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Alberto IncisaProduct and Growth at June

08 Jun 22

Agile Product Roadmap Best Practices

As a SaaS founder or product owner, you have to deal with creating new features, backlog management, forecasting, stakeholder management, etc. So, how do you ensure efficiency?

The primary way to encourage effectiveness is by tracking your product’s progress and management expectations. One effective way you can manage this is by implementing an agile product roadmap.

When done the right way and with the right tool, a product roadmap is easy to understand and will ensure transparency on all levels. June aids the product development process by providing you with valuable insights every step of the way.

In this guide, you’ll learn what an agile product roadmap is, how it differs from the traditional product roadmap, as well as how to create a product roadmap using the agile method.

What Is an Agile Product Roadmap?

To understand what an agile product roadmap is, you first need to understand these two concepts: the agile methodology as well as a product roadmap.

  • The agile methodology is an iterative approach to managing a project that allows teams to act on feedback and make responsive changes at any stage of the development process. The agile framework is about understanding, adapting, and changing quickly in an ever-evolving environment.
  • A product roadmap refers to a plan of action that shows how your product will develop over time. Product managers often use a product roadmap to state the product’s projected functionality and the possible release dates of different features.

Having understood what ‘agile’ and ‘product roadmap’ mean, it’s easier to define an agile product roadmap.

An agile product roadmap is a flexible plan of action that should communicate how the product should evolve over time based on continuous feedback from various stakeholders.

An agile product roadmap doesn’t look like your traditional product roadmap. It isn’t linear or based on specific inputs and outputs. On the contrary, an agile product roadmap is tied to the product vision and goals and focuses on strategic themes that will dictate the product’s development. It is agile, because its parts are always subjected to change and never static.

What an Agile Product Roadmap Looks Like

There are various ways you can set up your agile product roadmap. However, there are popular trends among product managers. Below are some of them.

  • Sprint Roadmap: If you’re in a more structured agile environment, structure your product roadmap by cycles or sprints. However, you don’t have to link the sprints to specific dates.
  • Theme-Based Roadmap: Teams that are purely agile often create their product roadmaps around strategic themes. As a result, the headers might connect to various areas of product development.
  • Fuzzy Time Roadmap: Some teams prefer to create their agile product roadmap using ‘fuzzy’ time definitions like future, in-progress, or completed instead of stating definitive dates.
  • Agile-ish Roadmap: Teams that have a blend of agile and traditional elements sometimes create an agile product roadmap with dates but with a caveat — the closer the date, the more definite it is.

If you want a better idea of what a product roadmap for your agile team should look like, then you may consider checking online for an agile product roadmap sample.

Agile Product Roadmap vs. Traditional Product Roadmap

By definition, a traditional product roadmap is only a static sequential plan of action that details how a product will be developed. However, an agile product roadmap adds flexibility into the mix and allows for uncertainty; it is less about a plan of action and more about a strategic theme that governs the product development.

A traditional product roadmap focuses on outputs and communicates each step of the product plan. In contrast, an agile product roadmap is about outcomes and doesn’t focus on specific steps associated with the outcome.

While a traditional product roadmap lists features and deliverables against a timeline, an agile product roadmap places less emphasis on the timeline and focuses instead on objectives and how to achieve them. This means that while the traditional product roadmap is data-driven, the agile product roadmap is more experimentation-driven.

The agile product roadmap provides enough flexibility for you to experiment with product features and determine what users prefer. With June, you can track feature adoption as you experiment with features and adjust your agile product roadmap accordingly.

Top Elements of an Agile Product Roadmap

An agile product roadmap shares some characteristics with a traditional product roadmap seeing as it is also a roadmap for a product. However, there are more elements to consider when setting up an agile product roadmap; below are some.

  • Strategic Themes: Unlike the traditional roadmap that focuses on specific outputs, the agile product roadmap could focus on particular themes representing business strategies. These themes will help to direct the outcome of the roadmap. You can have different themes inside a single product roadmap depending on the goal. Make sure to validate it’s the right direction using the Feature Audit report
  • Business Goals: When setting up an agile product roadmap, you need to think about business goals and design your roadmap around them. Doing this gives the team members an idea of where they need to focus their effort. Company goals can either be business or product-specific. However, they’re essential in driving an agile and responsive product roadmap.
  • Features: Although a traditional product roadmap typically includes features too, features are less rigid in an agile product roadmap. This is due to the level of uncertainty involved in agile methods. Features to be built into a product often change based on customer response and adoption; that is, some features that were initially planned may be removed while some new features may be added.

How To Build an Agile Product Roadmap

If you want to create a practical product roadmap using the agile method, you must first figure out your product vision and goals. Next, consider your competition, engineering constraint, account resourcing, budget, and value proposition. Beyond this, many crucial steps in the roadmap process will ensure you effectively create, review and implement your roadmap.

Below, we’ve outlined the steps to follow when creating an agile product roadmap.

Figure out Your Product Goals

Before you start drafting your product roadmap, figure out your business goals and the key performance indicators (KPIs) connected with your product goals. This could range from increasing product engagement to getting new customers. An agile product roadmap needs to be driven by your product goals and not the features you need to achieve.

Recognize Your Product Vision

Once you know your product goals, you need to understand the vision. A product vision explains how it will provide value to the customer. Keep it short and compelling. It should also be high-level and easily adjustable if there are future roadblocks. Many people erroneously create a product roadmap without defining the vision. As a result, the roadmap lacks direction. June’s product vision gives you an idea of what a product vision should look like.

Carry Out the Necessary Prep Work

To effectively create a product using the agile product roadmap, you must carry out important prep work. This includes finding out the product strategy. You must take this path to make your product vision a reality. Also, develop a vision board to help you discover strategy ideas. Finally, remember that an agile product roadmap is continually changing. Therefore, you need to anticipate these changes and make room for flexibility.

Talk to Your Customers

One of the best ways to figure out your business vision and the path your product roadmap needs to take is by talking to your customers. It helps you get the best idea of how to meet their needs. Hold candid conversations with your target customers and learn their wants and needs. Ensure that you hold this conversation with both the end-users and the internal customers.
You should try to talk with both your most engaged users and the least engaged one to get a better picture of what you need to prioritise. June helps you to do this with its opinionated insights

Develop Strategic Themes

Once the necessary prep work is over and you know what your customers are looking for, you can advance to product themes. First, create a detailed list of the problems your product aims to solve. Then make the list of the main themes around which you organize the roadmap. Next, prioritize these themes based on your product vision.

Learn How to Incorporate Time

A crucial part of developing a product roadmap using an agile method is determining whether time is relevant to your roadmap and learning how to incorporate it if necessary. Today, many internal-facing roadmaps include dates that help team members track their task execution and communicate progress to the cross-functional teams like sales.

However, external-facing roadmaps might not require a timeline. Adding a timeline might tie you to those dates and lead to unrealistic expectations for internal and external stakeholders. The best option is to avoid committing to specific dates especially when they are far into the future.

Tailor Your Roadmap to Your Target Audience

The goal of a product roadmap is to communicate and align with team members and stakeholders. Therefore, pay attention to your target audience and tailor your roadmap to them.

Secure the Buy-In

While developing your agile product roadmap, frequently collaborate with your development team and key stakeholders. This helps make everyone feel included in the process and share a common goal.

Learn More About Your Product Marketing Techniques

Always pay attention to the features your product team releases to the market. Maintain a user-centric outlook to learn what the market is looking for. You should also keep up with your users’ changing needs and wants. Then, as their needs change, update your product roadmap to accommodate them. With June, you can see the features users engage with and keep up with their changing needs.

Let Your Roadmap Tell a Story

Your agile product roadmap must tell a story of how you want your product to evolve and iterate over the years. The goals included in your roadmap should build on each other. However, break them into specific objectives you can look back on to measure the progress and success of your product.

Always Keep it Simple

When using product roadmap agile methods, you need to keep it as simple as possible. Avoid including too many details and only focus on the goals necessary for your product development. For example, don’t show specific user stories on the roadmap; you can limit this information to the product backlog.

Find Out Key Metrics

Ensure that each goal present on your roadmap is measurable, so you can easily report on its success. If one of the objectives of your product is to retain active users, then your roadmap should allow you to easily reflect and identify if new developments positively affected customer retention. With June, you can track user retention and see if the roadmap objective is being achieved.

Best Practices for Creating an Agile Product Roadmap

When learning how to create a product roadmap using agile methods, there’s an emphasis on focusing on problems you want to solve. However, it is also crucial to rely on your team to help you effectively achieve your goals.

Below, we share important tips to note when creating an agile product roadmap.

Don’t Assume the First Roadmap will be Perfect

Most people assume the first roadmap will be perfect and are usually disappointed when it isn’t. Instead, view the first agile product roadmap as a prototype for your product strategy. It will help you test out assumptions and ensure you’re on the right path.

Most designers prototype their designs all the time. Use the roadmap to present your assumption to the team and facilitate a conversation about the ideas provided.

Focus on Key Problems

Your agile product roadmap should focus on the problems you’re looking to solve. For example, the first product roadmap could be as simple as a list stating the critical problem areas. Then, arrange these issues in their order of priority and based on the information you have about the market.

Always Collaborate

Since your first product roadmap isn’t always perfect, creating it alone will be difficult. Therefore, take your agile product roadmap to stakeholders, team members, or anyone who can offer a different perspective.

Get Valuable Product Insights for your Roadmap

An agile product roadmap allows you to map out your product development journey while providing enough flexibility. When creating an agile product roadmap, remember to always think of the problems you want to solve and design your roadmap around how you’ll solve them.

June offers ready-made templates for most of the stages in your product roadmap. So, sign up to explore and experience them.

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