In order to deliver the high-value working products to customers, Scrum teams envision what the product should look like and how it should be built. In the Scrum framework, the product is the focus, built iteratively and improving with each iteration.
A Scrum roadmap is what helps the teams make their product vision a reality, move in the right direction.
A Scrum roadmap can be an extremely valuable tool, especially in a dynamic environment where changes happen often and are welcomed. With that in mind, let's have a look at how to build one such roadmap.
Of roadmaps and planning
Before we proceed any further, let's address the confusion that always creeps into any discussion on Agile, planning and roadmaps. Agile principles state that there should be a focus on working software over comprehensive plans and documentation. So, if a roadmap is basically a high-level plan, doesn't it contradict what Agile and Scrum are all about?
That's indeed a good question. However, one thing that manages to effectively slip through peoples' minds is that there's, in fact, a difference between a plan and planning. The fact of the matter is that Agile differs from traditional methods mainly because it encourages adaptive development over formulating a plan. Still, long-term planning cannot be avoided, even in Agile.
When we say planning, we don't mean creating an extensive and detailed plan on how a certain product should be built. Instead, it means considering how the development should proceed where everyone involved is aligned on how long it should take and how much it will cost, based on a rough estimate. Therefore, a Scrum roadmap serves as a powerful tool that describes how a certain product is likely to grow.
Keeping it goal-oriented
Unlike traditional methods where business-centric goals are implemented by companies and are measured by finance-related KPIs, Agile focuses on customer-centric goals. That said, when starting to build a Scrum roadmap, you have to have a strategy and goals in mind.
A strategy will encompass the specific problem you're solving for customers with your product while goals will focus on what you want for a product to achieve after a single or multiple sprints. Therefore, goal-oriented or GO roadmaps are more focused on delivering value than on work that needs to be done. There's still an emphasis on building features but they're not the main focus of the agenda.
Roadmaps change in the Agile world
Building a roadmap in Scrum can be a difficult task. The main reason is that Agile encourages and embraces changes even in the late development stages. Therefore, if you want to build an effective Scrum roadmap, you'll have to be flexible, as well as understand that your roadmap is likely to experience changes the same way the environment is, in fact, a dynamic landscape.
What that means is that you should revisit your roadmap regularly and revise, update and adjust it to the changes accordingly.
How often you should do this depends on the level of the dynamics in your environment and how often changes are likely to happen. Agile encourages continuous improvements, which the beauty of it all. In other words, you may learn or find out something new every day, which can eventually make its way to your roadmap in the form of a better solution or shifting priorities.
Simply put, a Scrum roadmap is an incremental plan that embraces changes and not a concoction of hard deadlines that need to be met at all costs.
As you may already know, Agile emphasizes collaboration between departments, individuals and everyone involved in the project, in order to maximize the value of the product being developed. Quite logically, cross-functional collaboration is vital when building a Scrum roadmap.
The fact of the matter is that everyone's input is highly valuable for developing a working product. You need feedback for marketing, sales, stakeholders and other parties, in order to determine how to proceed and how to describe, as well as validate your product strategy. However, that sort of collaboration is not a one-time-only thing. In fact, collaboration must be ongoing throughout the projects lifecycle, also informing the roadmap.
Agile also emphasizes the simplicity of work, which should also reflect on your Scrum roadmap. The more details you decide to add to your roadmap the more complex and difficult to manage it becomes. In other words, keep your eyes on what really matters and leave out the rest. Keep features aligned with goals but don't include details, such as epics or user stories.
These belong in the Product Backlog.
Tell the story coherently
As mentioned before, a Scrum roadmap describes how a product is likely to develop and grow further so make sure the story it tells is coherent. Each release should be improved so that it can take you one step closer to making a product vision into a reality.
What's more, don't try to oversell it. If you're presenting an internal roadmap to sales, marketing and other departments, then make sure they understand the logic behind your roadmap. Also, if you're presenting the roadmap to someone from the outside, make sure it's aimed towards existing and potential customers. Simply put, be realistic with your roadmap and don't over-speculate.
Make it measurable
When creating a goal-oriented Scrum roadmap, it's very important to be able to measure the results. Goals need to be measured so that you can determine if you've succeeded or not. As an example, if a goal is attracting new customers then you need to ask yourself just how many new customers must be attracted.
Without setting a specific target, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell if you achieved the goal or not. Needless to say, the targets you set must be realistic. Once that is done, you can choose the proper metrics that will allow you to measure your roadmap accordingly.
Building a Scrum roadmap can be challenging and even daunting on occasions. Frequent changes and market dynamics make it difficult to plan ahead. However, that doesn't mean that roadmaps don't belong in Agile. With the right strategy in place, a Scrum roadmap can be a vital asset in developing highly valuable working software.