Product Roadmap vs. Forecast

October 22, 2013

A roadmap is great for depicting a fixed reality that shows how to move from Point A to Point B.  A weather forecast works with probabilities and fluid conditions, trying to presume future conditions from them.

A VP of mine hated the use of roadmaps; he actually seemed frightened of them.  Knowing this, I described a fourteen month product plan to him as a ‘forecast’ and not a roadmap. He fell in love with the term.

Using the forecast concept has an added benefit.  It helps the product owner (PO) produce a multi month plan.  Once the vision is defined and high-level user stories created, the PO can begin to forecast when each user story will be addressed.   It is important to bring the team together for the forecasting exercise so that dependencies and known risks are applied when plotting the user stories for completion.

weather-forecastb

This can be a creative exercise and once completed provides a useful tool.  The forecasting can be accomplished with the use of software or with something as simple as index cards spread across the floor.    Once the forecast is verified by the Scrum team, it will then help guide the Scrum team through sprint releases.  The forecast also becomes an invaluable communication tool with all levels of the organization.

Since it is a forecast and conditions will change, it is important to revisit it on a regular basis.  I recommend after any backlog grooming session, but any regular interval will work.

NOTES

  • Be certain that all ‘pigs’ are involved in the forecast exercise.  Anyone else who may be a dependency or know of an impactful risk should be invited to participate as well (e.g. system administrators, help desk managers, release managers, etc.).
  • It is important that the product owner make sure risk and mitigation impacts are clearly articulated.  If the forecast changes, the cause shouldn’t be a surprise.
  • Changes to the forecast may have a visceral impact on downstream user story forecasts.  If this happens, communicate the cause and effect and begin the effort of re-socializing the updated forecast.
  • If the forecast takes an unforeseen hit, a good rule of thumb is to regroup and start the forecast exercise again.
  • As the low priority user stories make their way up the priority ladder and become more refined, forecast impacts need to be managed.

 

 

 

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