I’m not a fan of most roadmaps or their usage, but so what? They are a near-universal tool in many companies that awkwardly try to communicate what is going on and their timelines. Despite them turning into vague work-breakdown schedules, there is something we can do to improve them.
There’s a reason we’re building or doing whatever project, and often those reasons are left out of the roadmaps. Simultaneously the decisions made along the way are invisible when presenting them too.
This leads to many questions about where what feature is or why they’re in the order they are.
This happens because roadmaps are just a pile of features with timings, and nobody knows why.
So we need to add the outcomes we expect to the roadmaps.
We Expect to See
My preferred way to frame outcomes is to start with the sentence, “We expect to see…” before listing the outcomes associated with some bucket of features.
It helps get the ball rolling for many groups as a prompt.
So I will ask prime the group with that little phrase and record the bullets they say.
Sometimes people will say they expect to see that feature delivered instead of an outcome, and when that happens, I suggest that we not build it. Their defense of the feature usually contains the outcome statement, and we’re back in business.
For groups new to metrics and measures, I’ll ask if that outcome is one we want to see more of or less of. Then going from there, I’ll ask if there are things we are trying not to change along the way.
That last one usually brings out some interesting conversation about expectations that nobody knew about.
Write It Up
With the outcomes identified, you can color code or associate which deliverables on the roadmap touch which outcomes. Color-coding helps paint the picture for everyone the story behind the features and dates, which makes the conversation fruitful.
I’ve also seen this open the door to better feature alternatives or even change outcomes entirely because they weren’t big or strong enough.
So, next time you build a roadmap, put some outcomes on it to help your conversation.