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3 Steps to Develop an Agile Product Roadmap

This article was created by the GSA. All rights and attributions belong to the GSA. The following is an excerpt from the GSA Tech Guides

3 Steps to Develop an Agile Product Roadmap

"A product roadmap is a high-level plan that serves as a tool to map an idea, develop the strategy for a product, align customers / stakeholders and the funds required to develop the product. Creating an effective roadmap becomes a challenge when changes occur frequently and product ideas evolve continuously. Below are quick steps to develop a product roadmap that is enables timely response to change and facilitates learning."

1. Complete the Groundwork

Define and Validate the Product Vision: The first and most important step prior to developing an effective roadmap is articulating the objective and communicating how the product will support the organization’s overarching goals. A clearly defined product vision enables the team delivering the project to understand the product direction and contribute towards its realization and success.

An effective product vision:
  • Identifies clear and focused product goals
  • Relates the product value to organization strategy
  • Defines the users of the product
  • Is compelling

Acquire Buy-in: The roadmap will define the strategy and high-level plan to develop the product. It should progress and be socialized in such a way that it represents and addresses the needs or concerns of stakeholders, sponsors or those who may be impacted by product decisions. Treating stakeholders like customers, securing their representation to address their concerns throughout the development process of the roadmap, facilitates buy-in and acquires the necessary support for overarching vision of the product and development efforts.

Tips for acquiring stakeholder support:
  • Identify specific concerns for each stakeholder
  • Create a prioritization scheme (e.g. customer satisfaction vs. complexity) that aligns stakeholder customer goals with product objectives.
  • Make the process transparent - clearly communicate decisions, changes and timeline

2. Develop an Objective-Based Roadmap

Focus on Product Objectives, Not Features: Typically, product roadmaps contain a mix of functional features that map against timelines dictating how to achieve product objectives. The challenge of this approach limits the team from exploring all potential avenues to deliver the most viable solution. Instead, if we shift the focus of a roadmap from specifying features to emphasizing the user or business problems, we articulate the what and the why. Enabling product teams to understand the reasons for the product/service needs that will achieve the strategic goals of acquiring/retaining users, generating revenue, increasing engagement, etc.

See images, below

3. Communicate, Review and Adjust Regularly

Make the Roadmap Visible: Once a roadmap is completed, communicate the project objectives / milestones by sharing the roadmap with the product team to better understand the vision and direction for the product. The product owner or manager should continue updating the roadmap to the team completes development over time.

Respond to Change: The product strategy roadmap is developed to guide and keep customers, agile teams and business stakeholders aligned with developments. In order for the roadmap to continue effectively serving its purpose, it needs to developed in such a way that it is evenly focused on short-term tactics as well as strategic, long-term goals, and be supported by a framework that allows to track and address customer feedback. One approach is to setup frequent review and prioritization periods to update the product roadmap to reflect the most up-to-date state for the product. The frequency of review can be set monthly, quarterly or tagged to the performance of a specific release, depending on the maturity of the product and the pace of change in the industry or market. Additionally, the product lead can utilize various visibility and collaboration tools to communicate these changes and ensure the team continues to build relevant features that respond to new product milestones and move the organization closer to towards the overarching vision."

Sample Traditional Product Roadmap. Source: GSA
Sample Agile Product Roadmap. Source: GSA
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