Effectively Using Product Roadmaps for Agile

By Betsy Kauffman, Organizational Coach, Agile Pi

What is an Agile Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap is essentially an action plan for how a product will evolve to completion. Product roadmaps can be incredibly useful to outline your product functionality and showcase a timeline for when new features will be implemented.

Multiple agile teams can utilize a shared product roadmap. When employed in agile development, a roadmap equips your product with the essential framework for a team’s daily tasks and should be reactive to developments in the competing landscape.

Many agile professionals have turned to product roadmaps as a plan of action to resolve managements need for documentation, but is your roadmap a valuable project tool or just a required artifact created and then cast aside? If you create it and never look at it again, then you’re probably struggling with lots of issues like missed deadlines, frustrated stakeholders, bad/slow decisions and mediocre solutions.

How does a Product Roadmap Improve Projects?

When done well, the Agile product roadmap is the foundation and facilitator of solution delivery. The process to create and periodically update the roadmap generates meaningful conversations that create confident teams who are able to meet their commitments. A good roadmap process helps teams manage expectations, facilitate decision making, and most importantly, estimate and deliver valuable solutions.

A useful and predictable roadmap requires a consistent focus on three things:

  • Transparency
  • Data-Driven Forecasting and Decision Making
  • Reflection

Agile teams who focus on transparency and engage stakeholders in meaningful discussions need to build a sturdy framework for the Agile product roadmap.

The framework should include:

  • Business Capabilities
  • Technical Dependencies
  • Other Project Impacts
  • Market Events
  • Risks/schedule constraints

When teams establish this solid framework across a timeline and commit to frequent recasting, the product roadmap becomes an essential communication and trust-building tool. Leaders and stakeholders understand the product/project plan, and the team becomes confident in their ability to deliver!

About the Author
Betsy Kauffman (CSM, CSPO, PSM, PMP, PMI-ACP, SPC4, ICP-APM, ICP-ACC, ICP-ATF) is a passionate Organizational Coach and Trainer with more than 18 years’ experience working with high performing teams. She has held various roles working as a Business Analyst, Project Manager, Program Manager, Scrum Master, Senior Scrum Master, and Agile Coach across several sectors including healthcare, retail, entertainment and financial. As an Organizational Coach, she is responsible for coaching, training, and implementing best practices at the executive, program and team levels for several Fortune 500 organizations.

Betsy was also selected by Agile Alliance to be one of seven authors for the Agile Practice Guide published in conjunction with the Project Management Institute (PMI)® in September 2017. Betsy is actively involved in the community and enjoys presenting on a range of topics regarding agile transformations, agile management, and agile values.

PMI is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

The Agile Transformation Challenge All Organizations Face

By Erik Krisko, Enterprise Transformation Coach and Consultant

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to present at this year’s 2018 Agile and Scrum Online Conference, hosted by the International Institute for Learning (IIL). In my session “From Freight Train to Airplane: The Automotive Transformation”, I discuss Enterprise Transformation efforts taking place to prepare one of the World’s largest automakers for the ‘Consumer of Tomorrow’, and the challenges in doing so.

One challenge that every transformation in every organization is subject to is psychology, and it is one that is frequently overlooked. The impact of expansive change is dealt with in different ways, by different folks. If not taken seriously, there is a very good chance of a dark cloud hanging over the entire effort. Transformation is not driven by strategy, it’s driven by people. To build a support system that you will need to achieve sustainable success, people’s feelings and concerns require the respect and attention that is too often trivialized.

Here are a few recommendations to help people deal with these changes:

Be a Leader, not a Manager

Contrary to the beliefs of some in positions of authority, these two are not the same. Simply pointing to the X’s and O’s from an ivory tower does not inspire people. I have worked with individuals clueless about the intricacies of their business and yet were still able to succeed. This success wasn’t because of their acumen, but a result of their ability to inspire, and their willingness to check their ego at the door. Regardless if you are in an ‘official’ leadership position or not, humility, selflessness, emotional intelligence, and confidence are some of the key strengths of effective leaders. These traits are what people look to rally around as they walk into the unknown.

Be aware of your influence on others

I’m always surprised at the lack of awareness people have in how their emotions and attitude affect others around them. Emotions are contagious, attitude is infectious, and both can work either for you or against you. The continuity of a high performing team hinges on the dynamic of those in it, and even a small amount of toxicity can be detrimental. Displaying calm in the face of adversity, confidence in making decisions, and having the courage to take accountability and accept constructive criticism can go a long way in how people interact with you, and each other.

Future Shock is Real

For those who don’t know what ‘Future Shock’ is, basically it’s a natural inclination to psychologically withdraw out of fear when too much is changing too fast. Because of the substantial fiscal investments organizations can make in their transformation, it can come with very aggressive timing expectations. This means “change a lot, and change it fast.”

While I certainly can’t blame an organization for wanting to see a speedy ROI, psychologically it doesn’t work like that. To get people out of their comfort zone, and achieve some momentum, people need to be presented with reasonable expectations and measures of success. Set goals that are realistic, attainable, and easily applicable in performing their work. Once they experience success, and start to understand the benefits of continuous improvement, the odds of sustaining that success increase substantially.

These suggestions are just…suggestions. If you’re looking for a silver bullet, good luck finding one. I can say with a high degree of confidence that if you do not respect the psychological ramifications of change, you are playing with fire. Adversity already has a head start, why give it more?

About the Author
Erik Krisko is an Enterprise Agility Coach and Consultant that has worked with some of the world’s largest brands, specializing in Holistic Agility and Enterprise Transformation. Currently engaged in the Automotive Industry, he resides in suburban Detroit with his wife and two children.