Agile Product Roadmap: Discover, Build, Deploy
Q. Is there a need for an Agile Product Roadmap?
Myth: Agile Development is restricted to short-term planning.
Truth: It is beneficial for the team and stakeholders to align on the plan that lays out how the product will evolve whether, short- or long-term.
An Agile Project Roadmap is a high-level strategic document that maps out the general stages of a product’s development. This highlights its main purpose of tying a product’s vision to a company’s business objectives.
Product Roadmap is a single source of truth for the Agile team to align around
If you look into the numerous software projects built and launched, there have always been three consistent phases that a product goes through; Discover, Build, Deploy. Let us deep-dive into how these ‘constants’ come together to create a successful Agile Product Roadmap regardless of the complexity of the solution.
During Discovery the key objective is to understand the business needs and the problem being solved. You can utilize different methods to gather information that will be beneficial to the development team. They can range from one-on-one interviews to an extensive workshop, depending on the business’ availability, their needs, and the complexity of the problem.
The ultimate goal is to be able to produce a feature map with supporting artifacts, for example, User stories and UML diagrams (Flowcharts, class diagrams, etc). Prototyping aims to produce a quick turnaround time and feedback. It allows the client to visualize how the look and feel of the final product will be.
Finally, the Discovery stage kicks off what is known as the backlog grooming activities, where the Business Analysis continually reviews the user stories (work items) using the resource collected along with input from the client to gain a better understanding of the work required. While it may start within the Discovery phase, it continues into the Building phase. Typical backlog grooming continues until the product is launch.
The Build Stage focuses heavily on the Scrum framework. It is a conveyor belt for features from idea to implementation. The team creates several sprint cycles with overlapping features produced across each sprint. A lot of feedback loops are put in place to iteratively work on each feature, as such, there are constant changes to the UX design assets. A typical sprint averages between 2–4 weeks. There are multiple engagements, such as sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, and retrospective, which are the key to ensuring the team builds the right thing in the right order.
The roadmap typically presents the work from a feature component that is broken down into smaller units called Epics which is further broken down into User Stories and Tasks.
The deployment phase is the most influenced by the business practices, which determines what is in User Acceptance Testing. It can include an end to end regression, smoke, security, and penetration testing. The firm dedicates what combination of testing is required to pass a software into their live environment. These factors are heavily dependent on the level of compliance the business is to follow. How critical the software implementation is to personal safety or even the business customer-centric position is considered. If all these checks and balances are approved, then the software moves into the release activities, that is, steps the team completes before releasing the application into the live environment. For mobile applications, it is the approval of the Play Store (Google and Apple), and the web is the internal and external deployment and data migration steps.
The Agile Product Roadmap shows how a product evolves, as such these phases (Discover, Build, Deploy) are all iterative and depending on the timeline and complexity can be done numerous times before the final product is released.
Tools to create Roadmaps
There tons of tools that can help Project Managers create a Gantt view of a Roadmap such as Jira, Lucid, Microsoft Project, etc. However, we have found the best tools that allow for sharing and evolving wins hands down.
Tailoring your Roadmap to your Stakeholders
Although there are three encompassing phases, the roadmap does experience slight alterations from external factors. These factors are always to be taken into consideration when putting together a roadmap for a specific product. Once these factors are reasonably well-understood, they are expressed in a roadmap as initiatives and timelines.
Examples of External Factors:
- Project Constraints (Time, Cost, Scope, Quality, Resources)
- Business needs (Vision, Goal, Metrics)
- Market demands
- Team Agile maturity
- Organization structure
Benefits of Roadmap:
- The roadmap helps estimate your team capacity
- Track the team performance against the baseline plans
- The need for and leveraging SME and other resources
- Create alignment with the expectations of the client