Many PMs still find it challenging to create a Roadmap and budget that is realistic and robust for Agile Projects. Despite Agile increasingly becoming the approach firms are adopting, the business stakeholder demands a practical roadmap and budget based on the traditional approach of project management.
Agile has facilitated a paradigm shift! The triple constraint approach of having a fixed scope, cost, and schedule has been flipped to now having a fixed cost and schedule whereas, the scope can vary over the entire engagement. Ultimately this affects the modern-day PM whose concern should shift to providing value within whatever cost and budget the client proposed.
As a PM, it’s crucial to have an approach to Roadmap and Budgeting that both the Agile team and client can feel confident around that will create the best value for the buck.
Here are six (6) effective steps you can employ to present a Roadmap and budget that you are confident about to your stakeholders.
Step 1: Identify the stakeholder target date and budget
The first task, for the project team, at the product definition stage is deciding on an initial Target date and total project budget with the stakeholder. This information forms a baseline for PMs to work backward from; when developing their plans for a Roadmap and Budget. Most clients, at the offset, know the amount they are willing to pay for any single engagement. Ergo with a bit of assistance from the technical team, they can devise a cost and target date. This practice may come as a surprise to many, but it’s best to know these numbers and then tweak and refine the plans to meet these targets while providing the best value.
“At the start; Project X is a target to complete by Y date at a total cost of no more than Z dollars.”
Step 2: Scoping and refining the Product requirements
Creating a realistic roadmap and budget requires the team to establish the expectation and requirements of the client. We have to use various techniques in collaboration with the client to execute this. Typically starting with a feature map and flow chart of the product. From there designing wireframe (Low and High fidelity) and establishing a backlog of epics broken down into user stories. The client, therefore, helps to prioritize the backlog allowing the Agile team to understand the highest to lowest value to the customer. The Agile team can use a high-level estimate considering how many sprints it would take to complete a specific feature.
“The outcome; Prioritized list of Epics and User Story with supportive assets such as UML and UX designs.”
Step 3: Work backward from the Target date to create a Roadmap
Here, we are trying to fit the features into a Roadmap based on the priority list and guidance from the technical team to add the highest priority into the roadmap across the number of sprints. Also, include activities such as UAT and deployment as part of the roadmap. It will give both the client and the Agile team a clear understanding of what to do during the entire engagement. All of this is mapped backward from the Target date.
Step 4: Assign Resources to the Roadmap to calculate the Budget
Working from the activities set out in the Roadmap, we can look at the resources and tools needed to complete all the activities. Use a simple excel spreadsheet to calculate the rate per resource, allocation, and the overall duration of each role. It will give a better estimation of the total cost depending on the details captured on the requirements. The greater the description, the greater the accuracy of the estimate.
Typical Accuracy base on requirements captured:
Product Definition: +/- 45%
UML diagram and Flow: +/- 20%
Epic & User Story: +/- 10%
Step 5: Refine the Resources and Scope to meet the Budget and Target date
Though steps 2–4 have created the Scope, Schedule, and Budget in alignment with the clients’ targets. There are still other external factors that will need consideration. This step is the risk that can affect the overall project. Take into consideration Technical debt, Complexity of the product, resource limitation, etc. These must also be factored in and quantified to understand how it impacts the schedule and budget.
Step 6: Negotiate with the client on the game plan
Finally, pulling all the information together using a Pre-Kick-off Session with the various stakeholders to outline the game plan. However, in order to evolve the project and welcome stakeholder feedback at every project iteration, it’s essential to build a collaborative workflow with your stakeholders for feature prioritization. By enabling your stakeholders to witness project progression transparently, and providing them the power to ‘swap in’ and ‘swap out’ features from sprints, you’ll ensure you provide a product they love, without spilling over budget due to additional features. It’s key to ensure that the stakeholder and team understand that nothing is set in stone. Agile is a hybrid tool; while there is a solid plan, it is willing to adapt to evolving markets and business-changing requirements.
Unfortunately, when it comes to software, there’s a strong potential for change along the way, much of which could throw your initial budget off course. It might be that during the development of the ground-breaking product, a competitor enters the market. Or perhaps the IT solution to the pain point is too complex for the non-technical members of your stakeholder’s team, requiring a redesign.
To offset these risks, it’s essential that Agile teams:
- Calculate an accurate budget that takes into account all priority elements required by the stakeholder, in terms of both cost and time commitments
- Establish processes that enable the budget to be flexible in terms of swapping features in and out following stakeholder feedback, so the project can remain Agile without going over budget