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Why product roadmaps are important

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This course will explain what a product vision is, its importance to a Product Owner, and how to create one.


Tony Cotgrave: Product roadmaps aren't just useful for product owners, they're useful to an organisation. When we start to set out, if we set in place the vision, and I always explain the vision as this compelling view of the future state, it's, sort of, like the North Star. We're always moving towards it but it, sort of, like, moves away, the closer we get, it moves away again. The roadmap identifies the link between what we're doing to how we're going to how we're gonna deliver against that vision, so it's incredibly important. Because if we go back to more traditional project management, or even non-traditional project management, let's not be unfair, there's always a plan. And one of the problems within Agile and teams that I've worked with is when you got to them and you say, 'Okay, so what is the plan? How are we getting there as a business person?' There are a lot of teams who say, 'Oh, we don't do planning, we're Agile,' well, agility without control is chaos, it's nonsense, and for business people we need those links through to how we're gonna deliver. So, product roadmaps are incredibly useful for providing that link through to how we're gonna deliver the vision. The problem with roadmaps is, sometimes roadmaps can become incredibly technical roadmaps so they can very feature-based, and, again, I've identified difficulties I've had with business stakeholders because they get very hung up on, 'Okay, so you're gonna deliver 22 features, and these 22 features,' and then we work against our own agility. So, sometimes with roadmaps we'll have multiple roadmaps, so I will have a more outcome-based one, so I will be communicating to the business and saying, 'Remember guys, this is the overarching vision, this is what we're trying to achieve, and these are the places where we're gonna stop, so this is the outcome, so this is what we're gonna achieve.' 

So, by the time we get to here, the customers will be able to place, you know, they will be able to place an online order and maybe make payments online, that is the outcome we're trying to achieve. What does that look like? Don't know, don't know yet. We've got features and those features will give us a description, we will have acceptance criteria, we will have value against those things, we're gonna set goals at a team level against those outcomes on the roadmap. So, while stakeholders have alignment right the way down from a delivery level to where the teams sit, they have these goals which will align to the outcomes on the roadmap, and those outcomes will align to the delivery of our vision. And our product vision aligns all the way back up to those strategic themes, and maybe the organisational portfolio vision. That's why roadmaps are so important to us, because they help us communicate. And when we think about this thing, again, this push against plans, I think sometimes it's how people see it, a plan is how we facilitate communication and control, and roadmaps are used very much to communicate how we're gonna deliver against that vision. 

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