12-month rolling roadmap

I already explained what is a roadmap, how to build it and what they are used for (planning and communication). During my time at ContaAzul and now at Gympass my teams and I have been using a roadmap structure that has been very helpful for us to achieve the two main goals of product roadmaps, planning what are the next steps of the product and to align the view of the product future with the entire organization.

We call this roadmap structure the 12-month rolling roadmap. I know that some people will comment that having a 12-month roadmap will prevent you from being agile, that we should have no more than 3 months planned ahead, ideally we should have no roadmap and we should use only OKRs. I tend to agree with all these comments. However, my experience has shown me the need for roadmaps depends a lot on the product development culture maturity of the company. Probably companies like Google and Facebook have such maturity of product development culture that roadmaps are not needed and the product is developed only based on OKRs. This is also the case when we are managing mature products.

However, if you are working on a product in its innovation or growth phase, and your company does not have yet a mature product development culture, roadmaps in general and the 12-month rolling roadmap that I will present here can be very helpful.

The motivation

When a product manager present to stakeholders a 3-month roadmap, it is not unusual that the product manager gets asked questions like “what about feature X?” or “when will we put more energy on objective Y?”. The answer is normally something in the lines of “it’s planned for future quarters but I believe that what we planned for the coming quarter are the most important things to work on, do you agree?”. This answer will probably generate some frustration.

If a product manager decides to not use roadmap and only use OKRs to present her plans for her product to stakeholders, the questions she will get will be in the lines of “how do you intend to reach objective Z?” or “why don’t you do W to get to your objective faster?”

For this reason we created the 12-month rolling roadmap. It helps product managers communicate the view of the future of their product and, consequently, this will elevate the discussion to a more strategic level. Here’s an example of a 12-month rolling roadmap for a team that takes care of invoice issuance in an ERP product for SMBs.

Elements and how to use the 12-month rolling roadmap

The basic elements that should be in a 12-month rolling roadmap are:

  • objectives and metrics: it is placed at the top of the slide because this is the most important thing of the roadmap, what you are planning to achieve by doing the things you plan to do and how do you measure that you achieved. From these, you create your OKRs.

You can add other elements if it makes sense for you, your team and your stakeholders. At Gympass we are building an integration layer that is enabling us to easily integrate our systems with gym booking and ERP systems as well as with payroll systems. As we build the building blocks of this integration layers, we are getting ready to offer specific types of professional services (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/more-special-requests-joaquim-torres-joca-/). For this reason, we created in our 12-month rolling roadmap an element call Professional Services readiness, to show stakeholders when we will be able to do certain types of integrations with our professional services team.

Note that with the 12-month rolling roadmap, when you get questions like “what about feature X?” or “when will we put more energy on objective Y?” or “how do you intend to reach objective Z?” or “why don’t you do W to get to your objective faster?” it is easier to answer because you have a big picture of what’s coming next.

We named it “rolling roadmap” for a reason. It has to be reviewed regularly. If nothing changes, it should be reviewed at least quarterly, to guarantee it is aligned with the product vision and strategy. If there are changes in the external environment (new regulation, new competitors, etc) or in the internal environment (people leaving the team, change in company strategy, etc.) and these changes need to dealt immediately, the 12-month rolling roadmap is the perfect tool to help everyone understand the impact of the changes in the objectives and deliveries of the team.

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