Making roadmaps Agile

A guide to dynamic roadmapping

15-minute read

Making roadmaps agile

Just because your team is Agile doesn’t mean your roadmap is. You heard us right–roadmaps can be Agile, just like your team and ways of working. As any Agile aficionado knows, Agile is a mindset that follows a set of principles–one being the importance of responding to change instead of following a plan.

We get it–a roadmap can look like a committed plan. But, in the world of tech, plans change. And roadmaps are useless when they’re not constantly reflecting these changes and, better yet, informing them.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to make your roadmap more “Agile” by leveraging dynamic roadmaps to reflect ongoing changes, inform you of risks, and reflect product pivots and changes.

What do you mean by “make a roadmap Agile?”

Let’s go back to the fundamentals of Agile project management–the stuff written in the “Agile Manifesto” back in 01.’

When it comes to roadmaps, two declarations were made in the Agile Manifesto that are especially relevant to product owners and managers:

  • “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”
  • “Responding to change over following a plan”

These two declarations are why when people talk about “Agile,” you’ll often hear the word “iteration” a lot. Agile teams build software iteratively to respond to change quickly, and “change” typically refers to customer wants/needs and market changes.

This relates to roadmaps because they reflect the future iteration of what the product is intended to look like. And, as you may know (especially if you’re on an Agile team), this can change a lot.

Despite the frequent change, for many product owners/managers, roadmaps are a static tool that’s only updated every few weeks or months. Often, roadmaps exist in a PowerPoint presentation, an Excel spreadsheet, or something of the sort and aren’t touched until the next time an exec comes by and says, “Could I get an updated Roadmap?” Not ideal–and not really Agile either.

What is dynamic roadmapping?

Dynamic roadmaps exist in a roadmapping tool, which is updated in real-time based on your team's project data. Dynamic roadmaps can tell you whether or not a feature is on track and where there are dependencies and adjust for scope changes.

Consider it like the difference between using Google Maps and a paper map. A paper map can be out-of-date the moment it’s published, whereas Google Maps is always up-to-date with the latest traffic and road closure information.

Elements of a dynamic roadmap

Element/FeatureWhat it is
Updates automatically based on project dataDynamic roadmaps are typically connected to an Issue Management System to reflect real-time changes in the roadmap.
Identifies risks earlyReal-time data in dynamic roadmaps allows them to reflect when a project is at risk of not meeting a deadline.
Reflects pivots in the product strategyDynamic roadmaps instantly reflect changes to the strategy as those changes are reflected in the Issue Management System.
Doesn’t require manual progress updatesDynamic roadmaps require less frequent updates because they are connected to an Issue Management System.
Reflects how close the team is to their goalsThe real-time data in dynamic roadmaps lets you see how close your team is to the project completion date.
Understands team velocityDynamic roadmaps can use your team’s calculated velocity to suggest when deadlines will and will not be met.
Helps visualize dependenciesIt can show which Epics rely on another’s completion and can identify if an Epic is at risk of missing a deadline as a result of a dependency.

Why dynamic roadmaps are critical to agility

You may not be a ScrumMaster or an Agile coach, but product owners and managers play an essential role in maintaining agility and documenting Agile practices.

Reflects pivots and customer feedback

Dynamic roadmaps can reflect the smaller and larger changes made to your product plans in real-time. It does this by using data from an Issue Management System to reflect changes, like expected completion date, to an Epic on the roadmap.

Saves product managers/owners time

Your role as a product manager or owner is so much more than just maintaining and updating a roadmap. So why keep doing it manually? Dynamic roadmaps, on the other hand, are created using already existing project data and reflect the changes made to that data.

Increased risk awareness

Because dynamic roadmaps are in real-time, they can flag risks in real-time, showing when projects are at risk of not meeting deadlines as the scope gets added/removed to the project.

Is a better reflection of your work

As a product owner or manager, a lot of work goes into making the decisions you make on a daily basis. Dynamic Roadmaps reflect these ongoing decisions, keeping up with every change in your projects so you never have to worry about an exec looking at an outdated roadmap.

Other benefits of dynamic roadmaps (in contrast to static)

Connecting developers to big picture goals

Dynamic roadmaps connect developers closer to the big-picture goals because they can see how their work impacts the progress toward product goals and initiatives in real time.

Historical record of previous work

Dynamic roadmaps provide a historical record of previous epics worked on for teams to look back on and understand how initiatives have evolved over time.

Increased stakeholder confidence

Predictive end dates and real-time updates instill greater confidence in stakeholders, including internal teams, investors, and customers. With dynamic roadmaps, stakeholders can see the progress in real time and have more accurate expectations regarding feature delivery. This transparency builds trust and confidence in the product development process.

Exporting roadmap view.

Making changes to a product roadmap: when & how

We’ve talked a lot about change. But when and how should product owners and managers make these changes?

When to pivot or make changes to a product roadmap

Changing market needs

Adaptability is critical to any business. If market needs shift suddenly or new information about customers is discovered, it may be time to pivot your product roadmap. Stay vigilant for emerging trends, consumer preferences, and economic shifts to keep up with this.

Technological advancements

The rapid pace of technological innovation can render current product offerings obsolete. Keep an eye on emerging technologies that could disrupt or enhance your industry. If your current roadmap is not leveraging the latest advancements, it might be time to pivot.

Sometimes, these advancements don’t just come from outside. They come from internal teams: "Maybe another team developed a killer feature or had an experiment come back with huge wins, and our team is needed to support its next phase. Our plans must be flexible to support the broader company goals," says Aidan McColl, Product Manager at LawDepot.

Maybe another team developed a killer feature or had an experiment come back with huge wins, and our team is needed to support its next phase. Our plans must be flexible to support the broader company goals.
Aidan McColl, Product Manager

Competitive landscape

Changes in the competitive landscape, such as new entrants, evolving business models, or shifting market leaders, can necessitate adjustments to your product roadmap. Regularly assess your competitors' strategies and offerings to ensure your product remains distinctive and relevant.

Customer feedback

Listening to customer feedback is a valuable source of insights. “Before making any adjustments/changes to my product roadmap, I ensure the changes are aligned with critical customers' needs,” says Ayo Aluko, Product Manager.

Before making any adjustments/changes to my product roadmap, I ensure the changes are aligned with critical customers' needs.
Ayo Aluko, Product Manager

If users express dissatisfaction, encounter usability issues, or request features not in your current plan, it may be time to reconsider the product roadmap. “I also ensure the adjustments are in alignment with the business goals. This way, I build products that are of high importance [to the business] and have a high satisfaction rate for my customers,” Ayo adds.

Regulatory changes

Regulation changes can impact your industry and require adjustments to your product strategy. Whether new laws are introduced or existing ones are modified, staying compliant is crucial. Work with your legal team to regularly monitor regulation changes related to your product.

Resource constraints

Resource limitations, such as manpower, capital, or technological dependencies, can hinder the execution of your product roadmap. “Oftentimes, budgets, sales forecasts, and other economic influences force the hand of product managers to make unexpected pivots and adjustments,” says Zach Hanson, Executive Product Coach.

Oftentimes, budgets, sales forecasts, and other economic influences force the hand of product managers to make unexpected pivots and adjustments.
Zach Hanson, Executive Product Coach

Risk management

Effective risk management involves proactively identifying potential challenges that may arise during product development. If unforeseen risks materialize and threaten the success of your roadmap, be ready to pivot or adjust your approach.

User behavior changes

User behavior is dynamic and can shift based on evolving preferences, emerging trends, or external factors. Regularly analyze user data and feedback to identify patterns in behavior changes. If there's a significant shift in usage patterns, it may be time to pivot your product roadmap to meet user needs better.

Signs in Zenhub that you may need to change your product roadmap

While Zenhub can’t identify all the reasons teams pivot, there are some common signs Zenhub can help you identify:

Dependencies between Epics

Dependencies will appear on your roadmap, indicated by an arrow from one Epic to another Epic on which it is reliant. Seeing a dependency in Zenhub may indicate that your team needs to prioritize one piece of work before moving on to the next in order to remove blockers.

Projects “at risk” of late delivery

Projects “at risk” of missing a deadline due to resource constraints, scope increase, or other factors will be marked on the Zenhub roadmap as yellow or red to indicate late delivery.

Projects marked as yellow are at risk to be late.

Increased scope creep

If you suspect late delivery due to scope creep or would like to prevent scope creep, you can dig into the cause of scope creep using Zenhub’s sprint reports or Zenhub’s release reports to track scope creep over longer periods of time.

Insights and recommendations: scope creep.

Increased bugs and Issues related to customer feedback

A key sign that your team may need to discuss some kind of scope trade-off is an increase in Issues labeled as “bugs” or “customer feedback.” This might necessitate you reprioritizing roadmap items to accommodate customer feedback and fix bugs.

For most teams, you should be able to find these types of Issues by going to your Zenhub board, selecting filters, and then filtering by “Label.”

Velocity report filtered by bug label.

To see trends over time, you can also use Zenhub‘s velocity report and group by your bug labels. It can be enlightening to see how much of your effort from sprint to sprint goes toward fixing bugs.

How to reflect pivots and roadmap changes in Zenhub

To reflect pivots and changes to your product roadmap in Zenhub, you have two options:

Edit an existing Epic – the most common

In most cases where changes to a roadmap are required, you can do this by editing an already existing Epic and/or its contained Issues.

Ways to change scope:

  1. Re-estimate the issues that have likely had scope changes with your team: This will allow you to discuss the changes and assign a new story point estimate, reflecting the scope change on the roadmap.
  2. Remove Issues from the Epic without closing them: This will allow you to remove Issues from the scope of the Epic yet still reserve them to be addressed in a future iteration.
  3. Create an additional Issue or close an Issue: Doing this will remove or add a task to/from a project.
  4. Changing the acceptance criteria (AC): This will change what is required of the feature being built, which may include adding or reducing scope. Remember: this should only be done if there has been a change in perspective of what is being built and considered “acceptable” to the user.
Create an additional issue and close an issue.

Learn more about creating Issues in Zenhub here.

Create a new project or Epic

Capturing leftover work in a new Epic

If you reduce the scope of a previous Epic by removing Issues, you may wish to create a new Epic to re-categorize these issues and reflect future work on your roadmap.

Creating an entirely new project

Creating an entirely new Project is only recommended if you need to do a complete 180 pivot, creating an entirely different feature functionality from the previously scheduled work.

To do this, you can:

  1. Go to “Projects” on the roadmap and click “New Project” to create a new project.
  2. Create a new Epic under the project or move relevant Epics under the new project.
  3. Add Issues to each Epic as you usually would.

For more information on how to create Projects, read this article. For more information on Epics, read this article.

Create a roadmap that works for you, not against you

The ultimate objective in crafting a more "Agile" roadmap is to enable you to accomplish more with less effort. In this digital era, many tools, including Zenhub, are at your disposal to squeeze the maximum potential from your product roadmaps. Getting information like real-time project estimates, blockers, and dependency markers ensures you're not caught up in the daily minutiae of roadmap alterations. After all, being a product manager means more than just updating the roadmap–it's about strategic vision and driving product success.

Ready to start using dynamic roadmaps? Book a demo of Zenhub’s roadmapping tool here.

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