What is a roadmap?
February 23, 2016

Scaling Agile, Step 3: The Roadmap Document

Application Lifecycle Management

When it comes to scaling Agile, there are six important steps along the way.

We previously covered the first two — Kanban feature flows and traditional portfolio scoring.

Here, we're going to take a closer look at the third step — the roadmap document. 


What Is a Roadmap?

A roadmap is a high-level planning document that lays out a schedule for changes and additions to a product. It often covers several future versions or releases of the product, providing a way to prepare for work that’s “down the road.”

Why Are Roadmaps So Valuable?

The roadmap document provides visibility to different teams involved in developing the product, keeping everyone on the same page.

It guides the medium- and long-term development of your product, showing how everything fits into the big picture, providing context, and setting expectations.

Roadmaps Help You Focus on High-Priority Work

Without a roadmap, it’s easy to put off more difficult tasks so you can quickly finish a bunch of easy features and updates. Building a roadmap gives you a framework to help you stay on track.

Another nice thing about roadmaps? They can keep people from pestering you about when you’re going to get around to their pet feature. And if it doesn’t stop them from pestering you, you can just tell them to check the roadmap.

How to Create Your Roadmap Document

You can use tools like Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint to create and maintain your roadmap. But it creates a break in your process that requires you to manually copy information about features to and from the document.

Not only can this be difficult and time-consuming, but it also increases the possibility for errors. Using these tools also limits your ability to control who has access to the roadmap, and who can make changes to it.

This can result in scope creep, and in some cases, the final feature may not end up resembling the original feature request very much.

And then there’s the problem of communication. If you email the roadmap document to everyone on the team, that means they all have a static copy of it. How will you keep them updated when the roadmap changes? If you email everyone an updated copy, you’re adding more work to the pile and increasing the possibility that errors will creep in.

To scale Agile effectively, the roadmap needs to be a full-fledged member of your end-to-end process. Using a collaborative tool such as Helix ALM can incorporate your roadmap seamlessly into your process, and also eliminate the need to manually create and maintain a separate document.

A Roadmap Document Example

With Helix ALM, features from your portfolio can easily be added to the roadmap document. Because the features are already in your product portfolio, you can simply drag them into the appropriate part of your roadmap document. No static documents, spreadsheets, or slides are needed.

Once your roadmap is created in Helix ALM, everyone on the team can view it. When changes are made, everyone on the team can be notified automatically, too. No more need to email updated copies or worry about the team getting out of sync.

Not everyone can make changes, however. Helix ALM also gives you the ability to lock your roadmap document using workflow features. Once locked, team members without the right authorizations can perform some actions, but not others. The table below gives you an overview of what is and isn’t allowed for these users. When your roadmap document is locked, users without the proper authorization are limited to certain actions. When your roadmap document is locked, users without the proper authorization are limited to certain actions.

How to Manage Changes to the Roadmap

Deciding to make changes to the roadmap is almost always a collaborative process.

Many people require a change board to authorize all the work items that go into their roadmap in the first place, as well as any subsequent changes.

Using a document is a pretty natural and easy way of recording these changes.  

Your roadmap document should cover:

  • The final text you have agreed on.
  • A complete history of all the changes made to the text.
  • The ability to add comments about why each change to the text was made.

This helps everyone stay on the same page. After all, the ability to manage change is one of the main reasons for wanting your roadmap document to be a fully integrated part of your process. 

Scaling Agile: Next Steps

With the completion of the roadmap document, the strategic planning part of your project is done and you’re ready to move into the last three steps in scaling Agile.

These steps are where the work begins:

  • Feature user story breakdown.
  • User story backlog ranking.
  • Traditional sprints and tasks.

Unlock the details of those last three steps in our on-demand webinar, "Six Steps for Successfully Scaling Agile."

Watch the Webinar