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This post is the second part of our series on making an Agile Roadmap.
You can find the first part here, which gives a good explanation as to why you should have an Agile Roadmap.

One solution from many

Roadmapping at Seedbox is a simple process that we are starting to apply at least once a year, for each of our product line. Let’s explain concretely how we do it.

First : get the raw materials

To begin, the Stakeholder (SO) and Product Owner (PO) list all the desired ‘epics’ and ‘stories’ (big or small functions) that they would like to see pictured in the roadmap. Some are very high-level (like ‘adding 3 partners to our network of websites’) and some can be already groomed (that is to say that a detailed estimate was already given). But all are part of the chosen subject of the paint (our product strategy).

Stories detail for wall-roadmaping

Each story as sufficient information to be scored in our high-level scale

Second : let’s put everything on a wall!

After we’ve got the list, we gather all team members, the SO and the PO in a room, and do what is called a wall-planning exercise for the roadmap : the wall-roadmaping.

This 1- to 4-hour session consists of 4 important steps :

The preparation

We prepare a room for a ‘stand up’ session, we push the chairs and make sure there’s enough room for everybody to interact.
If it makes sense, we split the team into smaller groups (2- to 3-person teams) and give each group a stack of epic/story to handle from the epics and stories list.
Yes, you will have to PRINT the epic / stories and have to kill some trees, so make sure to buy recycled paper or to plant a tree to balance it all out. It is very important to use physical object to do the exercise.
Unfortunately, efficient human collaboration sometimes comes with that kind of price.

Forgive us, Trees, we love you!

Epic and stories about to be wall-roadmaped

An example of a table full of epic / stories about to be wall-roadmaped

The sizing

We decide, either, beforehand as a group or during the wall-roadmaping, on a special ‘scale’ to rate each of the epics / stories.

The rules for the scale are precise and important:
– It should not have more than 5 ‘levels’ (as humans, we do not like to keep too much information in their short-term memory);
– It should not be the same unit as the one you use for your usual sprint / scrum / grooming of stories (e.g. If you use points in sprints, don’t use points in the wall-roadmaping! see explanation below);
– It should be funny / interesting / a bit entertaining but not distracting: one of our ScrumMaster loves animals, so he sorted five types of them by weight…yes, he documented himself on the weight difference between an elephant and a giraffe 🙂 but it can also be t-shirt sizes (a classic) or poker chips, whatever works for you: get to know your public, give them something they enjoy using;
– On the wall, you put your scale ‘symbols’ and a rough correspondence to team/iteration that gives a high-level order of magnitude (DO NOT USE DAYS NOR WEEKS, no time-bound scale, you should use a scale relative to the whole team + iteration capacity)
– The lower level should appear to be ‘less than’ in his definition
– The upper level should appear to be ‘more than’ in his definition
– Ideally, the level representing the middle should be related to a whole team work during a whole iteration
– The remaining levels should be defined between the other 3

The reason for having a different scale, is that you don’t want your SO and PO calculating out sprint commitment from this exercise, but on the contrary, give the team, the SO and the PO the ability to get richer information on what is to come and discuss it in a quick, efficient manner while keeping the conversation at a higher level.

Animal scale display

An example of an animal scale choosen by one of Seedbox’s team 🙂

Another example, a simple classic t-shirt size wall-roadmaping will figure 5 lanes on the wall :
– One for Extra-Small, which would be defined as ‘takes less than half the team for half an iteration’;
– One for Small, which would be defined as ‘takes between half the team for half an iteration and the whole team for an iteration’;
– One for Medium, which would be defined as ‘takes the whole team for a complete iteration’;
– One for Large, which would be defined as ‘takes between the whole team for a complete iteration and the whole team for two iterations’;
– One for Extra-Large, which would be defined as ‘takes more than the whole team for two iterations’;

To keep the painting metaphor: we should have several brush sizes and know how heavy a line they each make on our painting. We don’t want to bleed colors everywhere, remember, we are Van Gogh!

The wall exercise

Each team then sorts out its epics/stories on the 5 lanes prepared on the wall (make the story sticky!).

Team roadmaping

A team during a wall-roadmaping exercise

You will also, indirectly, enable capacity planning AND the ability for SO and PO to draft ‘external’ activities in their schedule (marketing efforts, content copywriting, etc).

At the risk of repeating myself, because it is probably the most important part of the process: DO NOT USE the estimation scale that you use for your Sprints.

You really want your team and your SO to use a different ‘state of mind’, a different value system.
Roadmapping is not a commitment. Roadmapping is in the future, it should stay fuzzy and imprecise.

The resorting

In this step, each team reviews the others’ sorting on the wall and challenges them if need be.
If they are able to reach a new consensus together, they can change the sorting of the epic/story. Otherwise, they stay as it was first decided.

Team wall-roadmaping

The exercise should trigger discussion and allow the team to better understand even very high level epics

The End?

Roadmap flamingo to crocodile

The wall-roadmaping exercise results : from Flamingo sized to Crocodile meat

Roadmap sea lion to elephant

The wall-roadmaping exercise results : from Sea lion fat to Elephant big

Roadmap elephant to whale

The wall-roadmaping exercise results : from Elephant big to Whale songs

Now that we’ve got the exercise right and we’ve discussed the “why” and the “how. Let’s do the final push, which is easier but just as important:
Let’s talk about the “follow-up” in the next and last installment of the series!

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