https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2017/03/27/how-we-are-using-roadmaps-in-government/

How we are using roadmaps in government

Not so long ago, product roadmaps in government were viewed as experimental and optional. Now, they’re seen as an important tool for delivering better products and transforming government services.

Exploring roadmaps in the community

Each product manager in government should be managing a roadmap for their product or contributing to one at the portfolio level. That said, exactly how roadmaps should look, what they should capture and how they should be managed varies.

We were keen to explore how different departments approach roadmapping and what challenges they face, and discuss good practice. Our monthly cross-government gathering of people interested in product management – Product People – seemed like the right forum to do that.

product team meeting

The benefits of roadmaps

Neil Williams, Head of GOV.UK, kicked off the February Product People meet-up by talking through why GOV.UK had started using a roadmap. He discussed the roadmap’s evolution from a paper-based list into its current format, which sets out GOV.UK’s mission from 2017 to 2018.   

Neil explained that a roadmap is a high-level visual summary mapping out the development of a product over time. It’s a useful way of showing the vision and direction for a product, and ensuring that everyone is working towards common goals. Roadmaps suit agile ways of working because their format is lightweight, simple to engage with and it allows for frequent adjustments based on changing priorities.

roadmap sticky notes

Portfolio roadmaps and delivering value

Next, Scott Colfer, Head of Product at Ministry of Justice (MoJ), talked about using a roadmap format to see the development of several products in a portfolio at once, which is something they had been doing at MoJ.

Scott showed us the MoJ roadmap and shared some useful learnings from his team so far. He said that portfolio roadmaps work best when you have a good understanding of what the service you’re building is, who its users are and what value you are trying to deliver.

Consistency, not uniformity of roadmaps

Toby Smith, a product manager at Home Office, showed the Home Office’s experiments in roadmapping and introduced the idea of standardising roadmap formats not just within departments but across government.

The team at Home Office found that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all in practice. But Toby believed there was some evidence that a consistent approach could make roadmaps more credible in the eyes of key stakeholders. This provoked a good debate and we agreed to reconvene to explore a common set of cross-government principles to support roadmaps.

Future community gatherings

Our session on roadmaps was another good example of getting together as a community to learn and make the most of the wealth of skills and experience across government. It’s the sort of opportunity that makes you challenge what you know and enables you to get support from others. It’s another example of how we are working together to grow the right people, skills and culture to transform policy and service delivery in government.

Product People meet-ups take place in London monthly, with other regional meet-ups popping up across the UK. Comment below if you work for the UK government and would like to find out more.

You can follow Ross on Twitter, and don’t forget to sign up for email alerts.

16 comments

  1. Comment by James Glossop posted on

    Really interesting read. Love the debate of standardising roadmaps vs creative freedom to do what works best for the product team. Would definitely be interested in attending a meet up in the north

    • Replies to James Glossop>

      Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

      Hi James

      Why not get in touch with Scott Colfer in MoJ to discuss it in the context of your department.

      Maybe you could organise a meet up in your region using the Product People mailing list and cross-government Slack channel.

  2. Comment by Jordan Armstrong posted on

    Hi,

    I work in government as a product manager and would be interested to find out more about the ideas which are being shared.

    • Replies to Jordan Armstrong>

      Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

      Hi Jordan

      I’m sure Alex Kean would be up for discussing roadmapping with you in the context of your department.

      And if you’d like to continue the conversation with colleagues across government, you should join #prodmgmt on the cross-gov Slack channel.

  3. Comment by Vicky posted on

    I would be interested to hear about the balance of flexibility and clarity in these roadmaps. There's a lot of hate for designed documents but I'd argue they help visually prioritise information better than a set of post-its or a trello board. You can get a surprisingly good looking document that is still collaborative using things like Google Drawings too.

    • Replies to Vicky>

      Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

      Hi Vicky

      There’s agreement that roadmaps serve to provide both flexibility and clarity but that getting the balance of those two things comes only through iteration.

      We heard from product teams who have their roadmap on both a wall in their office and online. In both formats, savvy product managers will call on the skills of their designers to help present the information effectively

  4. Comment by Martin OBrian posted on

    Hi Ross, I work for the intellectual property office and would like to find out more. We have a portfolio of products that when combined, contribute to transforming our organisation. It'd be great to share our learnings and experiences of building a narrative and roadmap.

    • Replies to Martin OBrian>

      Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

      Hi Martin

      Sounds good. You could share your experiences on the cross-government Slack channel, the Product People mailing list and we could organise a show and tell demo at a future Product People meet-up. I’m also up for a field visit to IPO to see product teams in action.

  5. Comment by Hayley Sorrell posted on

    Hello!
    Thanks for sharing. I'm a product manager at NHS Digital and would be very interested in coming along to meet ups.

    • Replies to Hayley Sorrell>

      Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

      Hi Hayley

      I'll take the liberty of adding you to the mailing list where notifications for the meet-ups are shared. See you at one in the near future.

  6. Comment by Matt posted on

    Great blog Ross. I'm interested in finding out more about product management at GDS and across Government

    • Replies to Matt>

      Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

      Hi Matt

      Great, happy to share - I'll be in touch.

  7. Comment by Lindsay Branston posted on

    Hi Ross, i'm a new product manager at Scottish Enterprise, working on digitisation of our grants funding. Keen to come along and find out more about shared learning and meet up's.
    Cheers

  8. Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

    Hi Lindsay

    Good to hear, I'll be in touch with the details of the Product People mailing list and the x-gov Slack channels.

  9. Comment by Roy D'Souza posted on

    Hi, I work in the NHS and we are attempting to put together technical roadmaps for services we offer. I would be really interested to attend the next meetup in London.

    • Replies to Roy D'Souza>

      Comment by Ross Ferguson posted on

      Hi Roy

      Martin Cornford and Becky Smith from NHS were at the recent meet-up on roadmaps, so would be worth checking in with them for their notes. I'll send you an invite to the mailing list for the events.