Killing the Quarterly Roadmap
Gousto, like many tech startups, used to build a product roadmap on a quarterly basis. Towards the end of each quarter our product managers would kick off the work by writing up a long list of initiatives for our business to focus on for three months, and would work closely with their engineering squad and stakeholders to whittle this down to a few key items with the strong business justification and estimated complexity.
However over the second half of 2017 we started to become frustrated with this process and found that it was not working for us. To start with, building a quarterly roadmap required a prolonged effort from staff around the business, and many hours of coordination by the Product Manager. The overhead of creating a plan and aligning with the wider business was very high. We also found that we were providing little visibility to our leadership team and other stakeholders, as this plan would only be reviewed every three months. Worst of all, the plan was misleading. Given we would begin this process before the start of a new quarter, we found ourselves projecting out 4 or 5 months into the future. In a fast paced business like Gousto the result was that we rarely stuck to the original plan. The quarterly roadmap felt distinctly un agile, but we quickly found a simple alternative.
It is important to note that at Gousto we split our sprint capacity down into three components:
- 60% big batch roadmap items
- 20% small batch iterative improvements
- 20% engineering improvements and bug fixes
The roadmap I’m describing in this article refers to the 60% big batch items, which are often company wide initiatives with very ambitious goals and high stakeholder visibility.
In January 2018 we successfully transitioned our business to a new planning process: the rolling three month roadmap. The idea is very simple — at the end of each month we update our plan projecting out three months into the future. This approach of reviewing priorities in a shortened and more frequent manner is very common in other Agile concepts. The rolling roadmap allows us to really concentrate on what we are building now and what we want to deliver next, by limiting the scope to the next six sprints (or 90 days).
We’ve adopted a lightweight framework to build our rolling roadmap:
- Two weeks before the end of month, the PMs will liaise with their key stakeholders and scrum team, and create a draft proposal for the following three months
- The PMs and I spend the next two weeks assessing each roadmap item, building a business case, estimating complexity and writing an internal press release
- At the end of the month I present the three month rolling roadmap to Gousto’s leadership team
- With the plan accepted and stakeholders aligned, the PM builds the 6 sprint plan into JIRA, giving the scrum team real visibility and allowing them to begin more precise refinements and planning
- Refine each month and project forward a further month
So far we’re really pleased with the results of this new process. We’re able to iterate much more rapidly on our plan, make more agile adjustments to new business requirements, and we provide greater visibility to our stakeholders of upcoming work. On top of this our product roadmap has much more continuity and flow.
You might be wondering whether we have any initiatives which require more forward planning than just three months, or how we keep track of items we’ve said no to in the short term but may want to revisit in the future? For these we use a product mapping tool that looks like a radar, more on this in a future blog post.
Head of Digital Product
Originally published at techbrunch.gousto.co.uk on March 18, 2018.