When it comes to relationships, every one looks a little different. Whether it’s your relationship with family, friends, your partner, or your manager, it’s never one size fits all. The same applies to roadmapping. When looking to create relationships between items in your roadmap, there can’t be only one way to link items together.
Fortunately, Roadmunk recognizes this, and has a suite of three different Linked Item types available so unique item relationships can be accurately reflected. Linked Items are one of the most useful, collaborative features you can take advantage of on your roadmapping journey. With Linked Items, you can create multiple relationships between items and roadmaps across your organization, which ultimately makes for better collaboration, alignment, and strengthened decision making.
Throughout this guide, we’ll show you how to use and implement Linked Items within your own roadmaps. From there, we’ll highlight some key benefits of this feature that will help you increase productivity and partnerships within your own product team.
Understanding Linked Items in Roadmunk
Before we zoom in on what makes Linked Items so powerful, let’s take a step back and examine what they are in detail to lay a proper framework.
At the most basic level, Linked Items allow you to tie items together and visualize that connection on your roadmaps. In turn, this visual representation provides your team full visibility into how your items are intertwined. Ideally, creating Linked Items will help you identify your most connected items early on in the planning process. That way, you can highlight any potential risks, giving your team clarity on who needs to work on what before moving forward.
Within Roadmunk, you have access to three types of Linked Items: Moves With, Blocking, and Relates To. Let’s see how and when you should put them to use.
Linked Item Type #1: Moves With
If it’s better alignment that you're after, Moves With will be your best friend. This type of Linked Item will move items with each other in tandem—so as one item shifts, other Linked Items are proportionally moved by the same time period.
How might this look when put into practice? Let’s say you’re planning a product update to one of your existing features. Unfortunately, your dev team came up against an unexpected blocker, and they’ll need more time to fix the issue. Not to fear, because with Moves With, you can simply drag one item across your roadmap, and any linked items will follow in parallel. That means any other teams who need to be in the know about the unexpected snag will automatically be notified via email and in-app about the change, and thus the dates on their corresponding items will also be updated.
Items that are united together by Moves With are practically joined at the hip—they automatically move in sync wherever they go, which is why their relationship is represented by a solid line on roadmaps. Nothing is going to get in the way of this bond, especially not a shifting deadline.
Linked Item Type #2: Blocking
The next Linked Item type is Blocking, which allows you to create a relationship in which one item cannot move before or after the other. If you have a complex set of tasks that need to happen in a certain order, using the Blocking Linked Item type will be a key part of your roadmaps.
Using the Blocking Linked Item type is just as visually neat and tidy as it’s counterparts. But you’ll notice that items are joined by a dashed line instead of a solid one, symbolizing the difference in how connected items are related.
Picture this: Your product team is working on a brand new mobile app. Naturally, there’s a lot to juggle across a bunch of different teams and initiatives. And some of these initiatives—like designing an icon—have to be completed before others—like submitting to the App Store. Your projects that come earlier in the process need to be visualized in a way that shows this timely relationship, where one item is reliant on the other.
Luckily, using Blocking as your relationship type will help save the day. Whether you need to “block” specific teams or time periods, you can rest assured that your items will always be in the right order based on their time-sensitive relationships
Linked Item Type #3: Relates To
Relates To is the final Linked Item type and the most flexible option available (suitable for really any roadmapping style). The beauty with Relates To is that it opens the door to create connections between items that do not have exact dates—perfect for teams that use bucketed dates or measure dates through sprints or quarters.
But, remember when we said Relates To was the most flexible option? This is because Relates To can also be utilized on items that do in fact use dates. Think of it as another way to draw thematic connections between items while also providing freedom to move them around without affecting item placement on other views.
Relates To continues to showcase its flexibility since it allows linking together of any Jira or Azure Devops-synced items. Whether or not date mapping is enabled on the individual roadmaps, you can rest assured that your integrated roadmaps can also utilize the power of Linked Items—phew!
As you can see, due to the many scenarios that Relates To can be exercised, we’ll let you stir up the perfect use case for this Linked Item type. Do note that Relates To connections will be represented as a dotted line in your roadmaps.
Putting Linked Items to work in your roadmaps
What makes Linked Items so great? It’s not just the clarity they offer around what needs to be done and who’s doing it. The benefits are numerous, but we’ll focus on two major highlights that make Linked Items so, well, li(n)kable.
Strengthen your decision-making
Too often, roadmaps appear cluttered and disorganized, making it difficult to get an accurate view of your data at a glance. What makes Linked Items stand out is their visual accessibility. You can easily understand the relationship between your items and the teams responsible for them, in addition to what benefits or risks might be posed by moving them around.
All of this makes for better decision-making on your part—when you can quickly recognize how your items all work together on your roadmap, it’s that much easier to make better decisions about your product going forward.
Enable collaboration between team members
Roadmaps themselves are inherently collaborative tools. But when you add Linked Items to the mix? They get an added boost with even more transparency, accountability, and all-around teamwork magic.
By now you know that Roadmunk’s Linked Items feature lets you connect an item to any other item. But what you might not know is that you can create these relationships between items, even if they exist on different roadmaps owned by your teammates. Not only does this cross-roadmap functionality increase visibility within your team, but it also keeps your objectives aligned based on your product pipeline.
This is especially important for larger teams, where the ability to identify and surface these links might otherwise get overlooked or lost in the decision-making process—not to mention the time saved as a result of grouping and moving connected items together.
Tips for using Linked Items in Roadmunk
Now that you have a solid understanding of what Linked Items are and how you can easily incorporate them into your roadmaps, let’s finish up by looking at some final best practices for using them in Roadmunk.
Choose your view
Once you've created some Linked Items, there are multiple ways you can visualize the relationship between them in your roadmap.
First, you’ll notice that any Linked Items in the Items Table will show up as circular icons next to the date, displaying the total number of links each item has.
If you’re in the Timeline visualization, Linked Items will again be represented by circular icons showing the total number that are linked to that particular item. When you hover over an item in this view, you’ll see that connecting lines will appear, making it that much easier to visualize how Linked Items are connected to each other. (Remember, solid lines represent Moves With, dashed lines represent Blocking, and dotted lines represent Relates To.)
Linked Items in the Swimlane visualization will also have circular icons next to them, but note that the lines are only visible in the Timeline visualization.
You can even view your Linked Items on Portfolio Roadmaps, which roll up any of your team’s roadmaps into one high-level view of all your Linked Items. However you choose to view your Linked Items, your ultimate goal is to make it as effortless as possible to visualize the many moving parts so that prioritizing them is that much easier.
Share with stakeholders
Want to keep the right people in the know about Linked Items on your roadmaps? You can always export them as a PNG, HTML file, or publish them to a URL. Beyond that, you can choose whether or not to show the relationship lines on your exported roadmaps so your external stakeholders will have visibility into these important connections between your items.
Once your roadmap has been shared with the people who matter most, any Linked Items will still be drawn together with the appropriate solid, dotted, or dashed lines to show their relationship.