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.
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.
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.