The Basics of Jira Roadmaps

Published: January 1, 2023

In order to better understand Jira roadmaps, let’s first determine what they are not.

Roadmaps are not project plans despite often being considered as one. The information roadmaps provide is at a much higher level than in a project plan, and roadmaps don’t have tasks assigned to specific people.

Classic Project Plan

Roadmaps are a highly visual representation of major features and major initiatives that will happen over a more extended period, such as months, quarters, or even years.

Product Roadmap

Jira was not supporting the concept of roadmaps until recently. This feature was first rolled out exclusively in the next-gen projects and later in the classic projects.

Basic and Advanced Roadmaps in Jira

Jira roadmaps come in two flavours – basic and advanced. Basic roadmaps are available as a part of all Jira Software Plans, including the free one, while Advanced roadmaps are included in Jira Software Premium plans.

There are two main differences between the two roadmap versions. The Advanced version supports roadmaps across multiple projects, while the Basic version is limited to a single project. The other difference is team member workload monitoring, which is available only in Advanced roadmaps.

In this article, we will cover the Basic version of Jira roadmaps.

Enabling Jira Roadmaps

The first step is to ensure that the Roadmap feature is enabled. In the Classic Jira project, that is done in the Board Setting screen. You can navigate there using the action button in the top right corner of the Backlog or Active Sprints screen. Select Board Settings and the Roadmap section is at the bottom of the settings list. To enable the roadmap for that board, simply click it and turn on the switch.

Enabling Jira Roadmaps

Below is an example of a reasonably populated roadmap for a fictitious e-commerce website. You can tell right away that the features and initiatives on the left are actually Jira epics. Functionality that is added by the roadmap feature is significantly improved visualization of the epics. We can quickly and easily tell approximately when each epic is delivered and how that delivery timeframe relates to deliveries of other epics. There are no specific dates mentioned anywhere, and that is entirely on purpose.

Jira Roadmap

Jira Roadmap Filters

Roadmaps are used to convey the same information to various groups of team members and stakeholders. The marketing team, for example, would like to know when certain features, such as reviews and wish lists, will be available, so they can plan marketing campaigns accordingly. At the same time, they don’t care that much about monitoring and alerting or load testing timelines.

The user-feature label is applied to all epics that support user features, while the ops label is applied to epics that support operational features. That enables a label filter, allowing us to switch between different views for different audiences quickly.

Adding and Prioritizing Epics

You can add a new epic without leaving the screen by simply clicking the ‘Create Epic’ link. The inline editor opens up, enter the name of the epic and it will be created and appear in the roadmap.

This screen also provides a few additional features. You can sort epics according to priority by dragging them up and down. Besides the default monthly time scale, weekly and quarterly time scales are also available. In addition, you can export the roadmap as a PNG file using the export functionality.

Stories, Tasks and Bugs in Jira Roadmaps

Jira epics contain stories, tasks, and bugs. That is not roadmap specific. It is a Jira feature that has been around forever, but this relationship has a different visualization in the roadmap screen. You can expand an epic to show its children, and you can create a new child issue using the plus sign next to the epic’s name. This action also supports inline editing.

Epic Child Issues

Progress Indicators in Roadmaps

The roadmap indicates Epic’s progress, and the status of its child issues is used to evaluate it. Blue and green bars appear under Account Management epic. The green reflects the number of completed child issues, while the blue indicates how many are in progress.

Dependencies Between Epics

The roadmaps screen also helps us visualize dependencies between epics much better than before. In this case, there is a blocking link between ‘Shopping Cart Management’ and ‘Purchase,’ as indicated by this line. If I need to create another dependency, I can just grab the handle when hovering over it and move it to the linked epic.

A couple of key things to remember: 

  1. Roadmaps are not project plans.
  2. Only major features and initiatives are represented in roadmaps.
  3. The same information is conveyed to different groups through roadmaps using different views.
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