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Tricks of the Trade Venture Partner Series: Turning Ideas into Releases – Ideas -> Roadmap -> ARDs -> Sprints

June 20, 2016
Roadmap Success

No one does true agile development today, but there are closely-related ways to approach how to turn ideas into actual releases. First, if you’re not compiling new ideas then you’re in a pickle when it comes to product evolution and the growth of your business. But what are the best ways to source and organize ideas? It’s unbelievable simply: ask. Ask your employees, your mentors, your friends and keep track of all the ideas: both internal and external. Let everyone in your organization contribute ideas and put in place a process to vote them into the roadmap.

Similar to my feelings about Executive Report Cards, simplicity can be the key to success with this process. Sure, some people use tools like Zendesk to track ideas, but a plain old Google Docs Spreadsheets will do the same job.

From that list of ideas it’s much easier to hone in on your roadmap – what you agree to do and the order in which to do it.

There is a general flow that I see at countless organizations: a company is founded by a technical group / CEO and an MVP is created, traction begins and a management team gets put in place. When you have a five person team with a technical CEO, that means the CEO is often still doing some of the coding. If that is the case, you’re not necessarily going to have a formalized roadmap, as the CEO is still “in it” too deeply.

It’s when a VP of product or engineering is hired that a process for decision making needs to be deployed. My advice:

1) Get past the mentality of “we must have this now” – that is an unfocused approach.

2) Think of a few things to shoot for and let the engine move them along.

3) You can’t force more output, you can only determine where that energy is directed. This requires the CEO to let go a little bit, but it’s worth it because the CEO’s job is to steer the ship.

Now that you have a list of ideas and you can determine the roadmap. I recommend that the deliverables be sorted by quarter and reviewed quarterly as well. You also need to bring to the fore a short and to the point document that contains all the information about a new feature in the roadmap. This is an Agile Requirement Document (ARD), you can view an ARD template here.

With your ARD in hand you can set a duration of time for your sprint – 1 month, 1 week – you know your team best. All ideas will be prioritized and executed with a deep bench of ideas to drive towards as time permits.

With all these flows working in harmony you can streamline your path to a release, as well as – for the CEO – take a more tempered and organized approach to reaching your end goals on the back of the stellar team you’re building. Check out how it all fits together.