Not Another Roadmap Tool: Jibility vs ProductPlan vs Roadmunk vs airfocus
By Jibility Co-Founder Chuen Seet
The market is flooded with roadmap tools, with those that focus on product roadmaps feeling particularly prevalent at the moment. In fact, if you’re searching online for a roadmap tool in general, you’re likely to land on one dedicated to product roadmapping. ProductPlan, Roadmunk, Monday and airfocus are some of the biggest players in this space.
However, the scope of a product roadmap is limited, as is the functionality of some of these tools. In addition, what if you need to understand your strategic and portfolio roadmap to inform your product roadmap? Which tool is right for you?
In this article, we cover three primary considerations for a roadmap tool:
- Roadmap Scope — what does the tool cover?
- Roadmap Tool Type — where does it sit relative to other tools?
- Roadmap Tool Functionality — what does it do?
Roadmap Scope: Jibility vs ProductPlan vs Roadmunk vs airfocus
Broadly speaking, roadmap tools cater for three different roadmap scopes.
Strategic roadmaps describe the journey that a business must go on to meet its strategic vision or goals. The items on a strategic roadmap are initiatives (which could represent a program of work or projects, depending on what the level within the organization that the roadmap is defined).
Building strategic roadmaps is at Jibility’s core, so this is where Jibility primarily sits — a simplified version of the complex enterprise architecture tools that also ensure strategic alignment and capability mapping.
Portfolio / Program Roadmaps
Portfolio / Program roadmaps describe a business change that can be grouped into a theme (like a digital transformation change). Enterprise architecture or portfolio planning (and Jibility) tools are well-suited to this purpose.
Project / Product Roadmaps
Project roadmaps describe the activities required to meet the project scope. Tools like Monday are predominant in the project space.
Product roadmaps describe the delivery sequence of product features, or the actions needed to deliver the product features. These roadmaps can get quite granular, compared to the high-level, holistic view provided by strategic roadmaps. Among numerous other tools, ProductPlan, Roadmunk and airfocus have been designed with this type of roadmap in mind.
The relationships between these roadmap scopes are illustrated in the diagram below.
For large organizations, a structured approach such as in Enterprise Architecture may require specialist tools that enable an architect to develop a strategic roadmap that feeds into creating a program roadmap. Likewise, the program roadmap could also provide input into developing one or more project or product roadmaps. This approach enables the architect to align the project or product roadmaps back to the strategic roadmap (strategic alignment).
Roadmap Tool Type: Simple or Complex? Jibility vs ProductPlan vs Roadmunk vs airfocus
Whatever the scope of your roadmap, you have the option of picking one of three types of tool: generic, dedicated or specialist.
Both generic and specialist tools (in particular Enterprise Architecture tools) are suited to creating all three roadmap scopes. Generic tools such as Microsoft Office (including Visio) can be used to craft just about any roadmap. While relatively simple and intuitive, these tools require a significant amount of effort because they are predominantly just a drawing tool for creating lines, shapes and text.
Specialist tools, such as Planview or BiZZdesign, can also be used to craft most roadmaps, but are complex and have a steep learning curve.
Dedicated tools, on the other hand, are designed for a specific purpose. This means that they are often not suited to cover all three scopes, but they are simple to use and highly effective for their chosen scope. Productplan, Roadmunk and airfocus are dedicated tools for the scope of product roadmaps; Jibility is a dedicated tool for the scope of strategic and program/portfolio roadmaps.
The diagram below shows where a variety of roadmapping tools fit in the market, depending on their complexity and scope. This is, of course, a mere handful of the tools available.
The Rise of Dedicated Roadmap Tools
Why the recent explosion in dedicated roadmap tools?
- They are simple and highly productive, requiring little to no training for the user to be effective.
- They can deliver visually impressive functionality via a web browser, i.e. no desktop installation is required (something often blocked by internal device management policies).
- The Software as a Service (SaaS) model makes it easy for customers to try and buy.
Dedicated product roadmap tools in particular have seen remarkable growth, in part due to the shift from project to product-centric mindsets, as well as the spread of Agile delivery approaches.
But there is a need for dedicated strategic and portfolio/program roadmap tools, and these have not seen the same rate of growth. You need to understand the overall business strategy before embarking on roadmapping a product. After all, how do you know which products to invest in without understanding the business roadmap?
Roadmap Tool Functionality: Jibility vs ProductPlan vs Roadmunk vs airfocus
Most dedicated roadmap tools offer seven core functionalities, each of which is concerned with presenting, representing or constructing an element of the roadmap (e.g. a product feature or an initiative).
- Drawing – Lines, shapes and text are drawn manually to represent each element on the roadmap.
- Visualizing – Data that describes each element, such as its name and type, is automatically drawn, and the user can arrange these elements on the roadmap.
- Prioritizing – A list of elements defined is reduced to a concise list based on a prioritization method. For example, by evaluating value against risks.
- Organizing – The elements are grouped and/or arranged into patterns. For example, actions are grouped into initiatives or features are organized into releases.
- Aligning – The elements are tied back to the strategy or goals. For example, explicit linkage to the strategic objectives.
- Formulating – The elements are defined and created.
- Rationalizing – Capture an understanding of why and what the roadmap must solve.
Based on these functionalities, we can position our dedicated roadmap tools relative to each other.
ProductPlan, Roadmunk and airfocus cover the same four functionalities for the product roadmap scope: visualizing, prioritizing, organizing and formulating. In terms of comparing the nuances of how these tools deliver these functionalities, they themselves have already carried out direct comparisons, and third party platforms such as Gartner Peer Insights also support easy comparison.
Jibility, on the other hand, sits at a higher level across the strategic and portfolio roadmap scopes, and supports alignment and rationalization in addition to the same four functionalities as ProductPlan, Roadmunk and airfocus.
Note that the tools we are exploring here are a step above being just a drawing tool like Microsoft Visio.
The Fundamental Difference Between Jibility, Productplan, Roadmunk and airfocus
The key takeaway here is that Jibility, as a roadmap tool, is not a direct equivalent to dedicated product roadmap tools such as ProductPlan, Roadmunk or airfocus. While its functionality certainly can be adapted to a product roadmap use case with a heavy strategic focus, Jibility’s purpose lies in helping users to build business and technology strategic roadmaps. This type of roadmap is an essential predecessor to any granular product roadmap.
Try out Jibility for free
Creating a strategic roadmap in Jibility is quick and easy, and sets you in good stead for pushing forward to build specific product roadmaps. Jibility introduces users to a unique method, with its roots in capability-based planning, and breaks the process down into six simple steps. Best of all, Jibility is free.