Strategic Roadmaps

The Strategic roadmap is an adaptive planning and forecasting technique employed by the IT Kanban Framework to provide a forward view of business and technical initiatives intended for development and implementation. Strategic roadmaps provide a medium- to long-term view regarding the potential value that will be delivered through a programme of work or a programme of work associated work-streams.

Maintaining a strategic roadmap allows all involved in the development process to share the same mental model of how events may unfold over time. This allows teams, programme leadership and other stakeholders to work together, and ensures that work iterating through development and implementation is aligned to achieve overall strategic benefits.

The strategic roadmap helps to lift people’s perspective out of the immediate development effort at the team level and to observe the value of work-items from the programme level. This can help teams to understand the value of the work they deliver in a wider context and look for ways to optimise development for the programme as a whole.

This roadmap also provides a useful mechanism to balance demand against capacity. On this roadmap, demand is expressed as a set of initiatives that are placed on the roadmap in a position that indicates an aspirational date for completion. The team or teams associated with delivery then express their capacity by providing a forecast date for completion relative to that aspirational date. This establishes constraints when work begins to be forecast outside the roadmap horizon. The programme as a whole can then begin to operate within these constraints, constantly exploring how to deliver value while operating within the constraints of the available development or implementation capacity.

A quick example:

This example demonstrates the roadmap for a programme of work that contains two work-streams. The example assumes that the date at which the roadmap is being read is the end of February, the roadmap horizon is twelve months, and only ten months now remain. The flow of time and events should be read from left to right. We will now work through this example and explore each of the elements expressed within the roadmap in more detail.

Programmes and Work-Streams

The foundation of this roadmap is the programme of work that the roadmap describes. The programme of work is expressed as a horizontal swim-lane. If the programme of work is divided into multiple work-streams then this is expressed in the diagram as subdivisions of the programme swim-lane.

Roadmap Horizon and Cadence

We now need to establish the horizon to which the roadmap extends. In this example, we will demonstrate a roadmap horizon of twelve months and a monthly cadence. The roadmap cadence is the time interval at which the roadmap must be updated with a revised forecast of events. This is not the only time at which the roadmap will be updated. Any significant change in circumstances should trigger a roadmap revision to explore the potential impact on the programme’s strategic objectives. Cadence exists to ensure the roadmap does not become out of date with current understanding and to establish a regular forum where all involved in the programme can come together and gain visibility of how events are unfolding within the programme of work. On the roadmap, visualisation time and cadence are expressed as vertical segments, and these are annotated with the relevant date.

Significant Initiatives

The squares in this roadmap represent the significant initiatives that the programme of work intends to achieve. The position of the initiatives on the roadmap describes the aspirational date for their completion. This draws a picture that describes ambitions of the programme over time and expresses the demands for work that have been placed upon the teams associated with the programme.

Forecast Capacity

The picture so far has been entirely aspirational, describing the ambitions of the programme. This provides context and describes the demand placed upon the programme of work. The next element we introduce to this roadmap describes the team’s capacity to execute against this level of demand. This is the first constraint that we introduce to the roadmap and the first opportunity for prioritisation. It is common that demand will exceed capacity and this will be evident on the roadmap when forecasts for completion of work extend beyond the aspirational date for completion, and in some cases beyond the roadmap horizon.

Establish Commitments

In addition to forecasts for potential future work we also look to establish firmer levels of commitment for the completion of initiatives that are closer to the current date on the roadmap. These are represented on the roadmap with annotation and colour coding. In this example, green circles represent commitments and completed work. Forecasts that fall within the roadmap horizon are represented as orange circles, and red arrows represent forecasts that fall outside the roadmap horizon.

Establish Funding Horizon

The last visual element to introduce to this strategic roadmap is the funding horizon. This represents a future forecast of when funds allocated to the programme of work will run out. The area on the diagram between the current date and the funding horizon indicates forecast and committed work with allocated funding. We also introduce colour coding at this point. The green zone represents work complete and time elapsed since the roadmap began. The amber zone represents the forecasted work and initiatives with allocated funding, and the red zone represents forecasted work and initiatives that will require future funding.

Plan, Do, Inspect, Adapt

The strategic roadmap is an adaptive document and only remains valuable if the information it contains is representative of current understanding. A roadmap that never changes belongs to a programme that never learns. Understanding will change over time as the people involved with the associated programme learn from implementation and experience. Assumptions will be validated and lessons will be learnt. Strategic objectives can shift over time as organisations adapt to change. Always ensure the roadmap is updated and adapted to reflect these changes.



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