Quite often, in my training sessions, I get questions regarding what is the difference between a Product Roadmap and a Release Plan.
Doing this many times, I had the opportunity to experiment many ways of explaining this. Here it is, the last version, one that I see it’s easiest to understand and fastest to explain.
Product Roadmap and Release Plan are both different perspectives of the Product Backlog.
A Product Backlog is a list of work items, Detailed appropriately, Estimated, Emergent and Prioritized. This is what the Product Owner uses to follow the Vision and deliver value to the clients. This is where the team looks when they plan the next increment.
When we are talking about a Product Roadmap, simply put, we are talking about a Product Backlog with a time dimension added to it. Think about it, a product backlog is a list of prioritized work items. When adding time to this backlog, you turn it to a Product Roadmap. As a Product Owner, you can now answer questions that start with “When?” Mandatory for a healthy Product Roadmap are stable team velocity, managed dependencies and prioritized backlog. Now you become predictable, you can show to your stakeholders a Roadmap of you Product.
Adding to the Product Backlog, with a time dimension (Roadmap), also a milestones perspective, you create a Release Plan. I explained in this article my opinion on Release Planning in an Agile environment, I will not get into that again. What is important now, in this discussion, is that when you put milestones on a Product Roadmap you have to be careful not to turn it in a fix time fix scope. In general, you have 2 possibilities:
- fix the Time. How many features can i deliver until end of June? Based on the answer to this question, the Release milestone goes right after the last Feature that you can deliver in the time given.
- fix the Scope. When can I deliver this amount of features? Also, answering this question helps you draw the Release milestone after the last feature that makes sense to deliver given the solution context and value.
In Agile, we should strive for keeping the Scope flexible in our Releases. Otherwise, teams will make quality compromises, trying to keep the commitment.
What would you add to my opinion?