Whether you’ve worked on tech teams previously or this is your first rodeo building a tech product, the concept of an agile product roadmap might initially seem confusing. After all, how can something be agile (nimble and flexible) and a roadmap (a guide or plan) at the same time?

Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with an easy-to-understand explainer on all things agile roadmaps — and better yet, intel on how you can apply this strategic planning tool to your own apps to realize your business goals. Let’s get into it.

What is an agile product roadmap?

An agile product roadmap is a strategic document used in agile development that outlines the vision, direction, and goals for software development over time. Let’s dive into each word in this phrase to better understand its purpose, place, and value.

What is agile?

Instead of defining all requirements up front (a la waterfall), agile refers to building software in a flexible, iterative way to deliver value to users quickly and efficiently. Work is broken into small, manageable chunks and organized into regular design and development intervals called iterations or sprints. These sprints fit inside a larger product roadmap that ladders up to a business or product strategy. The idea behind agile is that it’s easy and efficient to make changes and create positive impact.

An added benefit of building your app on Bubble is that you can easily embrace agile since it’s easier to be flexible when you’re not constrained by traditional development limitations.

What is a product roadmap?

Think about a product roadmap as an internal guide to what you’re building and why. Depending on the audience, product roadmaps can look different and serve a variety of purposes, from dictating near-term priorities and specific dates, to focusing on where thematically organized features fit into long-term planning against a high-level strategy. They can even serve as a tool for acquiring development budgets and resources. Historically, product roadmaps were relatively static documents tied to dates and deadlines — but with the rise of agile development, that’s changed.

What is an agile product roadmap?

Unlike traditional, fixed roadmaps, agile roadmaps are flexible and adaptable, allowing for roadmap changes and adjustments based on feedback and evolving priorities. They focus on outcomes and prioritization (i.e., Feature A will come before Feature B), but may lack tactical specifics or fixed deadlines. 

Agile roadmaps typically focus on delivering value to users in small, incremental releases, with a strong emphasis on collaboration, feedback, and continuous improvement. They’re often used to align key stakeholders, prioritize work, and provide a guide for cross-functional teams. Perhaps most importantly, there’s no one-size-fits-all example of a roadmap — these artifacts can vary based on audience, goals, and the needs of agile teams. Think of them as more strategic documents, rather than a resource that outlines a very specific or prescriptive plan.

What’s the difference between an agile roadmap and a backlog?

Great question. Both are related to building products, often live in project management software, and can reflect upcoming work, but they serve very different purposes. 

Think of your agile roadmap as a guide that shows how your work fits into your larger product vision. As specific plans change, your agile roadmap can also help you keep your core themes top of mind.

A product backlog serves a very different purpose: It’s essentially a tactical list — often in the form of user stories — of potential work to be done that isn’t in your current sprint. That work may be a lower priority, or maybe the idea hasn’t yet been validated, or maybe it’s contingent on a dependency that a design or development team is currently building. 

Many agile teams will often pull work from the backlog into a sprint. The work completed during sprints ultimately helps achieve the business goals outlined in the product roadmap. Items from the backlog will be broken down into user stories and pulled into sprints during a team’s planning process.

Why should I keep my roadmap agile?

An agile roadmap can be especially helpful for startups and product teams building something from scratch. That’s because it allows for flexibility and changes that customer feedback may help inform, and it doesn’t restrict you to building based solely on assumptions or deadlines. 

It’s normal for agile roadmaps to evolve and change — in fact, that dynamic aspect is considered a feature, not a bug! Building on Bubble makes it all the easier to iterate on your product as the development gameplan evolves. By providing space for iteration, agile teams can help foster transparency and trust around the problem to be solved, validate product-market fit, and measure how work aligns to business objectives. Agile roadmaps communicate the outcomes and strategy — not the outputs and exact plan. Because of this, they can be important communication and resource-allocation tools for internal stakeholders.

How should agile teams start the agile roadmapping process? 

Starting to create an agile roadmap isn’t super different from creating other roadmaps — but the final artifact is. Remember, agile roadmaps communicate the strategy, not the prescription for executing that strategy. 

Here are six steps to kick things off:

Create your roadmap

Now for the fun part: Roll up your sleeves and start creating a visual representation of your agile product roadmap. Make sure you think about how to make it accessible to various stakeholders.

Prioritize problems to be solved

Not every problem is of equal value. Prioritize based on customer feedback, data, and goals.

Identify key themes

The more you talk to customers and analyze market data, the more you’ll start to see trends, patterns, and recurring problems emerge that can help you validate (or invalidate!) assumptions and establish product-market fit.

Rally around your product strategy

Now it’s time to identify the approach you’ll use to bridge your outcomes to your vision. This step is likely informed by talking to customers, understanding your target market, and thinking about your core differentiators.

Identify your desired outcomes

What does success look like? What are the signals that will tell you you’re moving in the right direction? These can be qualitative business outcomes, customer outcomes, or quantitative KPIs or OKRs.

Align on your product vision

Start at the top: What is your startup’s north star vision statement, the thing that articulates why you’re building what you’re building? It’s almost impossible to create a successful roadmap without knowing where you’re trying to go.

What are some example agile product roadmap frameworks?

There are lots of ways teams can create and maintain agile roadmaps — and sometimes it takes a little ‌trial and error to adopt a format that works best for you and your team.

Now, next, later

The now, next, later format is a simple and effective strategy for dividing your work into three easy-to-understand buckets: now, next, and later. There aren’t specific timeframes or deadlines associated with these buckets, but they provide a visual reference for agile teams to know what’s most important, what’s on deck, and what’s down the road. As product strategy and future direction evolve, items can change swimlanes as needed — or even be removed altogether.

Quarterly agile roadmap

If your agile team isn’t loving a complete lack of dates on a roadmap, a quarterly agile roadmap can help keep the spirit of agile alive while still providing a general estimated timeframe for features and milestones. 

Instead of of the “now, next, later” schema, organize your work into quarters: Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4. If what’s on your planning horizon evolves, just adjust as needed.

Who owns agile roadmaps?

Ownership over a product roadmap often depends on the size of the team or company. For many solopreneurs or small startups, the founder or CEO may call the shots on the product roadmap. 

As teams grow, product roadmaps are typically managed by product teams (such as a product manager or product owner) or by development teams (such as an engineering manager or tech lead) in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders.

How can I best use agile product roadmaps as a founder?

Founders have a million and a half things to juggle. One of the benefits of agile roadmaps is that the more you learn from your V1, customer feedback, and user research, the more you can refine your design and product strategy to meet your user’s needs as they become more crisp and clear. Agile product roadmaps help you organize features to meet those needs against your product vision and desired outcomes — without locking yourself into a specific timeframe.

Many startups have several versions of their roadmap: one might be tactical for engineers, product managers, and designers; another might be high-level for investors or an executive board. There might even be a different internal roadmap that you use to help break things down into sprints or tell a coherent story for key contributors. Either way, the best approach to figuring out what works for you is to just start

Whether you’re using project or product management software or instead working with a physical whiteboard and sticky notes to create your agile roadmap, there’s no better time than now to get organized around how the new features you’re building today will help realize your long-term goals.

Bring your product roadmap to life on Bubble

Now that you know how to create your agile product roadmap, it’s time to start building. Bubble is a full-stack, no-code platform that helps you build, test, launch, and iterate all in one place.

Leverage Bubble's intuitive visual editor to ‌transform your roadmap into a tangible product, no coding knowledge or expensive development teams required.