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5 May 2022

Software Development

Software development roadmap – what do you need to know?

10 minutes reading

Software development roadmap – what do you need to know?

How can you properly develop software without a plan? Probably, no entrepreneur has an answer for that question. Why? Because there is none. Every product needs a defined strategy, key priorities, workflow, clear responsibilities and division of tasks. A software development roadmap brings all these together in one place. 

Let’s look at what a software roadmap is, the different roadmap types, how it can benefit the project, and how to create a successful roadmap. 

What is a software development roadmap? 

A software roadmap helps to provide a high-level plan and overview of the software development progress and the product's goals. This strategic plan contains both long- and mid-term solutions and all the necessary product features. 

A software roadmap is a tool used to better share the product's strategy with involved teams and make communication easier. It helps better track the project's progress and facilitates keeping an eye on predefined milestones and business goals. 

Read more about the stages of the software development life cycle, used to better and more smoothly plan the whole process. 

However, there is more than one right way to create a roadmap – check out which software roadmap best fulfills your and the team's needs. 

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Types of software roadmaps 

Software roadmaps have a few variations. The plurality means this solution can better correspond to the plans and targets of each project. 

Internal and external roadmaps are examples of group-oriented roadmaps. Different teams and groups engaged in the project will need different roadmaps adjusted to their needs. The plan for internal stakeholders will look different to the plan for the team of developers. 

  • An internal roadmap is addressed to the company's in-house teams. Depending on the group, the roadmap could focus on business strategy or, for example, on testing plans and results. 
  • An external roadmap is for customers/stakeholders – this map is about milestones and the deliverables that have to be provided. 

Roadmaps do not all have to be group-oriented. Below are a few examples of other types. 

  • A status-oriented roadmap shows the teams' work progress and the current project status. It helps focus on the current status of planned functionalities and enables easier following of progress. The main aim of the status-oriented roadmap is to facilitate prioritization. 
  • A roadmap that is theme-oriented focuses on delivering planned value. It can be divided into quarters according to a yearly long-term goal. Every "Q" will describe steps to follow from a mid-term perspective.  
  • An outcome-oriented roadmap focuses on the results or consequences of the work. This roadmap is more interesting, as a rule, for stakeholders who are more into current issues (e.g. decreasing the application’s opening time) instead of specific features leading to the goal. 

These are examples of only a few of the most popular and commonly used types of roadmap for planning software development – the wide variety available allows you to identify the one which fulfills your project requirements best. 

Roadmaps are highly adaptable tools that can be tailored to any given need. When used right they enable teams to focus on doing the right things at the right time.

What are the benefits of a software development roadmap? 

Implementing a software roadmap improves the communication between coworkers and builds a bridge between employees inside the company and external interested groups, such as clients or stakeholders. 

What are the other advantages of the roadmap? 

  • A roadmap enables better insight for involved employees and helps them see their work in the context of the bigger picture and the project as a whole. 
  • The clear division of milestones facilitates reprioritization, if needed. 
  • A roadmap is a useful tool that can support the team with explaining the necessary steps and connections between them to stakeholders. 

A well-prepared roadmap offers a clear plan, adjusted to project needs, for both the technical and non-technical groups involved. It is a particular help to managers – everything they have to supervise is in one place. A roadmap allows for better communication and understanding of the project between teams. 

How to build a successful software roadmap? 

How to build a software roadmap

Fig. 1 How to build a software roadmap?

  • Why do you want to develop the product? 

There is no good roadmap without a clear product goal – why do you want to develop this product, what problem is it solving, why does the market need it? This is the foundation on which the next decisions will be made. 

  • What is your audience? 

This point was covered earlier in the text – your roadmap will be different depending on who it is created for. This is also time for establishing context for the audience, providing them with useful information.

  • What are the project’s priorities? 

It is easiest to start developing a roadmap by highlighting the most critical points. When the priorities are already on the timeline, the path for the intermediate steps is clearer. 

  • Check and update

Even the best roadmap cannot predict everything – that is why a regular check on work progress is necessary. If something unpredictable happens, the roadmap should be updated and adjusted to the current situation. Changing the roadmap is not a mistake – developing a product is a dynamic process, and tracking the progress will require updates to the plan. 

Risk is closely connected with the development process. The thing is not trying to avoid risk at all costs but instead manage it effectively. Check out our previous article to learn more about risk management techniques

On the market there are many solutions that make the creation of software roadmaps easier and allow for better understanding of how they work in practice. 

Tools for software development roadmap

Trello, Asana, Jira, Confluence – these are well-known solutions for roadmaps that need no introduction. For sure, at least one from the list sounds familiar. 

However, the below tools might better respond to more specific requirements and bring some fresh air to the planning process. 

  • Pen and paper - the first stage of each planning process. The only offline “tool” in this ranking but it cannot be skipped. You may think that this solution is out-of-date, but noting down on paper some keywords, ideas, and thoughts clarified during brainstorming and the first potential steps gives a clear perspective on producing a plan. 
  • Monday – the intuitive interface of this roadmap tool facilitates work even for extensive teams. Monday.com offers help in planning, tracking, and managing projects connected to various fields, but the most important is software development. This tool’s flexibility works great in agile environments. 
  • Roadmap Planner (currently merged with Goals) – this is recommended for cross-domain planning and coworking. It provides excellent team control, e.g., particular employees can be assigned to tasks, which makes progress tracking easier. 
  • Reveall – this is a roadmap tool dedicated to facilitating collaboration between product and UX teams and making the process more customer-oriented. (What other tools can the UX team use during product development? The answer is in our previous article.) 
  • Aha! – this is another tool that has a focus on software development. It is recommended as a solution that helps connect business and engineering processes.  

The market offers a variety of tools – some of them are more for general usage, and some are targeted for more specific purposes. The choice should be determined by the above-mentioned factors: who is the roadmap being created for and what is its goal? 

Conclusion 

Creating a software development roadmap is a real helping hand, allowing you to keep track and not lose key priorities during the creation process. It benefits all involved groups, no matter if we are talking about internal or external teams (if there are any). A roadmap charts an easy-to-follow path which makes the software development process more efficient and easier to manage.

Krzysztof

Krzysztof Sajna

Engineering Manager