What Jira Roadmaps Can Do for Agile

by Nick Muldoon, Co-CEO

18 Jan 2021

Just as you looking at a physical map before a road trip helps you understand the legs of each journey, roadmaps help agile teams understand their workloads for the upcoming months. Jira roadmaps offer further benefits, such as timeline visualization and the ability to share relevant information with external stakeholders.

In this article, we'll unpack the purpose of product roadmaps and whether they’re all the same, as well as why Easy Agile Roadmaps for Jira is the simplest roadmapping tool for Jira. You’ll discover how roadmaps help Product Owners, agile team members, customers, and stakeholders. You'll also understand the difference between roadmaps and Gantt charts.

Let’s start with discussing the purpose of roadmaps for agile teams.

Why does an agile team need a roadmap?

Roadmaps help agile teams define their big chunks of work and when to complete them by. It’s an artifact to communicate with the team, customers, and other project stakeholders.

With roadmaps, agile team members have a sense of their journey for the next 3-6 or even 12 months. By understanding this journey, teams can better understand their product’s evolution.

If you’re a Product Owner, roadmaps are a great way for you to:

  • Demonstrate that you understand company goals
  • Show the C suite and the agile team that you're aware of customer needs
  • Show you know how to deliver a valuable product to your customers while meeting your company's goals

Roadmaps are also a great way to remind you and your team how their work fits into the bigger picture. They give you an opportunity to motivate and help team members.

Also, by breaking down epics into user stories in the product backlog, Product Owners and the development team can better prioritize, schedule, and assign resources to those work items.

Now that we've covered the basics of Jira roadmaps, let's take a look at how to adapt them for different roles.

Tailoring roadmaps to meet specific needs

Different people on the team will need different views of roadmaps. Some roles focus on analyzing specific roadmap items of roadmaps, and other roles focus on different parts.

The development team needs roadmaps with expected release dates, milestones, and a detailed customer value explanation.

You may prioritize roadmap items by customer value, which makes sense when considering the customer-first agile methodology.

Often, development teams have roadmaps organized by sprints and work items arranged on a timeline. A work item can be a user story, a task, or a bug.

The C suite uses roadmaps to map the work of development teams onto company goals and metrics.

Those roadmaps display work items organized by month or quarter. This organization helps track progress over time and draw conclusions on goal achievement.

When roadmapping for the C suite, you don't need to worry about providing them with detailed work item descriptions.

The sales staff relies on roadmaps to learn about new features and customer value. That kind of information can help improve sales conversion. Roadmaps are a great way for the sales staff to understand upcoming developments they can get customers excited about.

You should also do your best to offer visually appealing and highly readable roadmaps to your customers. They'll look for a prioritized overview of new features.

Jira roadmaps might help you deliver these different types of roadmaps.

Jira roadmaps

Jira roadmap: Henry Danger Map GIF By Nickelodeon

Atlassian included roadmaps in next-gen Jira software. Jira roadmaps allow you to define and organize items in a timeline and keep them up-to-date. You can even share the work status with stakeholders.

But the coolest thing about roadmaps in Jira is that it syncs with the developers' work.

As the scope of a project can change while agile teams are working, it can get tricky to maintain an up-to-date roadmap, especially if you’ve been using a static tool like Excel or Confluence. Thankfully, Jira roadmaps allow you to quickly and easily update the work status and item priorities.

Agile teams can attach user stories to the Jira project on which they're working. As a result, Jira software updates the actual work in their roadmap.

You can also use Jira software to break down roadmap items, or epics, which means dividing work into small chunks. And as if this wasn't enough fun, you can use Jira Software's drag-and-drop functionality to adjust item priorities in the timeline. Consequently, Jira Software automatically adjusts the dates in the epics.

These are a few more reasons why Jira roadmaps are worth checking out. They offer:

  • Stakeholder collaboration in creating and maintaining the roadmap
  • The ability to share information with external stakeholders
  • Increased availability and visibility to team members
  • Tight links between a team's work and the roadmap
  • Seamless item update ability
  • Project status visualization
  • Both high-level and detailed item descriptions
  • Connections between Jira issue dates and dates on the roadmap

Easy Agile Roadmaps for Jira can help shape your roadmap as a timeline with swimlanes based on work themes or teams. Drag and drop items on the timeline to set when the team will begin and end working on them. You can also:

  • Define milestones
  • Filter the roadmap’s view
  • Track epic completion progress
  • Share a PDF version of the roadmap with stakeholders

Before you go, we should get on the same page about Gantt charts vs. roadmaps.

What are Gantt charts?

When we say “Gantt charts are useful for agile teams,” you might immediately think, “That can’t be right!” 😮 However, Gantt charts can be useful in the right context. They’re just not very agile.

The Gantt chart, named for the chart’s creator, Henry Lawrence Gantt, provides a graphic schedule for planning and visualizing tasks organized by project stages.

Project managers use Gantt charts to manage task dependencies and the critical path. This path is the sequence of tasks that team members must execute on time to not compromise the project’s end date.

Simply put, if you’re building a data center, you have to define the order in which the team must execute tasks. Basically, the team can’t start some tasks before completing others.

Now, let’s clarify why roadmaps are agile, whereas Gantt charts are not.

Why Gantt charts and roadmaps are not interchangeable

Jira roadmap: Andrea Bang Kc GIF By Kim's Convenience

At first glance, Gantt charts seem similar to roadmaps. However, at their core, they serve different purposes and audiences.

Gantt charts assume that team members will complete work in a linear fashion. This means that the execution of some tasks depends on the execution of other tasks. And any modification to the schedule can compromise the project’s end date, so you should avoid task rescheduling and frequently track the execution of tasks.

This is why the linearity of Gantt charts goes against the very principles of agile. 🛑

The agile methodology originated from the need to address the inefficiencies of traditional project management practices in software development. One of those methodologies is the waterfall methodology.

Agile teams do adaptive planning and deliver outcomes on an ongoing basis. They also focus on continuous improvement. That’s why no Gantt chart would fit into an agile workflow.

Gantt charts follow a linear delivery model with lots of task dependencies, which tends to be slow. 🐌

On the other hand, the agile workflow has shorter development cycles — iterations — with frequent deliveries and the bare minimum task dependencies. That speeds up continuous improvement. Additionally, agile teams adapt their roadmaps very well to ever-changing priorities and requirements.

Roadmaps are good, but Jira roadmaps are awesome

Jira roadmaps like Easy Agile Roadmaps help order work items by priority and update their statuses. Stakeholders can make collaborative edits on roadmaps in Jira, which is very convenient.

Perhaps the greatest feature of Jira roadmaps is that developers can both track work in Jira Software user stories and through the tasks on those roadmaps. From the Product Owner's perspective, the benefit is how they visualize the developers' work and communicate it with stakeholders.

It’s really important to make sure that both the C suite and the agile team buy into the roadmap. If they don’t, you might not be aligning your team’s work with company goals and customer needs.

Keep in mind that roadmaps’ benefits work two ways: Team members better realize how they contribute to achieving company goals, and you can monitor that process.

Try our Easy Agile Roadmaps for Jira. Whether you’re following the Scrum framework or the Kanban framework, it’ll help you organize your team’s work items in a timeline, define milestones, and track progress.

Subscribe to our blog