Effectively Using Product Roadmaps for Agile

What is an Agile Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap is essentially an action plan for how a product will evolve to completion. Product roadmaps can be incredibly useful to outline your product functionality and showcase a timeline for when new features will be implemented. Multiple agile teams can utilize a shared product roadmap. When employed in agile development, a roadmap equips your product with the essential framework for a team’s daily tasks and should be reactive to developments in the competing landscape.

Many agile professionals have turned to product roadmaps as a plan of action to resolve managements need for documentation but is your roadmap a valuable project tool or just a required artifact created and then cast aside? If you create it and never look at it again, then you’re probably struggling with lots of issues like missed deadlines, frustrated stakeholders, bad/slow decisions and mediocre solutions.

How does a Product Roadmap Improve Projects?

When done well, the Agile product roadmap is the foundation and facilitator of solution delivery. The process to create and periodically update the roadmap generates meaningful conversations that create confident teams who are able to meet their commitments. A good roadmap process helps teams manage expectations, facilitate decision making, and most importantly, estimate and deliver valuable solutions.

A useful and predictable roadmap requires a consistent focus on three things:

  • Transparency
  • Data-Driven Forecasting and Decision Making
  • Reflection

Agile teams who focus on transparency and engage stakeholders in meaningful discussions need to build a sturdy framework for the Agile product roadmap. The framework should include:

  • Business Capabilities
  • Technical Dependencies
  • Other Project Impacts
  • Market Events
  • Risks/schedule constraints

When teams establish this solid framework across a timeline and commit to frequent recasting, the product roadmap becomes an essential communication and trust-building tool. Leaders and stakeholders understand the product/project plan, and the team becomes confident in their ability to deliver!

To learn more about how to create predictable roadmaps and facilitate transparent conversations, join me live at IIL’s Agile and Scrum 2018 Online Conference on June 7 and on-demand from June 8th through September 10th.

PMI is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


Shift from PM to SM

Can Great Project Managers Become Great Scrum Masters?

Most people assume that success as a project manager will translate directly to success as a Scrum Master. But it doesn’t. Becoming a great Scrum Master requires a big shift in mindset and skillset. That shift requires project managers to leave many of their previous go-to tactics, strategies and behaviors behind.

Essentially, PMs need to “untrain” their brain and change the way they respond to daily challenges. It’s not easy. I started my career as a project manager and made the transition to Scrum Master. The concepts of agile were easy to understand and they made sense, but applying them in my work with cross-functional, self-organizing teams was difficult.

The tools and techniques I used as a PM were not easily transferable to the Scrum Master role. I had to untrain my brain and learn new behaviors. I had to change the way I supported my teams and redefine how I delivered value to my organization.

I needed to embrace the fact that I did not “own” the project. Instead, ownership and accountability shifted to the team. My new role was to facilitate and support the team as a servant leader, no longer as a manager. This took immense pressure off my shoulders, which had been unconsciously weighing me down as a project manager.

After several years of learning, failing, working, training, being coached and coaching others, I realize it was all part of the journey. It was a journey that helped me evolve both personally and professionally.

Please join me live at IIL’s Agile and Scrum 2018 Online Conference on June 7 and on demand from June 8 through September 10, to explore how PMs and Scrum Masters respond differently to daily challenges. I will run through a series of common scenarios and discuss the skills and behaviors you will need to successfully transition into a Scrum Master Role.

I Carved Out This Time For You

Has anyone ever thanked you for taking time out of your day to speak with them? I recently connected with a person who seemed almost apologetic for taking up my time, as if she wasn’t worthy of my attention. I reassured her this was not the case; I had happily carved out this time specifically for her.

The woman was taken aback—surprised that I was prepared to focus on our conversation. Her gratitude in this interaction stopped me in my tracks and has stuck with me for several weeks.

In retrospect, it seems almost embarrassing. None of us should be so busy that people have to thank us for “giving” them our time. Instead of distractions and multitasking, the people we interact with should receive our full attention. It’s the key to unlocking strong relationships.

Whether you intentionally carve out time or step into ad hoc conversations, here are a few suggestions to help you improve interactions with others:

  • Focus in: Make a conscience effort to shut down the distractions and focus in on the present moment. Being mindfully present shows you are fully connected, physically, mentally and emotionally which is important for building lasting relationships.
  • Listen: Listening to learn will give people the attention they deserve. As a result, others will feel heard and understood which will go a long way towards building trust.
  • Be intentional: Plan time in your day to explore how your attitudes, thoughts and actions can strengthen important professional and personal relationships.

I will be the first one to admit that I don’t always practice what I preach, but I do try to show-up in all situations and approach each day with good intentions. Whether we’re at work, at home, at the grocery store or out with friends, carve out time and be present in the moment.