How to Create a DevOps Roadmap

In this article, we’ll discuss how a DevOps roadmap can help a software company build and release products more quickly and efficiently. We’ll also walk you through some best practices for making your first DevOps roadmap.

First, though, let’s briefly review what we mean by DevOps. We’ll explore why adopting this process itself can benefit your company—whether or not you use a DevOps roadmap.

What Does DevOps Mean?

In software development, DevOps is the process of closely coordinating the work between the engineers who code the software and the operations team responsible for releasing it to customers.

In traditional organizations, these two teams work separately, in information silos. The developers build all of the code, then hand it off, completed, to the IT operations team. It is then the “ops” team’s job to handle release management. But there are drawbacks to this approach. The primary challenge is that ops will often discover only after all of the development work is complete that the new code creates problems for other areas of the product or the company’s website. The DevOps approach was created to solve these problems.

DevOps Is Like Agile

Another way to understand this is that the traditional model, where development and operations work separately, is similar to the waterfall methodology. One team does all of its work before handing it off or even showing it.

DevOps takes a more agile approach. It brings development and operations together to work closely throughout the process and to iterate the code along the way based on feedback from ops.

An Example of DevOps in Action

Think of the software department of a major bank. The development team is working on a new piece of functionality for the bank’s mobile app. Let’s imagine it’s a feature that lets customers deposit a paper check digitally by photographing it with their phone’s camera.

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If this company hadn’t implemented a DevOps team to coordinate their work, the IT operations department would have to wait until the engineers had finished all of the code for this new feature and were ready to hand it off. And when the developers consider the code ready, the ops team still needs to do its work before pushing the feature to the live app for customers. Ops still needs to ask, for example:

  • Does this new feature slow down any other areas of the app?
  • Will this new code break anything in the app?
  • Does the feature create a consistent user experience on all types of devices and operating systems?

Let’s imagine this banking company is using the DevOps approach. They’ve created a small team—including people from both the engineering and operations teams—whose job it is to coordinate the work along the way. Each time the developers complete a small piece of code for the new app, for example, the DevOps team will put that code through a test environment to discover if there are any potential problems.

With this DevOps process in place, this banking company is far more likely to release its new check-deposit feature on time and fewer problems or surprises.

Dive Deeper:

What Is DevOps?

Why Is a DevOps Roadmap Important?

Now that we’ve discussed the value of implementing a DevOps strategy let’s examine some of the ways a DevOps roadmap can make this process run more effectively and successfully.

1. It gives the DevOps team a more granular view of the process.

A standard product roadmap gives the entire cross-functional team a high-level, strategic blueprint of the company’s plans and goals for the product. It is a valuable reference point for any stakeholder at any point in the product’s development.

But for the DevOps team, in particular, the overall product roadmap is too high level to help coordinate the work of the engineers and IT operations teams. A DevOps roadmap is a great way to provide a more granular review relevant to these two teams. It can be a useful guide, for example, about when the development team will have a piece of code ready for ops to test.

2. It keeps both teams aligned on priorities and dependencies.

A DevOps roadmap is a great way to establish and communicate the interdependencies among the initiatives that operations and engineering are working on at any given time. It helps both teams better organize their time and prioritize their work because each team can see when the other will be delivering something that needs its attention.

This is the reason DevOps is such an effective approach to software development. By coordinating the work, and particularly the dependencies between the engineering and operations teams, a company can streamline its development process and more frequently push out new products with fewer missteps and course-corrections along the way.

3. It enables continuous improvements to the company’s products.

As we pointed out above, DevOps applies the agile philosophy to the work that engineering and operations do. It brings these teams together closely, to communicate and share information regularly, and helps them deliver incremental improvements and functionality to users often. A DevOps roadmap provides the ideal space to capture the team’s priorities for the near- and mid-terms, so both teams know what’s most important in the coming days and weeks.

Also, with the right type of roadmap tool—ideally a web-based roadmap app—the DevOps team can also gain valuable learnings from its roadmap. For example, the team can review all past initiatives on its roadmap app to discover when its plans were successful and when the team ran into trouble.
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Tips for Building a DevOps Roadmap

Here are some best practices for creating your company’s DevOps roadmap.

1. Clearly define your roadmap’s objective.

Your first step when creating any roadmap should be to set a goal for it. Ask your team: What purpose are we hoping to achieve with this roadmap? A few examples of worthy objectives:

  • Improve coordination between our engineering and operations teams.
  • Create a single source of truth for our DevOps work.
  • Build an archive of development and release plans that we can refer to overtime, to learn which processes are most effective and improve our DevOps efforts going forward.

2. Set focused, short-term goals and plans.

Most organizations plan their product roadmaps between two and six months into the future. That’s what ProductPlan learned when we interviewed more than 2,500 product professionals for our 2020 Product Management report.

A DevOps roadmap can follow a similar strategy as the overall product roadmap. The ProductPlan DevOps roadmap template we offer, for example, uses a three-month planning time horizon. This should be enough time to include several of the highest-priority initiatives for both the engineering and development teams. However, not so much time that the roadmap itself becomes cluttered and unfocused.

3. Use visual cues to make the roadmap easy to grasp.

One of the most common roadmap mistakes businesses make when they build roadmaps is to use text only. Some use word processing documents, others use spreadsheets, but the result is the same. These roadmaps fail to give viewers a clear, at-a-glance understanding of what’s a high priority, which initiatives are dependent on others, and who’s responsible for what.

Visual roadmaps are invaluable for helping stakeholders quickly understand what’s happening with your product’s plans, and for making your roadmaps themselves much more compelling.

If you look at our DevOps roadmap template at the top of this page, for example, you’ll see ProductPlan’s roadmap app makes it easy to use color-coding, bars, and containers to indicate themes and epics, and a legend. All of these items help to communicate the important details of the roadmap visually. In our template, the blue initiatives represent engineering’s work, while the ops team’s tasks are indicated in yellow.

You’ll also notice that this template represents a hypothetical DevOps team managing work on three products simultaneously. (Managing multiple products is a lot easier to do with a web-based roadmap tool. You can use it to add and update product details to your roadmap in minutes, from anywhere, and share it with your team.)

4. Share the roadmap with your engineering and operations teams.

Much of the value of a DevOps roadmap is that it helps both teams stay focused and aligned on the initiatives that affect each other’s work. But to realize this benefit—to improve coordination and efficiencies between development and operations—you need to make sure both teams have access to this single source of truth.

The way to do this is to give all of these stakeholders access to your DevOps roadmap anytime. The purpose is both so they can monitor their deadlines and so to let them check in to see what priority items are coming their way from the other team.

5. Keep the roadmap up to date at all times

Finally, your DevOps roadmap can only contribute to your team’s success only to the extent that it’s up to date and reflects your company’s current realities.

So, you will want to give yourself an action item to check in with the roadmap frequently. Make sure that item reflects your DevOps team’s latest strategic planning, priorities, budget, resource levels, etc. As soon as any of these realities change, you’ll want to update your DevOps roadmap. Otherwise, your team might mistakenly devote its time and resources to an outdated plan.
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Pro Tip: Integrate Your Roadmap with Other Workflow Apps

Let’s say you’ve made a few changes to your DevOps roadmap. You want to make sure everyone on both teams learns about the updates right away. One easy way to do this is to integrate your roadmap app with a communication tool like Slack. ProductPlan’s roadmap software makes this easy. When you make a change to the roadmap itself, the app will automatically send a notification to the Slack channels you choose.

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