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Now, Next, Later
An agile approach to product roadmaps.
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Tip of The Week: Build a Now, Next, Later Roadmap for Your Team
Roadmaps should tell our team where we plan to go (our goal) and set out the direction that we think we need to travel, in order to get there.
I say think, because wherever we are in a project, we always know less now, that we will in the future. So we’re planning with inaccurate information and need to replan regularly as we discover more [accurate] information.
Whilst many roadmapping techniques focus on timelines and release dates, a Now, Next, Later roadmap focuses on what’s important right now and allows the flexibility to change what is coming up as we discover new information.
The Agile manifesto encouraging teams to value responding to change over following a plan. This recognises that by being more flexible, we are in a better position to deliver value faster - responding to our customers needs and the new information we discover during a project.
So What is a Now, Next, Later roadmap?
A Now, Next, Later roadmap could be represented as a table consisting of three columns: Now, Next and Later. For a SaaS offering it might look something like this:
It gives us a high level view of the steps we will take to reach our destination, but there are no release dates, just now, next and later, which can be defined as follows:
Now: Items that have been validated and are currently being (or just about to be) worked on. These are things that we are confident are technically feasible, commercially viable and desirable because of the work we did in our discovery phase.
Next: Items that are in or pending discovery. We might still discard them if we don’t become confident that they are feasible, viable and desirable.
Later: Long term items, where the scope and priority is still undefined. They might never be selected or they might be selected for discovery soon. It will depend on what we learn and how our priorities change as the project progresses.
The above example is focused on features, which can work for some teams, however feature based roadmaps can often become feature wishlists. An alternative approach is to structure the roadmap around themes. This has the advantage of focusing on the problems we’re solving ensuring we focus on delivering value. For the same SaaS offering that might look like this:
Now we’ve moved away from features to focus on themes around user goals and problems we’re going to solve.
A Now, Next, Later roadmap acknowledges uncertainty, accepts that priorities change and remains flexible to change as we learn during the project.
A Now, Next, Later roadmap focuses our team on investing time only on problems that are worth worrying about right now. It communicates to the whole organisation that building a product involves juggling a set of competing priorities, and that these priorities will change as we ship and learn.
If you need to work in a flexible way that can respond to change quickly, a Now, Next, Later roadmap can be an excellent tool.
I’d love to hear what you think about this approach and how it compare to what you currently do, drop me an email (hit reply) or better yet click on the link to comment!
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