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Rockin' the Roadmap - How to make most of the Roadmap with Jira Align

The roadmap challenge for large scale agile enterprises

Regardless of the agile framework you use, the agile enterprise has a massive scale with the challenge to connect hundreds of teams and thousands and ten thousands of employees to work on achieving a common mission, fulfil a vision associated with this mission and do this by honoring a certain set of values that describe how this is to be done. Establishing a roadmap in this context is far more challenging as we are not only talking about having a program or portfolio roadmap but having many of those aligned and joined with the enterprise strategy level.

Simple roadmapping tools omit this challenge by simply referring to some strategic tickets that could be created while neglecting the complexity that comes with steering an organization of many thousand people working on up to hundreds of modules and products.

Building and working with a roadmap is not simply a matter of drawing plans that are nicely visualized but much more a matter of making sure that those plans are aligned with all roadmaps in the enterprise and connected to a team level from which feedback comes in terms of completed work, new ideas and additional considerations that where neglected during roadmapping initially.

Furthermore most organizations miss the opportunity to have a qualification process for roadmapping where new things are defined and refined before they end up with a timeline on a roadmap.

Supporting Roadmaps on a really large scale

In order to support this Jira Align comes with a variety of capabilities that support anyone from the C-Suite to the Product Owner. The image below describes the flow that starts with an ideation process, followed by a managed Funnel, all the way to proper ranking and finally planning of items into future PI’s.

The entire process links up to enterprise level strategic items and down to team level tickets in Jira. Let’s take a closer look at those individual steps.

 

RTR BigPicture.png

 

Ideation and Funnel

These processes come in two flavours.

  1. ideas that are part of ongoing product development

  2. new ideas that would take us to new markets, big new products and stuff that we do not have funding for currently.

If you are dealing with ideas that need a whole new product, approval of funds etc. it may make sense to evaluate those ideas based on more details. Using confluence templates for requirements or business cases can be helpful to work with an idea until funding is approved.

Ideas for ongoing development of products should flow into the KANBAN Board in Jira Align. Depending on the size of the idea it will come in as Epic, Capability, Goal or Feature. Working through the Kanban Board with set acceptance criteria will help groom ideas until ready to be put on a roadmap.

Remember there should be an agreement on a process step after which issues appear on the Roadmap and are assigned to a PI. It's recommend to have a rolling forecast of 4-6 PIs at a time and two annual PI after that to group the backlog nicely.

The Forecast should never use the full available Capacity of a PI but increase over time. This way we can start making more detailed plans for the future as time goes on. Also we have enough room to make changes as we learn more. This seems to be a practical compromise.

 

RTR Backlog.png

 

Portfolio / Program Backlog and Planning

As soon as ideas are mature enough they should be prioritized and put on the roadmap. For prioritization Jira Align offers multiple ways. My preferred one is the WSJF. Simply click on the Estimate button in the backlog view and you are good to go. You can now put relative estimates for the usual WSJF Values per issue into the system.

Prioritization and Ranking

Following the WSJF exercise you can show the WSJF Column in the backlog to see the values the item would have according to your entries. Click on the column header to get everything sorted according to priority.

RTR Estimation.png

 

Drafting Future Plans

Now with the most important issues at the top of the unassigned backlog you can go ahead and start planning issues into future PI’s to make the forecast.

Everyone should understand that this forecast is just a starting point and as we learn more about what customers need, roadmaps may change.

RTR Assign to PI.png

 

Kanban View

Another view on the same backlog but with one column per PI is the Kanban View - Column view. Here you see from left to right all the PI’s selected and what is in them specifically. This is a great view to share details with your teams.

RTR Backlog Kanban View.png

 

Roadmap

Once the “roadmapping” exercise is done you can also view your results in the roadmap view itself.

The roadmap has tons of options how to be shown, sliced, filtered and grouped. This is the standard view with a grouping by Initiatives. Some features to try out:

  • Briefing: filter for issues belonging to one customer

  • Grouping by Objectives: Understand what is happening to support your objectives

  • View by Business Release or PI as a box: Short and sweet overview to show what is happening in what order. Perfect view for upper Management and Executive Level

RTR Roadmap.png

 

Outcome View and OKR

Leading product development means not only to describe what needs to be done but also what needs to be achieved. This is where objectives and key results come in handy. Objectives help the teams understand what is to be achieved with the issues that are to be worked on.

There are many great views on that in Jira Align. Two popular ones are the objective view and a roadmap view grouped by objective.

 

RTR Roadmap by Objective.pngRTR Objective Tree.png

 

What about quick ideation and planning of future ideas

There is a time for quick drawing up and preparing to get the invest for something and a time for detailed planning and running something through a funnel/ process step Board. Product/Program/Portfolio Managers have ideas about what the product should be able to do in the long run and in which steps it should get there.

This is all about the question to balancing items that make the product wider - meaning more feature rich and offering new functionalities and making the product deeper - meaning increasing the user centricity and maturity of existing functions. There are many ways to get to the next step in your products or platforms evolution and good Product Managers play with ideas how to get there from the beginning. We call this a product evolution map or product horizon map. It is based on defining how to get to the next level with your product.

RTR Feature Maturity.png

 

In order to draw up plans and qualify if ideas going really far into the future are from a top level perspective feasible it would be rather complex to require all those ideas to go through a funnel first. So we need a way to sketch what the high level view of the product future could be and a way to analyse (from a business perspective) if that is the right next thing to do. Next thing in this case means something that could be accomplished over the next 3-5 years.

This type of pre-planning, meaning working on a plan for what we want to feed into the set processes for the funnel, refinement, ranking and roadmapping, is best done in confluence.

There is great support through the Roadmap Planner (see below) to quickly sketch out ideas in a brainstorming and think if this makes sense before the need arises to create any objects or tickets in a tool that is focussed on execution of roadmapping.

 

RTR Roadmap Confluence.png

 

Also there are great templates in confluence for business cases, decisions, requirements that can be used to initially draft and start to detail the ideas contained in a roadmap planner such as seen above. If you create a new page in confluence check out the sidebar for great templates, like the Product Requirements Template or the Product Launch Template. We have you covered for most use cases with an awesome proven templates for a variety of collaborative documents needed throughout the product process. This is a great place to start if you have an idea but no funding for it yet.

 

RTR Confluence Blueprints.png

 

Once the plans make sense within the management and they feel like this is the right thing to do, you can move forward and enter new objects/tickets into the funnel in Jira Align and start the refinement and planning process to involve the entire enterprise.

Mixing those two things pre planning and planning in an enterprise agile environment leads to frustration and misinformation, as many employees may e.g. consider “pre planning drafts” as committed as it is in the tool that has all reliable plans in it. Think about planning in two stages. Stage one pre-planning to guide you and step two as the real roadmapping exercise with details and more reliability.

The flexibility of agile roadmaps

A word regarding plans and their future. None of those plans should be refused by saying whatever is more than one PI ahead of us is not planable. This depends on the level on which you operate. The basic principle of scaling agile to enterprise level is to allow for connected levels with their respective artefacts and cadences to co-exist in an aligned fashion. None of those plans should be set in stone, but every roadmap made should be at the current point to our best knowledge what the future will look like. Given that our knowledge changes, this may change too and the roadmapping tools and processes described above have the potential to “harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.” (see the agile manifesto principle No 2).

The following picture describes those levels and their respective plans that need to be aligned and granted their right to existence on their specific level, as long as they are connected up and down.

 

RTR PLan Cascade.png

 

Everyone of those plans has its own planning horizon and is connected to the one above. It guides into the future and reacts to feedback that comes from plans below. Scaling the agile Enterprise really means establishing processes that connect all those plans and scale the agile manifesto and its principles beyond one sprint and one team.

What do to next

Make up your mind, which types of Roadmaps you need and sketch your own picture of plans and how they are related. When will you do grooming, when sketching?

Then go and talk to your TAM and make sure you have setup your Jira, Jira Align and Confluence according to your needs and get a demo of how to use all the awesome features from Atlassian’s Toolsuite. Remember anything related to requirements on any level is fueled by a good refinement process. Jira Align is there to support you in running this at scale.

8 comments

Great article!

Fantastic, will share this with the squad and surely with our Tribe and chapter leader.....

Hey @Björn Wiehe  how would we be able to connect and see whether you can have a talk on our ACE in the Netherlands? ...................sure @Fun Man Andy will help us set something up..

Like Fun Man Andy likes this
Björn Wiehe Atlassian Team Mar 03, 2022

@Friendly Giant 

thank you for your comment. Feel free to add me on linkedin.

Best Regards,

Björn

Like Fun Man Andy likes this
Fun Man Andy Community Leader Mar 08, 2022

Yes, @Friendly Giant ! This definitely needs to be presented in all it's audio/visual glory at ACE Rotterdam!

@Björn Wiehe - I'll be in touch!

Excellent post!  Thanks for sharing!

@Björn Wiehe  Insightful post, it's solving many issues we face in my organisation.

I would love to see and discuss case studies on the value it creates for organisations that have adopted Jira Align.   
 

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