Keep Your Roadmap Out of the Weeds and In the Mind of Your Team

Your roadmap has too much detail

Photo by Jay Short on Unsplash

The Devil is Not Here

Roadmaps make teams debate silly things. One of those silly things is language. I’ve seen teams talk ad nauseam about the etymology of a word on a piece of paper.

If we can’t agree on a term, then let’s add more words. Yea, good idea, maybe that will help.

Teams also take advantage of time horizons. They build highly complex gantt charts with dependencies mapped out completely. They look beautiful too. A beautiful roadmap is not the goal.

Good Enough for a Conversation

The goal with roadmapping is to be aligned on intent. You want your teams and your leadership to understand what you are working toward, why and what success could look like. Roadmaps get shared throughout a company and it’s hard to get to a level of fidelity that satisfies everyone. Here are a few tips that may help you simplify and overly detailed roadmap.

One page

You should be able to put your roadmap on one page. Make it simple or you will lose your audience. If you are a product leader, challenge your product managers to get their roadmap on one page or less.

Three themes (or less)

Typically a team or set of teams is investing in something. What are those themes? If you are not sure, take a look at what your product team is named. Chances are you’ve named them according to what they work on. Probably not good if you have names like Team Grover or Team Hippo. The other place you can look for theme inspiration is in a team charter.

Three time horizons (now, next, later)

Roadmaps communicate intent. Let me repeat that. Roadmaps communicate intent. Not dates. Use broader buckets for planning. This will help you avoid endless debates about when something will finish. Let your scrum master work on forecasting and delivery timelines. keep the date details out of the mix.

Six words, ideally a couple numbers.

If you can tell an entire story in six words, you can do the same for product roadmap intent. After all, what we deliver in product is how we are helping to change our customers lives.

In summary

Details are great and helpful, but keep them out of your roadmap. Much detail brings many headaches in a roadmap. Instead, focus on building a roadmap that’s good enough for a conversation. Challenge yourself to follow these guidelines:

  • Capture themes
  • Stay in three time horizons
  • Tell stories

Project leader. Product thinker. Write about human things. Find me at justinzack.com

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