Agile product owners might be wondering if they can just use their product backlog as a roadmap. Learn why that typically doesn't work, and even explore how roadmaps and backlogs can work together.
- If you work with an agile product development team, you probably have a product backlog. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the backlog is a prioritized queue of the next most important product development tasks. And if you have a product backlog, you might be wondering whether you could use your backlog as your roadmap. After all, just like the roadmap, the backlog contains the projects that your development team intends to do in the future. Let's remember, a product roadmap is designed to give your product stakeholders the information they need to coordinate their own plans.
So does your product backlog provide that? Your stakeholders, such as your customers, marketing group, or finance group are typically interested in milestones that will bring new customers, new marketing efforts, or new revenue. The product backlog, on the other hand, tends to be full of small tasks, like user stories or bugs. To release a milestone that matters to those stakeholders, you'll need to complete large numbers of tasks in your backlog. Your product stakeholders are also usually interested in knowing when the milestones will be available to customers.
The backlog does intend to provide estimated release dates. So your product backlog isn't going to cut it as a product roadmap. In fact, you're going to need both. So there will be a close relationship between your product backlog and your product roadmap. In fact, each milestone shown on the roadmap will eventually have to be turned into a large set of tasks on the backlog. That milestone will only be completed when all of the backlog tasks have been finished. And while the backlog often contains lots of different types of items, such as bugs, product maintenance tasks, and engineering driven tasks, the product roadmap only contains new functionality.
So this brings up an interesting question, how can you possibly put dates on the product milestones when the backlog tasks they're made up of don't yet have any dates? The answer is unsatisfying, but tends to work in most organizations. You estimate the dates of the product milestones on the roadmap using a completely independent set of top-down estimates from your product development leader. In the end, these estimates are inaccurate, of course. But as long as they're close, they'll serve the purposes of the product roadmap, to allow coordination among the different product stakeholders.
Increasingly, your backlog will be directed by the product roadmap, which is one of the main ways you ensure that the activities of the product development team are aligned with the needs and goals of the whole company.
This course shows how to build a product roadmap for your business—and gain critical stakeholder buy-in. See examples of what roadmaps might look like, and spend time learning the tools and techniques necessary to map the projects for your specific organization. Instructors Teg Grenager and Eldad Persky help you create strong, dynamic roadmaps that will ensure your team is working on the right projects at the right time.
- What is a product roadmap?
- Roadmaps in agile organizations
- Selecting stakeholders
- Researching customers
- Identifying milestones
- Estimating effort
- Maintaining the roadmap