Roadmapping – know where you’re going

For a long time, we had a two dimensional roadmap – ie. a list of features and some release dates.  It was quite hard to communicate any dependencies and how projects were prioritised so there was a general feeling that we were just rolling out one feature after the other.

A roadmap is really only useful if you know your destination, otherwise it’s just a bunch of ordered features, so the first question to ask is:

What is the destination that this roadmap takes our company/product to?
It’s quite likely there will be some competing goals here – maybe it’s to open up new markets, or maybe it’s to innovate in your existing market. You may need to focus on one goal, or a few, but it’s important to first understand your goals so that you can measure the impact of each project and make sure you’re getting closer to the destination.

The next question to ask is:

What’s the quickest route to the destination?
This is what roadmaps are all about – knowing your destination and planning how to get there most efficiently.

Once you understand the goals, then get your stakeholders in a room and chuck ideas up on a whiteboard.   Rank each as high/medium/low impact – based on how close they get you to your goals.  Then rank each as high/medium/low difficulty – based on how long they will take to deliver.

The high impact, low difficulty projects are a no-brainer
Now you can start to plan the roadmap against your goals.  There will be dependencies between features and SDP (software delivery platform) projects needed to support customers, operations, billing etc – but you can prioritise the projects with high impact, low difficulties first, then the high/med and med/low projects etc.

Communicate the roadmap based on the goals
It’s good to keep your goals in front of everyone and show what goal each project is working towards.  The roadmap below shows goals as ‘swim-lanes’, with release milestones marked along the top.  Some people like to give each release a code-name – I like to give it a theme, which sets people’s expectations about what’s in the release (ie: yes – hooking up the twitter API is a great idea, we’ll look at it in the networking release).

roadmap-template

This has become quite an effective template for visually communicating priorities between projects, how our roadmap is meeting our goals and how there are dependencies from release to release and between product and SDP.

If you’d like to have a play with your own roadmap, download this roadmap template for Microsoft Visio and fill in the blanks.  Let me know how you get on via the comments section below.

11 Comments

Derek Organ
February 25, 2009 at 2:15 am

Very nice concept, thanks for sharing it. Will defo download and play around with it.

Luke Redpath
February 25, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Aww, so you’re not going to give us a large version of your roadmap?

Mike Whitson
March 6, 2009 at 4:06 am

Thanks for posting the hi-res…now that I can read it I have to say well done. Any chance of getting you to save an XML Drawing version of this for those of us running Macs and OmniGraffle?

James
March 10, 2009 at 11:59 am

Thanks. Any chance you can link to a screenshot which shows the projected end date of the multi-currency goal in your roadmap?

Andrew Butel
March 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Here’s the part of our roadmap that shows multi-currency: http://blog.xero.com/wp-content/uploads//2009/03/multicurrency_roadmap.jpg

Yeah – no date sorry, but that little box that says multi-currency is actually made up of about 30 projects which are now the main focus of our product team and I can say that its looking very nice.

We’re also going to have a longer than usual QA cycle on this because it touches everything with live revaluations etc, so its still months away but we’ll post more about it soon.

Chris West
October 13, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Hi the above link for the visio template is broken? Any chance you could put it up again?

I remembered this post and was just about to use your template…

Catherine Walker
October 13, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Oh yes – let me find out if there’s an updated link or alternative. I’ll get back to you – thanks for pointing it out!

Catherine

Craig Walker
October 13, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Try this version – it should work: Roadmap-Template.vsd

Craig

Chris West
October 14, 2009 at 9:23 am

Fantastic, thanks for that!

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