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Before starting any project, be it Agile, waterfall or even non-IT projects, it is important for the people involved in the product to understand what it is they are building. In other words, it is important to understand the vision and mission of the project and the product being built and how it aligns with the values of the organization.This feature that outlines the strategic path to be followed for developing a particular product is called the product roadmap. The product roadmap is more of a communication tool and helps to communicate the high-level purpose of the product’s strategy and its alignment with organizational business objectives.What is a Product Roadmap?A product roadmap is a plan of action for how a product or solution will evolve over time--Atlassian In other words, a product roadmap is a plan of action that defines the short- and long-term goals of the product to be built. The product roadmap is used not just in waterfall projects but is crucial for Agile projects too and is often used by the Product Owner to outline how the product will shape up, its functionality, new releases and so forth.The roadmap also outlines the features that need to be prioritized for delivery and is an important reference—not just for the developers, but for all those involved in the product development lifecycle. For Agile teams, the product roadmap outlines the estimates of day-to-day tasks and is an important feature of the Agile product development lifecycle as it helps to follow the Agile values of early and continuous delivery of valuable software by helping the teams focus on priorities.How to Create a Product RoadmapBuilding the product roadmap is one of the steps of the product development plan. Once the product vision is created after understanding the requirements of the stakeholders, market research and analysis, the product management team gets on with creating the product roadmap. Building a product roadmap involves five main stages: Defining the strategy: As the name suggests, the strategy must define the overall goal of the project, the vision and how it aligns to the overall business objectives. The strategy outlines how the team or the company is going to go about achieving the goal or the project mission. Reviewing and managing ideas: There may be several requests from the user, but how do you prioritise these ideas? Ideas may even come from your development team and often such ideas can lead to better and more innovative products. How would you prioritise ideas on the product roadmap? By ranking and assigning values to each idea. Once you find out the value that each idea brings in by considering estimated cost, effort and value it is easy to rank each on the product roadmap. This will help you understand which ideas are to be prioritized and will help you manage better. Defining features and requirements: Once your strategy is fixed you can identify the features that best support your strategy. You can further split these requirements into user stories that the development teams can use to determine their day-to-day tasks. Organizing releases and setting timeframes: Once the requirements are set, the development team can define epics and sprints and determine the dates of releases. Releases can be grouped. Choosing a view that suits your audience: Now that your roadmap and all the elements under it have been defined, you must share it with the others on the team including the stakeholders and the management. For this you would need to choose the view for the roadmap or decide which elements you would want to display and to what detail. You must consider certain considerations while creating a view for your roadmap such as: The purpose of the roadmap The audience for the roadmap The information that will appear The time frame that the roadmap should coverBest Practices for Creating an Effective Product RoadmapWhile creating the roadmap depends on the project and the organization, there are certain best practices that teams need to follow while creating product roadmaps to ensure effectiveness and value addition. The most important prep work, before the creation roadmap, is to ensure that you have your purpose, vision and strategy right. This sets the base for everything that follows. Your roadmaps are tools that you use for communicating the objectives and milestones with different teams and parties. Keeping this in mind ensure that you create different roadmaps for different audiences. The items of your roadmap should focus more on outcomes rather than on features. Keep reviewing and updating your roadmap at the right frequency. The product roadmap should always be current and be transparent to the teams. Make sure that your roadmaps are communicated in the right way. Make sure your roadmap conveys the right timelines; timelines should be flexible while at the same time realistic to ensure accountability. Do not use your roadmap as your product backlog. Remember that the roadmap is a high-level overview of the product strategy or goal and does not need to include everyday tasks like bug fixing user support research etc into it. Make sure you have all the right data to back up the items on your roadmap. You may need this in case you are asked to justify something on the roadmap by the stakeholder, investor, or even the team members. Web-based Tools to Create a Product RoadmapYour product roadmap is a great communication tool. This said, it also must be visually appealing and tell a story to those who are accessing and viewing it. Gone are the days when people used Excel and PowerPoint to display their roadmaps. Compared to cloud-based tools, creating roadmaps on old technologies is cumbersome and difficult to update. There are several tools available in the market to help you with creating the appropriate roadmap for your needs. Product roadmap examples available include: Monday.com Productboard Roadmunk Trello StoriesOnBoard and more Types of audience for a product roadmapYour roadmap is a mirror to your project and sharing it will help you maintain transparency and trust with all those involved in the project. You will have to share your roadmap with several people including: Management or leadership: The C-suite of your company may want to know how the project you build aligns to the goals and business objectives of the organization. Engineering team: The roadmap is a bible for the engineering team as they will know the scope, goal and shape the project needs to take based on the product roadmap. They will know how to go about the development by understanding the releases, features and requirements outlined in the product roadmap. Marketing team:The marketing team will use the product roadmap to understand the product strategy and goals along with the benefits that each release or feature will bring to the customer. Sales team:The sales team must sell the product, which is why they would need to know the benefits the product will bring into the customers. The product roadmap will be referenced by them for this purpose.The importance of tailoring your roadmap to the right audienceYou can have different views for your roadmap based on who you are going to show it to and what information you want to communicate. Your audience is primarily of two types: Internal: Members who are part of your team and organization including team members, executives, sales team etc. Each team should be given a roadmap that is specific to their requirements. The executive or managerial team for example would need data that is more strategic and to know how the product aligns with the organizational objectives. The product roadmap for the sales team would concentrate on the product value; that will help the sales team understand the value the product will bring in for the user. The development team would see a roadmap that shows them key technical aspects and deadlines for these. External: members who are not part of the internal team such as customers, investors etc form the external members. The product roadmap shown to external customers often does not include information such as deadlines or any internal process flows. It concentrates more on the advantages that the product would give the end-user. It is less strategic and more visually appealing and easy to understand.Product roadmap types and examplesThere are several types of roadmaps that are used for different projects. These roadmaps may be tailored in terms of looks and content to suit the needs of your project. Some common product roadmap types are: Strategic roadmap: As the name suggests, this roadmap communicates the strategy and the long-term initiatives that align to the organizational mission. This roadmap focuses on long term objectives, timelines and deadlines. Now-next-later roadmap: As the name suggests, this approach breaks down the roadmap into three parts. Now-which lists the initiatives that are being worked on now; Next-that lists the initiatives that will be taken up next and finally Later that lists the initiatives that will be tackled at a later stage. This product map gives the stakeholders and the team a bird’s eye view of the roadmap and makes it easier to suggest changes or differentiate priorities.Kanban roadmap: This is an excellent roadmap for development teams who want to communicate their plans without committing to exact timelines or dates. It helps teams to group activities into buckets such as what is in the backlog, what is planned and what is in progress. Source: productboard.comRelease plan roadmap: This is typically used as an external roadmap for customers and stakeholders. It displays initiatives such as planned releases etc and does not have much technical detail.Source: productboard.comAgile/Sprint Roadmap Example Agile is all about flexibility, better responses to customer requirements and fast releases. Agile projects can benefit a lot from creating a product roadmap that communicates the long-term objectives of the project and helps establish a balance between short term and long-term goals. The agile roadmap is a great tool for providing direction to the team to carry out their everyday tasks. There are several tools available to create product plans for agile teams that help promote agility and implement agile values. Source: Atlassian.comThis is an example of an Agile product roadmap for an Agile product team. The initiatives are in blue, and timelines are indicated by the milestone-markers in red. Conclusion The Product roadmap is crucial not just in understanding long term goals and objectives but also to set context to everyday tasks and make sure that the product is responsive to competition and changing business requirements. The product roadmap works across industries, organizations and teams and is a must for projects of any size. It’s a tool that can be utilised by product owners and the product development team to ensure successful projects and value delivery.
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How To Use T-Shirt Sizing as a Product Owner to Estimate Delivery
The beauty of Agile is that it is not prescriptive. Once organizations have understood the crux of Agile, they can tailor it to suit their needs and define processes that will ensure maximum output. Agile estimation is one such example. These simple, yet effective, techniques set the tone for the entire Agile project and help teams navigate complex projects easily. T shirt sizing in agile is a relative estimation technique that helps for long term effective planning. In this blog we attempt to deep dive into T-shirt sizing estimation and try to understand its benefits and drawbacks.What is T-shirt sizing estimation?Agile often starts with a high-level estimate or a macro view of the project. This helps teams and stakeholders come to a long-term plan for the project. One of the ways that Agile does this high-level estimate is though T-shirt sizing agile, in other words estimating story points using a relative estimation technique. T-shirt sizing, as mentioned before, is a relative project estimation technique to estimate what a project will need in terms of time, budget, and energy. It is a good technique for teams that are new to agile and want to perform a relative estimation of the project. T-shirt size planning can be further broken down into story points for sprint planning. Story points can be broken down further into hours for sprint execution. While t-shirt sizing is great for release planning and defining project roadmap, story point estimates are more accurate and better for sprint planning. What is a story point? A Story point is a unit of measure for expressing an estimate for the overall effort needed to complete a particular user story, sprint, or product backlog item. While in traditional project management methods the effort is conveyed in a time format like days, weeks or months, Agile uses story points to provide estimates and these can be provided by considering the amount of work, the complexity of work and associated risks. This is where story points differ from estimating in person-hours which may not consider the complexity or risk that may delay the task. Also, story point estimation is more flexible and is perfect for high level estimation.T-shirt sizes for introducing relative estimationChoosing a t-shirt when you walk into a store is simple. You have clearly labelled sizes like S, M, L, XL and all you need to do is pick one. While this may be a relative sizing and each T-shirt size can fit a range of shoulder sizes, it is much easier than having numerical t-shirt sizes like 38, 40, 42 etc. Similarly, for agile projects, teams can classify items or user stories as extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, or double extra-large. This T-shirt sizing estimation eliminates the numerical score associated with story points and helps developers to be more flexible and dynamic about the effort associated with a story. Depending on the size of the task, the developers will assign a t-shirt size. It’s important that all developers arrive at a consensus on the T-shirt size assigned to each task. The stories are all placed in S, M, L, XL buckets and the time taken to complete all the tasks in the buckets is estimated. Teams can get a relative understanding of how big or small the story is.The downside of T-shirt sizing PBIsThe problem with T-shirt's sizing is that it is a relative estimate, so teams would only get a ballpark figure or a range and not an exact estimate of effort needed to complete a user story.Also, since product backlog increments or PBIs are indicated in terms of T-shirts sizes, it would be difficult to estimate or review how much work is done. Like for example, your report may show that for this sprint you have completed 2 small, 4 medium and 3 large PBIs. This may make it difficult to measure the velocity of work.Benefits and pitfallsBenefits:Helps in quick estimates for substantial number of itemsHelps teams new to agile better perform estimationsIs flexible as estimation does not change even if velocity changesGives estimates in relative termsIs easy and effective for first level of estimating and large backlogs.Pitfalls:Relative estimates are not absoluteMay need to be converted to numerical value if velocity needs to be calculatedAre not uniform. One team’s t-shirt estimate may be different from that of another team.Delivery planning with T-shirt estimatesThe t-shirt sizing is a great way of providing initial estimates and can be used as a first round of estimating, providing stakeholders and the team with a relative or broad idea of time and effort required for the project.As mentioned above, it is often the first round of planning and starts with the project being split into high level epics which may be given t-shirt sizes. You may give an estimate range for epic size in a number of days.For example:Small = 1–4 daysMedium = 5–10 daysLarge = 10–20 daysYou can use this estimate and suppose that your first delivery of the product will take around 26-54 days.The second round of planningOnce you have created a broad estimate it is time to do the second round of planning and develop the product backlog items corresponding to epics. The epics can be further broken down into user stories for sprints. Each PBI can be estimated with story points to get a more accurate estimate for the PBIs.How to use T –shirt sizing to determine project scopeT-shirt estimation is a great way to understand the overall scope of your project. For example, a shopping list that is a small t-shirt size would mean buying a couple of items like a toothbrush and a cola, whereas a large t-shirt size idea would be buying fifty or more items from a shopping list. So, slotting these various tasks into t-shirt sizes will help the team understand the overall scope of the project and what must be accomplished. It helps to understand the effort required by each team member to accomplish the task.Getting the Right Fit: The Do’s and Don'tsT-shirt sizing, just like Agile, is not a one-size fits all method. Teams must figure out how to use it depending on their project and keeping in mind past projects and retrospectives.There are some do’s and don’ts for t-shirt sizing that must be followed for success:Get the bigger picture: You can think big and dream during this process. Your result will be a rough estimate so you can let yourself go.Make sure to stick to the scope: It is easy to get derailed with so many ideas coming in from so many people. But make sure to keep your eye on the project goal and ensure that the sizing is getting you closer to the goal.Do not have too many sizes: This exercise is supposed to simplify your decision-making process, so there is no point in complicating it by adding too many t-shirt sizes.Do not get rigid with T-shirt labels: You can get creative with the names if you don’t want t-shirt names. Go for fruit names if you find it better! You can estimate in terms of a grape for the smallest stories and a pineapple for the larger ones. Alternatively, think of animals if your team likes them better. You can have everything from rabbits to giraffes to define your epics and sprints.Assigning velocity for product backlog itemsDevelopment teams work around this by assigning each size a numerical value such S=1, M=3, L=5, XL=8. Assigning numerical values makes it easier to calculate the velocity. So, if team has completed 2 Small, 4 Medium and 3 Large PBIs then the velocity can be calculated as:Velocity= S+M+L= (2*1)+(4*3)+(3*5)=29T-Shirt sizing is fastT-shirt estimation allows an extremely fast, almost instant estimation with basic information. Compared to more absolute types of estimation that require more information from stakeholders and users and can result in considerable time consumption and effort, t-shirt sizing is quick and saves close to 80% times in some cases.How does T-shirt sizing work?T-shirt sizing starts off with the portfolio management team defining the size of the project, and they categorize the project as being extra small, small, medium, large, extra-large etc. The product owner first gets together with the stakeholders and defines a few high-level epics. The epics are given t-shirt sizes based on their perceived complexity. The development team also uses historical data from previous projects to classify tasks into different sized buckets.T-shirt sizing is a great option for teams new to the whole estimating business. It is fast and simple, and teams can use it till they learn the ropes of the more accurate forms of estimation. Splitting projects into generalized buckets helps the team to break down complex tasks, helps in communication and allows the team to look at a long-term roadmap for the project. When done correctly, t-shirt sizing can boost productivity and save the team a whole lot of effort.