Rolling wave planning compromise.
February 14, 2008
David @ 37signals is saying, You do not need a product road map:
It’s better to turn customers away than to placate their instincts and lure them in with vague promises. It’s incredibly rare that a single feature will truly make or break your chance with a customer. If your software is a good enough fit, most people can make do without that one or two things that they’d like to see.
John @ SplicedNetworks is saying, Goodbye Roadmap:
The concept of a roadmap has been thrown out, replaced with list of initial functional features . These features are currently in development, and will be the initial AppOS 4.0 release. AppOS 4.0 won’t be the bells and whistles release initially, instead it will be functional. Features will be expanded and added based on customer feedback , as well as our own use of the product.
These are agile companies talking. I support this concept and I am pretty sure they know what they are talking about. Our backlog is our idea of a road map, it is telling us what could be coming in the future releases (most probably the higher priority items) although you can not really say when exactly and in which order. One or two iterations ahead the situation is much clearer but beyond that not really, it is all driven by the changing market requirements.
But then, even scrum masters keep bringing up the concept of the rolling wave planning, which basically means: lets still try to maintain our road map and long term release plans, even though we’re agile. Isn’t that somewhat contradictory to the iterative “agile” concept which tells you that it does not make much sense to predict that far ahead?
I think Jerry Manas expressed it very well in his comment to Forced Into ‘Agile’:
But even in the Defense Industry, Rolling Wave scheduling is becoming the norm, where each horizon is planned at a more granular level as it approaches (although the whole project is laid out up front at a higher level). I look at Rolling Wave as a hybrid between Agile and BDUF (and it’s appropriate for most projects most of the time).
So is the rolling wave a vehicle for transition to agile or a means to keep your business/management/VC folks happy (by giving them a plan that wont survive the reality)? What is your take on this issue? Do you create product road maps in your agile environment? Do you use the rolling wave concept? How practical is that? It would be very curious to learn.
Our product Yoxel Agile Product Management is quite straight forward in this sense. You’ve got your backlog and your iterations, which we also call incremental releases, because for us those are the same (~1month: implementation+testing). No rolling wave with long term release plans and even longer term road map plans. You can start planning next iteration while you’re implementing/testing one and so you will have a good idea for what is coming in a month or two but beyond that your best bet is the prioritized baclkog .