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Roadmaps in Jira explained
Jun 02

Roadmaps in Jira explained

Think of a roadmap as a bird’s eye view of the entire project. A roadmap is a high-level plan, or a strategy, visualized on a timeline. How to have a roadmap in Jira? Do I need a plugin or app? What is Jira roadmapping?

Roadmap associations

Roadmaps are about: Strategy, vision, overview, highlight, priorities, major dates (milestones), long-term, graphical tool (timeline), simplicity, communicating/sharing goals, at a glance, shared understanding, coordination, expectations

Roadmaps are NOT about: Granularity, detailed view, itemized plan, minutiae

Roadmap, a bird's eye view

The road maps are about shared understanding, overarching goals, and bird’s eye view.

Rules of thumb

  • a roadmap should fit a single sheet of paper or slide/screen
  • up to four items per workstream (∼team) per year
  • order matters: top workstreams on top, top goals on top, etc.
  • plain language; avoid jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations
  • you should be able to comprehend a roadmap within 3 minutes
  • the further into the future, the coarser-grained the goals should be

Jira roadmap plugin

Jira features no roadmap functionality by default. As a matter of fact, Jira Software has not been designed for long-term planning. It’s sprint- and cadence-focused and lacks aggregation. Ask Jira Agile for “a rough plan for the next 6 months” and you’ll get a list of 500 tasks.

Portfolio for Jira (the app by Atlassian) does better. In fact, it’s been devised with roadmapping in mind. With such features as “capacity usage in October” Jira Portfolio might seem great for tactical planning. But for Jira Portfolio there was always an elephant in the room…

BigPicture does even better. With aesthetically pleasing roadmaps and other PPM tools, such as Gantt chart, resources, and risk modules, with green or red dependency arrows, that our clients love so much, BigPicture fits a PPM manager’s needs. Remember that “appetite comes with eating”?

What does Jira Roadmapping stand for?

Not just plain strategic planning. And not only drawing a roadmap in Jira for that plan. Also, integration with Jira backlog or tracker, resources, and risk modules.


Roadmap consists of

Jira agile roadmap in BigPicture

Agile roadmap in BigPicture 8. You can set objectives, goals both at the iteration, and program increment levels. PBV translates to Planned Business Value, ABV = Actual Business Value.


  • A timeline with the project divided into stages (Program Increments in SAFe®)
  • Project goals at least in the form of deliverables
  • High-level tasks

Should haves

  • Workstreams, or separate swim lanes
  • Milestones, or key events

Could haves

  • Risks
  • Dependencies


Roadmap Q&A

Are roadmaps necessary in the Agile times?

Yes. Team boards and dependency boards are not enough. It’s good to observe overarching goals on the horizon (the much-discussed common understanding). It’s good to see ‘human-readable’ long-term goals, expressed with simple language and colloquial speech, rather than tasks. Road maps are good here.

Static planning

Roadmaps are among those rare PPM situations that call for static planning. Few people should be given permission to modify goals on the roadmap so that at the end of the day the project manager is able to compare the results with the original plan.

Team swimplanes on Jira

Team swimlanes on Jira BigPicture roadmap, iteration-level planning.



Who do roadmaps cater to?

  • to teams – to generate a shared understanding of goals
  • to stakeholders – who input goals on roadmaps, and confront these goals with real-life results afterward

Are stakeholders the owners of the company?

The term Stakeholders have a very different meaning in roadmapping than in everyday life. They are often not owners of a company.

Stakeholders in project management are: (a) a manager who is most interested in the outcome of a project, (b) a manager who secures resources for the project, and (c) a steering committee or representatives of all the organizations involved in the project.

A sample milestone, please…

Say, you’ll attend a SAFe summit on April 10th in the hope to increase your sales by 20% in the given year. This could be your milestone, sometimes expressed as a vertical red line on a timeline.

What a roadmap is NOT:

  • a Gantt chart. With the bar chart, you could plan “for July 15th”. With a roadmap, you plan “for October” or “for the 3rd quarter”. The Gantt charts are much more fine-grained than the roadmaps. Yet, we must say, some BigPicture users actually use our Gantt chart as a roadmap. Starting BigPicture 8 you can even rename the Gantt chart module, to whatever you want.
  • a backlog. While a roadmap sets a general direction, the backlog is a set of detailed issues. But a roadmap should work together with the backlog.
  • a project management tracker. Jira or Trello are trackers and a roadmap is a separate app, or addon, or plugin, that helps a project manager see the big picture.
Gantt-style product management roadmap Jira

Gantt chart-style product roadmap in Jira BigPicture. Starting BigPicture 8 you can rename the ‘Gantt’ label to, say, ‘Product roadmap’.

How to add risks to the roadmap?

Keep risks on a separate matrix, rather than on the Roadmap. It would be wise to purchase a Jira roadmap plugin that has a Risk management module, too. BigPicture is one such add-on.



BigPicture roadmap evolution

Over the years the Roadmap module in BigPicture has evolved. We began with the board-like roadmap and the Board is still present in BigPicture, but it now bears its proper name (compare the two). The true Roadmap module, however, is a new thing; BigPicture version 7 saw it for the first time.

Quarterly roadmap

Now, we focused on extremes in this article: agile roadmaps or purely timeline-based roadmapping. There is something in-between –  quarterly roadmaps. You can easily configure BigPicture to display quarters instead of iterations and program increments. An ideal tool for hybrid projects.

Quarterly product roadmap

You can use quarters or months, instead of iterations and program increments, on BigPicture Roadmap.


About The Author

With his automotive background Marcin goes beyond the 'Jira + software development' standard. He likes simple, up-to-five-sentence answers to complex questions.