I’m working on a project where we just dump everything that needs to get done into one giant backlog. Every couple of weeks we go through the backlog and shortlist the most important stuff to work on next.

The problem we’re having is no one can see the big picture. There is no shared understanding of what we’re working on next and why. It’s unclear how the success of each chunk of work is being assessed or what impact it’s having.

I looked up recommendations on building better roadmaps and ‘Roadmaps relaunched’ seems to be the most commonly cited favourite. It broke a roadmap into four essential components: A vision, metrics, timeframes and outcomes.

  • Vision – The reason why your product exists.
  • Key Metrics – These are your top-level KPIs.
  • Times frames – We’re working on 2-week release cycles right now.
  • Outcomes – The idea is to organise tickets into themes that describe the difference they will make to the customer.

There were examples in all shapes and sizes: Kanban, blogpost, Gantt, etc. The exact form isn’t important as long as it accounts for all four essential components. I cherry-picked the best bits for our situation and came up with this:

Our key metrics are in the first column and our timeframe along the first row. In each column, we have tickets organised into the outcomes we’re working towards in each release cycle.

For example, search is something we’re figuring out. Let’s say caching results and autosuggestion are two tickets on the backlog. I group them into ‘improving our search experience’. Articulating outcomes people care about is by far is the trickiest piece to this whole puzzle.

This outcome then goes into the ‘Engagement’ row (measured as the mean number of articles published per user) because that is the KPI we’re hoping search improvements will affect. We also have two extra rows, one for ‘internal’ (mostly tech debt stuff) and ‘other’ (because we’re still figuring this out).

This shows us what we’re working on, what’s up next, why we’re working on it, what impact it will have and how each bit will be measured. I still have lots of questions but this is better than what we have and I’m interested to see if it helps.

Comments, questions and feedback are welcome 💬