Why Agile and Roadmaps Don’t Mix

Rajesh Nerlikar

Product Advisor at Foster Innovation



Using Gantt timelines to express an Agile project plan to stakeholders gives them unfair expectations. They expect you to deliver on this project plan factors by the visualized deadline. However, the theory behind Agile is that delivering on deadlines is not success; success is creating the most customer centric, revenue gaining products. How can you express goals that you can deliver on using the Agile model?

Actions taken

I have implemented a process where, instead of quarterly roadmap reviews, we do quarterly KPI reviews. Here are the steps we have used to implement this process change:

  • Define your KPIs - metrics that affect business outcomes (ex: profits, customer acquisition, etc) 2-3 KPIs max.
  • Identify what hypothesis you are planning to test to move each KPI - IF we (make this change/build X) THEN we will see (this KPI go up or down) BECAUSE (user research/analytics that suggest why this outcome will occur)
  • Prioritize your hypothesis - think about what you could do in 1–2 sprints to test the idea
  • Test your high priority hypotheses - get your test in front of users and track how they're responding by looking for changes in your KPIs
  • Present updates on the KPIs, along with what you learned about your hypotheses since the last update - show hypotheses on a Kanban style board with sections for to-do, in progress, and done

Lessons learned

When deciding on KPIs at the beginning, make sure to get consensus internally before proceeding. Without agreement, you'll always be fighting internally about feature X vs feature Y because no one will be able to point to what outcomes you're trying to deliver. When you are testing your hypotheses, you don't have to build new features or restructure your whole app. The point is to get a signal that you're onto something before investing too much time or effort. In order to follow these steps, I've assumed you have the ability to track your KPIs easily and as close to real time as possible. Without this feedback loop you're not using Agile the way it was intended. Now when you get up to present to stakeholders, all you have to do is show whether your KPIs are moving – hopefully they are and if not, hopefully you can explain what you've learned along the way. Source: https://medium.com/@RajeshNerlikar/why-agile-and-roadmaps-dont-mix-e3905bade97d

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Rajesh Nerlikar

Product Advisor at Foster Innovation

Agile, Scrum & Kanban

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