Technological Thoughts by Jerome Kehrli

Entries tagged [planning]

A proposed framework for Agile Roadmap Design and Maintenance

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Friday Jun 11, 2021 at 10:25AM in Agile

In my current company, we embrace agility down the line, from the Product Management Processes and approaches down to the Software Development culture.
However, from the early days and due to the nature of our activities, we understood that we had two quite opposed objectives: on one side the need to be very flexible and change quickly priorities as we refine our understanding of our market and on the other side, the need to respect commitment taken with our customers regarding functional gaps delivery due dates.
In terms of road-mapping and forecasting, these two challenges are really entirely opposed:

  • Strong delivery due dates on project gaps with hard commitment on planning. Our sales processes and customer delivery projects are all but Agile. We know when in the future we will start any given delivery project and we know precisely when the production rollout is scheduled, sometimes up to 12 months in advance. We have most of the tine a small set of Project Gaps required for these projects. Since we need to provide the delivery team with these functional gaps a few weeks prior to the production rollout, it turns out that we have actually strong delivery due dates for them, sometimes 12 months in advance.
  • Priorities changing all the time as our sales processes and market understanding progress. We are an agile company and mid-term and even sometimes short-term focus changes very frequently as we sign deals and refine our understanding of our market, not to mention that the market itself evolves very fast

These two opposed challenges are pretty common in companies that are refining their understanding of their Product-Market Fit. Having to commit strongly on sometimes heavy developments up to more than a year in advance, while at the same time changing the mid-term and short-term priorities very often is fairly common.

In this article, I would like to propose a framework for managing such a common situation by leveraging on a roadmap as a communication, synchronization and management tool by inspiring from what we do in my current company (leveraging on some elements brought by Mr. Roy Belchamber - whom I take the opportunity to salute here).

There are three fundamental cultural principles and practices that are absolutely crucial in our context to handle such opposed objectives. These three elements are as follows:

  1. Multiple interchangeable development teams: multiple teams that have to be interchangeable are required to be able to spread the development effort among flexible evolutions - that can be reprioritized at will - and hard commitments - that need to be considered frozen and with a fixed delivery due date.
  2. Independent and autonomous development teams: these development team need to be able to work entirely independently and without and friction from any other team. This is essential to have reliable estimations and forecasts. A lot of the corollary principles and practices I will be presenting in this article are required towards this very objective.
  3. An up to date and outcome-based Roadmap. Having a roadmap that crystallizes the path and the foreseen development activities in the next 2 years is absolutely key. Such a roadmap is all of an internal communication tool, an external communication support, a management and planning tool..
An Agile roadmap sample
Agile Roadmap Example

In this article, I intend to present the fundamental principles behind the design and maintenance of such a roadmap that are required to make it a powerful and reliable tool - and not yet another good looking but useless drawing - along with everything that is required in terms of Agile principles practices.

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