roadmap?
An Agile roadmap is a strategic planning tool used in product management that aligns with the principles of Agile methodology.
Unlike traditional roadmaps that lay out a fixed plan with rigid timelines and milestones, an Agile roadmap is flexible and adaptable. It is structured around broad goals or themes rather than specific features and dates.
Common agile frameworks include Scrum, Kanban, and lean software development (LSD), among others. Each of these frameworks can have its own specific roadmaps, so “Agile roadmaps” is really an umbrella term that can refer to roadmaps used for all those frameworks.
Agile product roadmap example 1: Scrum roadmap
Scrum is a specific agile framework in which teams build software in short-term blocks of work called sprints. They’re usually two-week intervals. A scrum roadmap can organize your work into those sprints, or it can help you understand what the priorities are for the quarter. Here’s an example of an agile roadmap for Scrum, with time frames broken down by sprint. Source.
Agile product roadmap example 2: Kanban roadmap
Kanban is a popular Agile framework that originated from the Japanese manufacturing industry. The word 'Kanban' itself translates to 'billboard' or 'signboard' in Japanese. The core idea is to visualize the work process, allowing teams to manage workflow effectively. Kanban boards can function as roadmaps themselves.
Here’s an example of a Kanban roadmap built in Savio. Notice that each feature also has four pieces of customer data displayed that are relevant for product decisions: cumulative MRR, opportunity revenue from all prospects that asked for the feature, priority, and the number of customers that requested each feature.
Agile product roadmap example 3: Lean roadmap
Lean software development (LSD) is an Agile framework that originates from Lean Manufacturing, originally developed by Toyota. It's focused on optimizing efficiency, reducing waste, and delivering value to the customer.
Here’s an example of a lean product roadmap for a hypothetical streaming service company. Source.
Is an agile roadmap right for you?
An agile portfolio roadmap can be useful, but it might not be the perfect fit for every team. Here are the advantages, disadvantages, and how to decide if it’s right for you.
Here are some of the key benefits of agile roadmaps:
Flexibility and adaptability. One of the most significant advantages of Agile roadmaps is their flexibility. They can quickly adapt to changes and allow the team to shift priorities as needed, making them a valuable tool in rapidly changing environments.
Customer-focused. Agile frameworks prioritize customer value. Agile roadmaps are therefore usually focused on delivering work that directly impacts customer needs. They help encourage product development to be user-centric.
Improved communication and transparency. Agile roadmaps provide a visual summary of the product's direction, which helps in maintaining transparency across the organization. This helps all stakeholders understand the product strategy and current focus areas, fostering better communication.
Efficient prioritization. Agile roadmaps help teams prioritize work based on value. This ensures the team is always working on what's most important at a given time, resulting in better use of resources and more efficient delivery.
Focus on goals, not features. While agile roadmaps may include individual features, they tend to emphasize broader themes and goals. This allows for innovation and flexibility in how those goals are achieved, and it keeps the team focused on the bigger picture, rather than getting bogged down in specific feature requests.
While agile roadmaps offer numerous benefits, they also have some potential drawbacks to consider. Here are a few:
May require a cultural shift. Agile roadmaps are appropriate for teams using agile frameworks. Moving to an agile framework may require a cultural shift towards agility and flexibility. This can be challenging for some organizations, especially those that are used to more traditional, linear product and project management methods.
Lack of long-term detail. Since Agile roadmaps focus on broad themes and goals rather than specific features and dates, they can sometimes lack the long-term detail that stakeholders might want to see. This can lead to misunderstandings or misaligned expectations if not properly managed.
Frequent updates can be time-consuming. Agile roadmaps are designed to be updated frequently to reflect changes in priorities or conditions. While this allows for great flexibility, it can also be time-consuming and requires consistent effort to keep the roadmap up-to-date.
Potential for scope creep. The flexibility of Agile roadmaps could potentially lead to scope creep if not properly managed. Because changes can be made more easily, there might be a temptation to continually add new features or goals, which can lead to overloading the team or losing sight of the original objectives.
Risk of ambiguity. With a focus on themes and goals over specific features, there can be a degree of ambiguity in Agile roadmaps. It requires a high level of communication and understanding among all team members and stakeholders to ensure everyone is aligned.
When to use an agile roadmap
Your team might consider using Agile roadmaps in the following situations:
Agile teams. Usually, you’ll use an agile product roadmap when you’re already using an agile method for your software development process.
Working in a dynamic business environment. If your team operates in an environment where market conditions, customer preferences, or technologies change rapidly, an Agile roadmap provides flexibility to adjust your strategy and priorities swiftly.
Emphasizing customer-centric development. Agile environments and roadmaps are a good fit when your product development process is strongly geared toward fulfilling customer needs and delivering high customer value.
Engaging in frequent iterations and feedback. If your team works in sprints or similar regular iterations and uses continuous feedback for product enhancement, an Agile roadmap can effectively support you.
Handling uncertain or complex projects. Agile roadmaps can be beneficial for projects where requirements might change or are not entirely clear at the outset. It enables your team to deliver value progressively while you refine your understanding of the requirements over time.
Fostering highly collaborative teams. Agile roadmaps work best within a culture that promotes collaboration and transparency. If your team values open communication, joint decision-making, and is comfortable with adjusting plans as a group, then an Agile roadmap could be an excellent tool.
Remember that an Agile roadmap isn't a universal solution but a tool that works best when used in concert with Agile principles and practices. Whether to use an Agile roadmap should depend on your project's nature, the environment you operate in, and your team and organization's culture.
How to make an agile roadmap
Cool, so how do you make one? Here’s your step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Establish your vision
Every roadmapping exercise should start with a clear understanding of your product vision and strategy, and this is especially important for goal-based roadmaps. What is the big picture “why” of your product?
Learn more: Product vision and strategy guide
As part of that exercise, decide on your specific business and product goals for the sprint, month, or quarter, too. Some possibilities include:
Increasing trial-to-paid conversion
Increasing expansion revenue
And so on. Ensure that your goals align with your overall business or product strategy. If there's a disconnect, your roadmap might lead you off course. Choosing these specific goals will help you prioritize those feature requests.
Step 2: Collect feedback and feature requests
Agile frameworks are all about delivering value for your customer. To do that, it’s critical to understand exactly what they’re asking for.
So, establish a feature request tracking system.
That means connecting all the feedback your customer-facing teams are getting to a central feedback repository where you can analyze it.
Step 3: Prioritize the key epics to achieve your goals
For each product, delve into your product backlog to identify the key epics, themes, features, new product improvements, or initiatives that you’re going to pursue. They should be chosen to accomplish your product goals.
Here’s some detailed guidance on how to do that:
As part of this process, identify what resources (people, budget, tools, etc.) are needed to achieve the goals for each product. Also, determine how these resources will be allocated across the portfolio.
Step 4: Create the roadmap
Now it's time to start creating the roadmap.
Consider what style makes sense for your audience and what information you want to display. Consider including each product, its goals, the timeline for achieving these goals, and the allocated resources. I like Kanban boards, but you might want to use a timeline or another style.
Use visual elements to illustrate the interdependencies between different products and how they contribute to the overall business strategy.
Your development team can then break the features down into technical requirements and organize them into sprints.
Step 5: Communicate
Share the roadmap with all relevant stakeholders, including your product teams, management, and even key clients if appropriate. You might even consider sharing it with your customers.
Clearly communicating your roadmap can align everyone with the strategic plan and expectations.
But your roadmap is also agile. When you’re communicating it, make sure everyone knows that it’s just a plan, and that it can quickly change as your context or requirements change.
Step 6: Review and Update
The market scenario, consumer preferences, and competitive landscape for your products will change over time. That means your roadmap should change, too.
Regularly review and update your roadmap to keep it relevant. Be prepared to make adjustments as needed based on performance, changes in strategy, or market shifts.
Remember, building an agile roadmap is not a one-time activity. It's a dynamic document that evolves with your business, requiring regular review and adjustments.
Agile roadmap best practices
Your roadmap will be unique because it should be tailored to your system. Still, there are some “better” ways to build an agile product roadmap. Here are some key best practices to consider:
Flexibility and adaptability. Agile roadmaps are designed to accommodate changes. As Agile methodologies prioritize responding to change over following a fixed plan, Agile roadmaps are updated regularly to reflect changes in priorities, customer needs, market conditions, or technological advancements.
Vision-oriented. An Agile roadmap starts with a broad vision for the project. This vision serves as the North Star for the team and provides a high-level understanding of what the project aims to achieve.
Theme-based planning. Instead of planning based on features, Agile roadmaps are organized around themes or goals. Themes are broad focus areas that group together related user stories or tasks. This approach allows teams to be adaptable in their execution while still aligning with the project's overall vision.
Timeframes over dates. Agile roadmaps use timeframes (like quarters, months, or sprints) instead of specific dates. This aligns with the Agile principle of delivering working software frequently and allows teams to adapt as necessary without being tied to a rigid timeline.
Transparent communication. Agile roadmaps foster transparency by providing a clear overview of the project's vision, goals, and progress. This helps align all stakeholders, including team members, product owners, and other interested parties, ensuring everyone understands and is working towards the same objectives.
Agile roadmapping tools
Consider using a purpose-built product roadmapping tool to create, share, and update your roadmap. These tools can offer features like drag-and-drop, easy updating, and secure sharing which can greatly ease the process.
We’ve got a list of product roadmapping tools here.
Look for the one with good integrations, has portfolio management, and can display dependencies (if that’s meaningful to you).
Other roadmap types to consider
The best roadmap format for your team will depend on your specific context and needs. If you already practice agile development, an agile roadmap is an obvious next step. But if you don’t, maybe consider other types of roadmaps. Here are some alternatives.
Roadmap types by what information is displayed
Roadmap types by workflow framework
Roadmap type by design style
Up Next: Roadmap types and when to use themLast Updated: 2023-06-19
Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.
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