Skip to main content

Some Industry Practice and Thoughts on Roadmaps

Recently, I signed up for doing an internal talk about roadmaps, and what they are generally all about. I figured this post would be a good start to get myself into crystallizing the message up front.

Keeping in mind, roadmaps are but one component in an extremely complex domain involving many sciences, so this is one of those scratching-the-surface-posts.

Who's saying what out there

Before we start inventing our own wheels, it's nice to review what is the state of roadmaps out there. Perhaps there is some "industry best practice" ;)

So I'll begin by collecting information from the first, best sources I know about.

I happen to follow a couple of product management authorities on Twitter: Melissa Perri and John Cutler. Then recently, our internal head of product recently pointed out Roman Pichler. Finally, there's the venerable Marty Cagan who I reckoned has written a thing or two about roadmaps, and that was indeed the case.

Note that each of these have published lots of more writing and even books on the surrounding subjects of product management, but here I've just gone through what I could quickly find online, going roughly from older to more recent:

Marty Cagan

... has written a lot of seminal work on the topic, and these are the ones I quickly found have to do with roadmaps in particular:

In Product Roadmaps (Jan 2009), he lays down some foundations and terminology that just makes sense, like what a product roadmap is, the product strategy that needs to be behind it, and so on. He points out the danger of getting lost in feature requests, wishing we'll focus more on simpler, higher level plans of delivering user value. Sounds wise!

In The Alternative to Roadmaps (Sep 2015) and the correlating FAQ, he repeats the issues of traditional feature focus, and goes deeper into the underlying causes that bring teams in that direction. He suggests The Product Vision combined with Business Objectives (recommending OKRs in particular), while concrete tasks go to the Product Backlog.

Roman Pichler

Being a trainer, he offers sound basics and easy-to-understand frameworks as preparation for his strategy and roadmap course (see the Prerequisites and Prep Work section), and he has a collection of blog posts online on the subject, and books.

He repeats Cagan's plea to focus on outcomes (using the words goals and benefits), and shares some very neat templates. Fit the roadmap in between the strategy and backlog, and keep it simple. I really do like Pichler's structured and simple way of explaining the material, plus the tips for getting buy-in.

Melissa Perri

... wrote Rethinking the Product Roadmap (May, 2014), also suggesting we replace the traditional, over-filled, over-detailed roadmaps. She thoroughly illustrates the current issues, and suggests the Problem Roadmap to remedy. I understand problem here as being the inverse or negated form of outcome/objectives/goals/benefits mentioned earlier. She also suggests a quarterly cycle to explore/validate the problem at hand.

In Effective Product Roadmaps (Feb, 2017), Perri refines the approach and gives some very solid examples of what a better roadmap could be. Adding context (vision, challenge, target condition) on top, she picks up the term theme (which Cagan also mentioned has caused some confusion in product management history), and applies it to individual areas that have hypothesis/outcomes. Each theme can also be in a particular stage: Discovery or Delivery. Finally, she imagines this roadmap being part of a cross-team Portfolio Roadmap.

She recently published a very interesting sounding book called Escaping the Build Trap.

John Cutler

... is a prolific writer on the subject, often tracing the discussion back to systems thinking and organizational, cultural aspects.

A Map from Goals, Around Assumptions, Through Tasks, Towards Results (Sep, 2016) introduces a structured expression of Because/By/While/Without, suggesting that solutions are recursively problems (with finer solutions). It reminds me a bit of User Stories, forcing us to think about The Why.

He advises how to Stop Setting Up Product Roadmaps To Fail (Apr, 2016).

He repeats the sentiment that the others have made before him: Keep Features Off Your Roadmap (Feb, 2017)

And a big collection of thought-provoking 40 Roadmap Item Questions (Mar, 2018)

The need for a "solid roadmap that everyone understands" is a race to the bottom on some level (twitter thread from Dec, 2018).

So, that's about what I have time for reading up on in advance of my talk, so I'll end the post there. Let me know if I definitely missed some important sources on what roadmaps are all about!


Popular posts from this blog

Open source CMS evaluations

I have now seen three more or less serious open source CMS reviews. First guy to hit the field was Matt Raible ( 1 2 3 4 ), ending up with Drupal , Joomla , Magnolia , OpenCms and MeshCMS being runner-ups. Then there is OpenAdvantage that tries out a handful ( Drupal , Exponent CMS , Lenya , Mambo , and Silva ), including Plone which they use for their own site (funny/annoying that the entire site has no RSS-feeds, nor is it possible to comment on the articles), following Matt's approach by exluding many CMS that seem not to fit the criteria. It is somewhat strange that OpenAdvantage cuts away Magnolia because it "Requires J2EE server; difficult to install and configure; more of a framework than CMS", and proceed to include Apache Lenya in the full evaluation. Magnolia does not require a J2EE server. It runs on Tomcat just like Lenya does (maybe it's an idea to bundle Magnolia with Jetty to make it seem more lightweight). I'm still sure that OpenAdvant

Managing dot-files with vcsh and myrepos

Say I want to get my dot-files out on a new computer. Here's what I do: # install vcsh & myrepos via apt/brew/etc vcsh clone mr mr update Done! All dot-files are ready to use and in place. No deploy command, no linking up symlinks to the files . No checking/out in my entire home directory as a Git repository. Yet, all my dot-files are neatly kept in fine-grained repositories, and any changes I make are immediately ready to be committed: config-atom.git     -> ~/.atom/* config-mr.git     -> ~/.mrconfig     -> ~/.config/mr/* config-tmuxinator.git       -> ~/.tmuxinator/* config-vim.git     -> ~/.vimrc     -> ~/.vim/* config-bin.git        -> ~/bin/* config-git.git               -> ~/.gitconfig config-tmux.git       -> ~/.tmux.conf     config-zsh.git     -> ~/.zshrc How can this be? The key here is to use vcsh to keep track of your dot-files, and its partner myrepos/mr for o

Using Voice-Chat for Gamers in Distributed Teams

This is a post going into the usefulness of live voice-chat tools in distributed teams. If you've ever seen the Leeeeeroooooyy Jeeeenkiiins video of World of Warcraft fame, you've heard this kind of tool in action. It's how the participants in the video are speaking with each other - this is not a feature built into the World of Warcraft game - it's a separate team-oriented VoIP software, and it's all about letting gamers communicate orally while gaming.  Since these tools are for gamers, they have to be fast (low latency) light (as not to steal CPU-cycles from heavy games graphics)  moderate in bandwidth usage (as not to affect the game server connection) There are several options around: TeamSpeak , Ventrilo , more recently the massively grown Discord , and finally Mumble , which is the open-source alternative of the gang. A few years ago, when I joined eyeo (a distributed company), several of the operations team were avid gamers, and had a TeamSp

Joining eyeo: A Year in Review

It's been well over a year since I  joined eyeo . And 'tis the season for yearly reviews, so... It's been pretty wild. So many times I thought "this stuff really deserves a bloggin", but then it was too inviting to grab onto the next thing and get that rolling. Instead of taking a deep dive into some topic already, I want to scan through that year in review and think for myself, what were the big things, the important things, the things I achieved, and the things I learned. And then later on, if I ever get around to it, grab one of these topics and elaborate in a dedicated blog-post. Like a bucket-list of the blog posts that I should have written. Here goes: How given no other structures, silos will grow by themselves This was my initial shock after joining the company. Only a few years after taking off as a startup, the hedges began growing, seemingly almost by themselves, and against the will of the founders. I've worked in silos, and in companies wit

The End of GitMinutes (my podcast)

I'm just about ship GitMinutes episode 46, which is going to be the final episode. I'll just paste the outro script here, as it sums up the sentimental thoughts pretty well: I’m happy to have finally finished [publishing the last episodes from Git-Merge 2017], just in time before Git-Merge 2018 takes place in March. I won’t be going there myself, so I’m counting on someone else to pick up the mic there. It’s sad to be shipping this one as it is probably the last GitMinutes episode ever. To go a bit down memory lane, 6 years ago, my daughter was born, and as I used a little of that paternity leave to set up my podcasting infrastructure and produce the first few episodes. Initially it was just going to be 10 episodes and call the experiment finished. Instead, I got to 46 episodes, the last dozen or so lazily tailing the last few Git-Merge conferences. To every one of my guests, thank you so much again for coming on to share your passion in this little niche of computer s