Getting Started Guide
It’s pretty easy to get started in ProductPlan. Our roadmap structure is flexible, and there are a variety of ways you can adapt it to fit your needs. As you get started, you’ll want to understand and define the different elements of your roadmap. Here are our suggestions for getting started, along with some examples of how our customers are building their roadmaps today.
- Building Your Roadmap
- Using Your Legend
- The Difference Between Bars and Containers
- Master Plans and Creating Multiple Roadmaps
- Using Tags
- How to use the Parking Lot, Planning Board, and Roadmap together
Building Your Roadmap
As you begin building your roadmap, you’ll want to logically organize your initiatives. Some things to consider as you begin building are:
- Who is the intended audience for your roadmap?
- Do you need to communicate your strategic goals?
- How far out will you be planning?
Keeping these questions in mind will help you determine how to build your roadmap. As you answer them, a great place to start is with the following:
Choose Your Lanes
Lanes can represent a variety of high level categories. Many of our customers use Lanes to distinguish between different teams, products, or large initiatives. Defining your Lanes is an important first step for building a new roadmap.
Use Bars to Plan Initiatives
Bars are your specific initiatives. Use them to represent your different epics, projects, tasks, or any other items that you are planning.
Use Containers to Group Initiatives
Containers allow you to group related Bars together. Use Containers to categorize your initiatives into high level themes, releases, or projects.
Best Practices Tip: Planning Multiple Levels
ProductPlan has a built in hierarchy: Roadmap > Lanes > Containers > Bars. If you are planning multiple levels of information (ie. Product > Teams > Releases > Epics), consider using that to your advantage!
Set Your Timeline
Depending on your process and what kind of product you offer, your timeline will differ. Before you begin building your roadmap, you’ll want to choose a timeline that works for you.
The timeline is flexible, and can be adjusted at any time. You can start by choosing a timeline style and setting a start and end date. If you change your dates, any items that you’ve placed will remain where they are. That way they’ll be saved if you need to come back to them.
You can also choose how much of your roadmap to display. So, even if you’re planning a multi-year roadmap, you can choose to display just a few months at a time.
It can be a challenge to strike the right balance between long-term vision and short-term execution in your roadmap. While some teams may need to adjust their course often and change their roadmaps quickly, others will have a much longer planning process. With a timeline that adjusts to your needs, you can stay flexible and meet these challenges head on.
Best Practices Tip: Save Alternate Views
You can create and save multiple views of a single roadmap. Create custom views to share with different audiences – you can even save different filters for views that you create!
How to use Your Legend
Picking a Legend is an important part of visually communicating your roadmap. The roadmap Legend is customizable so that you can adapt it to fit your needs. When you set up your legend, keep in mind your intended audience. The Legend style will vary between different organizations, but here are some examples of how our customers use their Legends today:
When building your Product Roadmap, it’s important to clearly define how your initiatives tie into your company’s strategy. We suggest using the Legend to display your strategic goals and visually communicate them to your stakeholders.
If you’re building a Marketing Plan, it’s important to visually represent the stages of your strategy. Help keep everyone on the same page by color coding the different Phases of your initiatives.
Agile teams often have Sprint Roadmaps for different releases. Many of these teams use the Legend to clearly communicate the priority of what is being worked on.
If you’re building a roadmap with Multiple Products, you’ll want to be clear about the status of your different initiatives. The Legend can be a great resource for keeping your roadmap items up to date.
Best Practices Tip: Keep the Legend Strategic
Remember that the roadmap is a high level communication tool. Using the legend to represent how your roadmap ties into your company vision and strategy is the best way to communicate that to your team. It also helps you filter to create and share custom Views.
What’s the Difference Between Bars and Containers?
You can use both Bars and Containers to represent different projects or initiatives. The difference is that Containers can expand, allowing you to group Bars within them.
Using Containers is a great way to organize your roadmap, and there are a variety of ways our customers are using them today. Some examples are:
- Plan releases
- Group by themes (For example, if your Bars represent Epics, you can group them by theme)
- Group by dependencies
- Represent detailed projects
- The list can go on…
Best Practices Tip: Integrate With JIRA
ProductPlan integrates with JIRA (and other product management tools). Consider linking Bars to Epics, and then grouping them in Containers by theme or release. Once integrated, you can even synchronize percent complete to display on your roadmap!
How Many Roadmaps Should I Create?
You’re not limited to a single Roadmap. Often, it’s easier to organize your plans if you break them up into multiple roadmaps. When you need a consolidated view, you can merge any combination of roadmaps into a Master Plan.
If you’re building a variety of different products, try dedicating one roadmap to each. Having your products separate will keep your roadmaps focused on the details and help your team more clearly communicate each product’s direction. Then create a Master Plan to combine your products in a single portfolio view.
Another common use of Master Plans is to combine roadmaps from multiple Product Managers. If each PM has his or her own roadmap, you can use Master Plans to combine them and create one consolidated view. Since you can build unlimited Roadmaps and Master Plans, you’re able to create as many combinations as you need for different audiences or situations.
How to use Tags
Sometimes you’ll need to present the same roadmap to different audiences. Other times, you may want to focus on just the group of features included in your next release. So how do you stay focused on only the most relevant information? Using Tags, you’ll be able to create different views of the same roadmap based on your own custom values.
You can present these different views in live meetings, or even export your filtered roadmap and share it with interested stakeholders. Tags are customizable and there are a variety of ways that you can use them. Some examples of how we’ve seen our customers use Tags include:
- Product Owners
- Geographic Locations
- Release Dates
- Vertical Markets
- Strategic Goals
Once you’ve added some Tags, you can Filter the roadmap by those Tags to create different views for different audiences. If your team uses the same Tags across different roadmaps, when you create a Master Plan you can see those Tags and use the Filter across multiple roadmaps at once.
How do the Parking Lot, Planning Board, and Roadmap fit together?
Watch our customer training webinar on this topic here.
Collectively, these three components will help you plan, build, and communicate your strategy – but you’re free to use any or each of them as you wish. The roadmap, Parking Lot, and Planning Board are flexible, so you aren’t forced into a rigid workflow and you can get started in any order.
OK, so I don’t have to use all of them… but should I?
The roadmap process is going to be different from team to team based on any number of things – what works best for you, may not work for everyone. With that in mind, we’ve put together some examples of the most effective workflows we’ve seen, and some tips for how best to utilize these features for your success.
Do you already have a spreadsheet of features or ideas? Import it directly into the Parking Lot to get started quickly and begin prioritizing. Once you’ve fleshed out what’s ready, simply drag items over to the roadmap.
|Parking Lot→Planning Board→Roadmap
You’ve listed out your initiatives in the Parking Lot, but how do you prioritize what goes on the roadmap? Use the Planning Board to objectively weigh and compare your ideas. From the Planning Board, simply select your existing Parking Lot items, go through a round of scoring, and drag and drop to the roadmap when ready.
|Roadmap ↔ Parking Lot/Planning Board
For some teams, it’s easiest to start visualizing your plans right off the bat. It’s quick and simple to start dragging and dropping Lanes, Containers, and Bars onto the roadmap and building as you go. Once your ideas are out there, you can choose to prioritize them in the Planning Board, or send them to the Parking Lot for future consideration.