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Revealing the secrets of creating an efficient Agile Roadmap

by Svitla Team

June 07, 2018
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Agile is currently the most popular approach to custom software development. 71% of organizations are using the agile methodology in their projects, which are 28% more successful than traditional ones. Agile software development means short iterations, each resulting in a finished piece of functionality. This approach is about flexibility, a lot of communication, and a certain degree of improvisation.

However, agile is often seen as an excuse for working without a roadmap project plan and inventing new features on the go without clear understanding what the end goal of the development process is. Unfortunately, that’s not how agile methodology works.

Not knowing what your destination is, you will never reach it!

Defining the goal and the time frames for reaching it is the main condition needed for agile development to work well for you. How can you achieve it? By creating a well thought-out project roadmap.

What is an agile product roadmap?

Without a doubt, you should always work with a plan. Each project backlog contains tasks, which define the nearest development process. You understand what the product will look like as a result of the current or next sprint. But do you have a vision of the end product and its goals? If you work with a backlog only, there is a good chance of losing the sight of it. To stay in focus, a project roadmap comes in very handy.

Agile project roadmap is a long-term plan, a strategic document that defines the What, When and Why of each software development process.

However, a roadmap is not something you develop once and adhere forever. Your long-term plan remains agile. You keep brainstorming, discussing, prioritizing ideas and adjusting your process roadmap according to the changing environment.

The strategic initiative discussed in the agile roadmap is then divided into sprints and single tasks that become the foundation for a to-do list in the backlog.

In summary, an agile project roadmap is about having a big picture of the product’s future outlook and a plan how it should be reached.

How to create a project roadmap?

Creating a project roadmap may seem like a lot of hard work for any software company. And it actually is. However, following these steps below will guide you through the whole process while preventing common mistakes and inspiring with useful insights. In the end, your project will be empowered by a detailed agile product roadmap.

Step 1. Define your project strategy

Start with defining and organizing information about your future product. Write down the answers to essential questions, such as:

  • What problems does the product solve?
  • Who will use the product?
  • How is your project different from others?
  • How can you monetize the service?
  • etc.

These answers will help you define the vision the project. Next, it’s time to suggest the tactics. The relevant questions to answer are:

  • Which professionals will you need and how to hire them?
  • Which resources are needed for the product and where to procure them?
  • What are the possible risks and how can they be managed?
  • etc.

Now everyone with the access to this description will have a general understanding of What you are going to build and How to achieve it. The next step is to find responsible executors.

Step 2. Assign roles and hold a meeting with stakeholders

It is important to define key stakeholders of the project. These are people with interest in your product success and special knowledge of the industry, market or context in which the product will be used in. These are usually divided into three main categories:

Product users
People, who will actually use the software, are extremely important for the development process. Their knowledge and understanding of current processes and desired improvements will be very helpful in building a realistic and efficient roadmap.

External customers
If the product is designed to be sold and used externally, it is important to understand the real needs of the target audience. Involving a customer representative in project discussion and scrum meetings will ensure that your product will solve real problems of the users.

Internal customers
People who decide about the product, its funding and resources allocation should also take part in project roadmap discussion. Product management, CEO, CIO, R&D director are key decision makers who define the whole development process. 

After defining key participants of the project, it is important to hold a kick-off meeting to introduce them to each other and approve the project strategy. It is also critical to assign responsibilities and personal tasks, discuss earlier defined project requirements, checkpoints, and timelines. The main goal of the meeting is to make sure that everyone understands his/her role in the suggested process and knows whom to address in case of any inquiries.

Step 3. Develop the project scope statement and project baseline

After the strategy is discussed and defined, it is time to present a document called “project scope statement”. Its objective is to exclude any misunderstandings and make sure details are agreed by all stakeholders, who outline the vision of the development process and its outcomes.

The essential information that should be defined in the document includes activities and resources needed to achieve deliverables, estimated budget and expected deadlines, and staffing timeline. Please note that clear understanding when each professional has to enter and leave the project helps to plan the process better.

A project baseline is another handy tool to compare the actual performance of the team to the initial roadmap project plan. In case of any issues, it allows taking extra actions to improve performance before it has a critical effect on the expected outcome.

Step 4. Define the project quality criteria

It is crucial to foresee possible risks and eliminate them by developing exact standards and acceptance criteria for the development team. The more mistakes one can predict and cover with applicable acceptance criteria, the higher quality will be achieved.

Along with technical risks, it is important to prepare for organizational ones. For example, a change in funding flows may be unexpected but will disable the working process for a significant time period. However, if foreseen, the roadmap can include a plan of events to solve the problem efficiently and with fewer efforts.

Step 5. Build a communication plan

Communication within a project needs to include the following:

Regular team meetings
Meetings help to share current information with co-workers and stakeholders, discussing issues, finding solutions.​

Planning reports
Reports should come on time to right people on regular basis.​

Project information access
Relevant project information should be accessible to relevant people.

Proper communication helps to keep every team member up to date, and as a result, the development process becomes more efficient.

Step 6. Use a product roadmap template

When all needed information is gathered and approved, you can move to present it as a project roadmap. PowerPoint or Excel or whatever format you prefer can be used, visually displaying all steps to achieving the scope.

Here are some of the agile roadmap templates that will come in handy when presenting the product development strategy: 

Conclusion

An Agile approach in software development should never be seen as an excuse to proceed without a project roadmap. This short document explains the goal behind agile method - to present a vision of the product to stakeholders and agree on the strategy of achieving the goal.

When compared to project backlog, a roadmap is a long-term plan, which usually does not have strict deadlines, only approximate dates and periods instead. It allows to have a complex view of the project and desired outcome and to efficiently approach it in a number of iterations.

We, at Svitla Systems, follow the standards of agile approach ensuring the highest efficiency of software development process. A clear and comprehensive project roadmap is one of the powerful tools that help us in this process to deliver maximum value to our clients.

by Svitla Team
June 07, 2018

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