For some time now, I've been using a sort of dependency graph to visualise roadmaps. I strongly dislike the more traditional type of roadmap, where one makes empty promises and sets arbitrary deadlines. My roadmaps have no time elements at all. Instead they aim to show the approximate roads one needs to take to reach one's goal.

Here's an example: I want to have a hosted version of Ick, a CI system. To have that, I need to make a few changes to Ick. Some of those changes require other changes. Some of the changes are independent of each other. I visualise this as follows:

Roadmap to hosted Ick as a dependency graph

The pink diamond-shaped goal is at the bottom. The grey oval is a task that is finished, done: it's kept in the roadmap to show progress. The white ovals are changes I could make now, if I chose to: they do not depend on any other changes. The green oval is the change I've chosen to do next. I develop things in iterations, and for each iteration I choose one change. The pink rectangles are blocked: they can't be done until some other change is done first.

Note that there are many roads to the destination. The map metaphor breaks down here: when travelling in real life, any road that leads to Rome is enough. When doing a project, all roads need to be taken to get Rome built.

I update the roadmap for each iteration. I plan those parts of the roadmap that I expect to do soon in more detail, and leave later parts for later. There's no point in breaking down later changes into small details: things might change enough that the change becomes unnecessary, even if it now seems inevitable, and planning in detail things that get discarded is a waste of effort. Also, too much detail in a roadmap makes it hard to follow.

I don't know if this dependecy graph is a known approach, perhaps with a fancy name, but I doubt I'm the first to think of this.

What do you think?

(For Ick, I then plan each iteration in some detail, and have a planning meeting, where each task is described and estimated, and has acceptance criteria. See minutes of Ick meetings for examples.)