“You’ll learn more about a road by traveling it than be consulting all the maps in the world.”
Anonymous

When a year starts, we all tend to make personal resolutions. Companies make road maps and yearly plans for their budgets, marketing, resources and product development.
As a small but fast-growing company ourselves, we thought it will be a good idea to prepare a such a road map for our test management service. Plan the new features, enhancements, areas we want to improve and services to add.
So we asked our customers for their 2011 feature requests, and then gathered all of our ideas and sat down to make the plan for the year. Since we have a monthly version release, we needed to plan now each months version, 12 months ahead.

It wasn’t too long before we realized this was a waste of time.

Doing so, takes much of the advantages for a company like ours:
Small enough to be flexible, quickly reacting to changes and new needs.
Working Agile.
Developing hand-in-hand with the involvement of customers, getting their feedback and answering current needs.
Being a SaaS solution provider, and therefore have no problem updating the product in short intervals, with small changes.

“Breaking” features to smaller parts

Over 4 years of development of Testuff, made it clear that no matter what we think about a new feature, and how it should be, the daily tester work is what matters. How and if a new product feature or option will be used, depends on how much it is easy to use and how it answers what the user really needs.
Now how to know that before they start using it? No way to know.
So, we learned to “break” planned features into smaller parts (which will also fit into one month) and wait for the users to tell us “what now”. In which direction to continue with this feature which they mostly need.
When working this way, you create features and tools that users like, need and more than that – actually use.

Now, try to plan 12 months ahead….

An Agile-Road-Map

If your development efforts (and testing to this matter) are agile structured, you need to have the same approach to your strategic plan. In Testuff, we plan 1-2 versions ahead (which are 1-2 months in time), and keep a draft of the next-in-line versions. But then, we stop every month after the release and check the plan again – what was changed? what new did we learn from customers this month? which new ideas did we came up with, which may better fit in in the next version (than those items recorded there 1-2 months ago)?

Doing this, we are using the road map as the general direction for the product development, but do not “lock” ourselves to lists and decisions made before. We are able to fix the mistakes, making sure the road still is the right one.

Actually, our company has adopted ‘agile’ in all aspects of its operations. Based on the company’s vision, strategic goals and cultural principals we act on short intervals, fixing the direction as we go.

The quality of products and customers satisfaction are the best way to know if you are on the right track, moving in the right direction. It correlates nicely with the financial results.

Flexible, adjustable road map

“Be clear about your goal but be flexible about the process of achieving it.”
Brian Tracy

We know our goals. We are building better tools and services for testers. To achieve this we keep an open mind and a flexible approach for development, making decision as we travel down this road map.
Yes, after all, we do have one. A road map. however, it is under constant observation and practically changes as we travel.