Project ManagementSalesforceTechnical Debt

Why creating a roadmap is important

How can planning a roadmap be used to support your Salesforce org?  Especially when it is used by more than just one team in your the business.  How can you ensure you deliver what is truly needed?  How do you prioritise your efforts?

What is a roadmap?

First thing first, let’s have a quick look at what a roadmap is.

charles-darwin-quote
Change is the only constant, how will your business adapt?
A roadmap is a strategic business planning tool often used to outline the future vision of a system(s) or product.  It will show what changes and development is needed to get there and will visualise the items you plan to deliver over a specific timespan.

So how does that relate to Salesforce?  In a world that is full of change and competing priorities, business is no different.  There will be new bugs and issues to fix.  New business priorities which may change the strategic direction, resulting in changes to the system. As a result, any roadmap will need to continously evolve as the business priorities change.

A system roadmaps is most often used in Agile delivery environment, and will help stakeholders visualise where/when any planned improvements are likely to happen.

 

But why is it important?

Imagine your working on a jigsaw puzzle.  You know somehow it all fits together, but you are not sure what you should focus on first.  All the pieces just seem a bit random at the start.  Then slowly but surely you start to set a strategy in place.  A plan of attack for solving the puzzle.

Maybe you start by putting all the edge pieces in place first, followed by any pieces that relate to distinct image that is part of the puzzle.   Then over time as you have more and more of the pieces in place, you start to see the image come together.  Now imagine you are working on the jigsaw puzzle with other people.  How will can you make sure you are all aligned and working towards the same goal?

To me this is essentially what a roadmap is and why it is important.  Breaking the puzzle into smaller focus areas allows you to create a strong foundation for tracking your progress as you go along.  And by setting a strategy in place, you should be able to deliver the finished result quicker than if you just tried to solve it in a random / unplanned fashion.

As an example of a roadmap, Monzo (a start-up bank here in the UK) openly publishes a Trello product roadmap for their apps, detailing the features planned running against a timeline (short term, medium term, etc).  If you want to check it out, you can view it here.

 

How do you create a roadmap?

Where do you start?  Planning your roadmap is an overall, continous process.  But by taking the time to define and maintain it, you continually evolve what the future vision looks like and become more proactive about where Salesforce will grow/develop – which in turn should minimise those ‘why didn’t I know about it’ moments.

There are a number of steps you can go through, and by all means this isn’t a definitive list.  Also keep in mind that project methodolodies (eg Agile) may also play a part in the ‘how’ and ‘what’ you need to define.

Identify stakeholders & research

If you are starting from scratch, identify your key end-users & stakeholders (Sales, Finance, Marketing, IT, etc)?  By knowing who to go to, you can then research what is important to your business.  Ask what are their key priorities for the year ahead.  What improvements would they love to see made to Salesforce?  If you don’t have a relationship with your stakeholders, this will helps to open the door.  And will also come in handy later on.

Innovation & ideas

You might also have your own improvements or changes you want to make to Salesforce.  After the last post, you might have identified potential technical debt within your Salesforce which needs to be addressed.

Also what about new features and innovations you want roll out.  Things like a move to Lightning UI?  All of this will need to be added into the mix too, as remember we need to balance out all of the priorities as we won’t be able to do it all at the same time. 🙂

By combining the earlier research with your own ideas, you now have a list of different and competing business priorities.  But how do you sort through the list?

Setting the business priorities

Firstly some priorities which get raised will simply be so critical to the business that the priority and timeline will almost be set for you.  For everything else, here is where you can get creative.

One idea is to get your key stakeholders together in a room.  In this session encourage people to be open and transparent, while keeping everyone focussed on what is best for the business  and not individual departments/teams.  Going around the table, everyone who raised a priority gives an elevator pitch to the group covering where they see the value of the request.  As each pitch is given, a card or post-it goes up on the wall.ideas on a whiteboard

After the pitches are finished, give out three sticky dots to everyone (or you can simply use pens).  Next tell them to place two dots next to the idea they would prioritise first and one dot on their second priority.  The aim is to get some overall coordination on what to focus on first, where the priority is driven by the highest amount of dots – where you sort the cards by descending order.  Close out the meeting by going around the table again and confirm if people agree with the outcome.

By involving your stakeholders in setting your roadmap, you allow them to buy in to the future vision of the platform.

Unfortunately there can be circumstances where stakeholders can’t come to a conclusion.  This is when you would become a little more direct.  The group should at least try and seperate out the list into what is needed versus what’s a nice to have.  If this still doesn’t work, you may need to get an appropriate Sponser (possibly a senior leader within the business) involved.

Visualise the roadmap

Roadmaps come in all shapes, sizes and formats.  It is important to realise that they are generally high-level in nature.  Covering the themes and objectives you plan on delivering. Save the detail of what needs delivery for a project plan and the team involved in delivery.

Personally, I have I tend to only set a roadmap for the next 6-12 months.  And then bundle everything else together under a header of ‘future items’, but you can be as creative as you want.  As mentioned earlier, these plans are subject to change.  Aim is to make it easy enough to adjust moving forward.

When it comes to estimating the time and effort, there will be an element of making an educated guess on some of the work involved.  Ask around the Salesforce community and see what others estimate.  If there is a vendor/partner involved, they can also give you an idea of the effort involved.

Another very simple example of a roadmap would be to group items by a theme down one column, and have your timescale running along the top.  Then your individual deliverables/projects become the cells in between.  Here is another example of what you could do simply in a spreadsheet:

roadmap example
Example of a roadmap
There are plenty of other alternatives out there though, just do a Google image search for other examples!  As mentioned above, you can use a bit of creative license here.  Just make sure it is easy to understand what you are trying to convey.

Communication

Now we are near the finishing line of this whole process.

After putting all of this together, play back the outcomes with key stakeholders to get a final sign-off.  Doing this allows any further alterations to be made.  It also ensures that everyone has bought in to the process and vision, meaning you can then focus on delivery.

And remember to revist the roadmap roughly every six months.

 

Wrap up

I will reiterate that this is just one way to come up with a roadmap.  The process can vary depending on the size of your business, what the priorities are and even lines of accountability within your company.

For an additional resource there is a great Trailhead module (Innovation Solutions), which covers the topics of roadmaps and implementation planning.

I would love to hear from you and your experiences when setting a roadmap.  Please feel free to add in the comments below any steps you take in creating a roadmap.

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Adam Gill

I have been working with the Salesforce platform for over seven years now. My background includes a variety of CRM projects and experiences (both greenfield and legacy), covering a variety of industries. I currently have 4x certified, though always looking to increase that count! :-)

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