Kanban Roadmap: What Is It and How Can It Help?

There is more than one way to create product roadmaps. These strategic documents come in different forms, one of which is the Kanban roadmap. The ideal one to choose depends on your peculiar situation.

As the name suggests, a Kanban roadmap is one that is influenced by the popular Kanban methodology. It offers a way of arranging items or tasks into diverse categories. The document shares some things in common with the Agile Kanban board.

The methodology underlying this roadmap type was developed by Toyota for just-in-time manufacturing in its factories. The term “Kanban” is Japanese for “visual signal,” “billboard,” or just “card.”

A major focus of Kanban is about knowing the state of affairs at a glance. That’s what a roadmap based on the methodology also does. It allows you to group initiatives or activities into different groups and see how they fit into the big picture.

A Kanban roadmap has elements of both a backlog and a roadmap. Also known as a list-view roadmap, it shows what you are working on or intend to work on later.

Tasks are categorized into columns based on their stage. You could categorize tasks or features under headings such as “In Progress,” “To Do,” and “Done.”

The items on these lists are typically color-coded to show what goal or theme that they relate to.

It should be noted that the inclusion of a task or item on a roadmap doesn’t guarantee that it will be worked on.

How Can a Kanban Roadmap Help You?

Product managers can find a list-view roadmap very helpful when looking to organize development plans around tasks and make things run smoothly. At a glance, it gives you an idea of what’s going on without needing to first get and read through time-consuming reports. It lets you know easily and quickly what progress you’re making toward achieving your goals.

Monitoring may be easier with this type of roadmap. It makes it possible to easily keep a tab on all projects relating to a product. You might also be able to tell quickly who’s responsible for what.

A Kanban roadmap is a good communication tool. For instance, it helps you to share the initiatives that you’re working on or hope to work on to stakeholders. This may reduce repetitive feature requests or having to answer questions from time to time on what features you’re working on.

With this kind of roadmap, you can present the right information to different stakeholders. It lets everyone know the progress being made but guides their actions differently.

And, of course, a Kanban roadmap steers prioritization. It lets the product development team know what tasks should come first in light of your goals.

Kanban Roadmap vs. Timeline Roadmap

There are other types of roadmaps aside from the one that uses the Kanban technique. One of them is the timeline-based variant. How does this compare?

Kanban roadmaps involve organizing cards relating to tasks into columns across boards. It presents quick insights into items and the stage you are in development at a glance. There are no dates or deadlines to abide by.

A timeline roadmap, on the other hand, comes with deadlines. It stipulates timeframes within which tasks need to be completed. The document describes the initiatives you’re working on along with estimated delivery dates. It doesn’t provide contextual information on why you included items, in terms of goals.

The inclusion of deadlines is a major pitfall of timeline-based roadmaps. This makes them less ideal in Agile settings and makes Kanban roadmaps more appealing.

The Kanban technique removes too much specificity. It prevents unwanted pressure from stakeholders that comes with having dates and deadlines on your strategic document. You can change things as you consider necessary over time.

When to Consider Using a Kanban Roadmap

Kanban is more about eliminating waste. This makes it more useful for you if your company is a small or midsize one. It can help your organization to be more flexible and adapt quickly to changes. This is necessary to avoid wasting scarce resources.

It can be said that this technique can be beneficial to all organizations practicing Agile. More and more product teams working in such a setting have to re-prioritize tasks in development. This can be difficult to do with long-term, rather-rigid roadmaps.

A Kanban roadmap helps you to be more responsive to emerging data and trends in your target market. It gives room for product managers to continue to review decisions to guide development in the right direction.

It can be seen that this roadmap technique should go together with ongoing research and data analysis. Findings determine what should get more attention in development.

Many product teams can achieve even better results when they use a Kanban roadmap alongside a longer-term, strategic roadmap.

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