The Roadmap feature in Jira Cloud's NextGen projects is getting three new features. While all good additions, the question still remain who these new features are for and to what extent these new features will make people move over to NextGen projects.
NextGen for Jira Cloud is in a strange place as it is not really defined what is can and should be used for. The Roadmap feature is in a similar place as it fall somewhere between Portfolio for Jira and the Roadmap planner macro in Confluence. These 3 new features are an improvement and a good indication on where Atlassian are going. The question is just how fast these new features are coming out and if it appeal to the target audience.
Drill down into the details
The first feature is the ability to open up the Epic and see the underlying tasks. This is a much needed feature that was heavily requested and also one I spoke with Atlassian about earlier this fall. This is a good feature and a good step to improve the roadmap, but is still in need of further refinement.
We still only have Epics as the starting point, which will limit the use of Roadmaps. Opening up the subtasks will only show their status at the moment, which is useful, but not what many want. Many still want a Gant view where the sum of the subtasks should make up the time in the Epic. This is not possible at the moment and I find it interesting that Atlassian has chosen to follow an Agile first approach to the Roadmaps, which means it will not be very useful for the majority of the companies using Atlassian's products today.
"we eventually decided to follow what the majority feedback from the research said, that many agile teams found mapping story level issues to the timeline to be too waterfall-like and cumbersome. - Erika Sa, Jira Software Product Manager
Add new tasks directly in the Roadmap
Another great feature that was much requested is the ability to create new sub tasks directly in the Roadmap. This way we can build up a full stack of tasks for a project in one view, which is excellent for portfolio and project planning purposes. The fact that we do not get full Gantt view for the sub tasks makes this a little less useful for time and resource planning however.
Filter your Epics and Tasks
The ability to use different filters is a must for any Portfolio, but even roadmaps benefit from filtering options. In this release we get the filters for issue status and assignee, which is a good start. I would like to see some more filters like dependencies and of course issues that are behind the time schedule. The question is just who this Roadmap feature is for though as then we are moving more into project management and Portfolio management and Atlassian has previously stated that the Roadmap is for teams.
It's a good start, but...
I am still not sure where NextGen projects are heading, which means it's hard to say if the features are great or poor. We know that Roadmaps will be ported over to the Classic project types as well, but that will make things even more confusing. This is unfortunately a common issue with Atlassian as they are getting more and more fractured with no clear indication on structure or strategy.
Roadmaps for me is something that should stay as a team tool for small teams to give an overview of the current work. To cater to that need Roadmaps could benefit from a few changes.
The first would be to change the basic structure and allow the view to be in any level. That means that I should be able to use Stories rather than Epics as Epics are just containers and not work tasks. The majority of issues are not connected to Epics in most teams, especially if you work in a Kanban setting for continuous improvements for example.
The second would be to go full gantt, or rather to give the option to go full gantt. Not every team need or will use estimation in issues, but most do. Without a full gantt the view of issues will not be as useful as a progress overview tool. It's like saying that I have a container of a certain size and in that container I have put five items. On the question if the items will fit my only answerr will be "I don't know", which is in many organizations not an acceptable answer.
The third would be to add dependencies on issues and not just on Epics and extend the data to also show data from other projects. In most organizations dependencies are not within the team itself, but to surrounding teams. Even if the view is for the team it makes sense that I should be able to see what other teams could be affected.
The fourth would be to ensure that Roadmaps becomes a granular part of a larger view. Right now it is an isolated feature, which means that we will have different data for different levels of the organization. This will lead to miscommunication within the organization as teams will say Epics, which will mean something very different to Program managers and Portfolio managers and so on. As more and more organization add SAFe to their processes it is important that the team view is part of the greater whole.
I am sure we will so many great additions to Roadmaps in 2020 and hopefully many of the questions we have regarding Roadmaps and NextGen projects will get answers then. Until then these three new features are welcome additions that I am sure will help many teams improve their work processes.