Roadmaps are one of the most important tools in a project manager’s toolbox. It’s a project manager’s responsibility to communicate deadlines, tasks, budgets or changes to a project to all of the team members and stakeholders involved in a project, and roadmaps do a great job at doing that.
What is a project roadmap
Project roadmaps are a document outlining a project’s goals, initiatives and deliverables at a high level. They are typically represented on visually on a horizontal timeline, but they do not necessarily have to be created this way.
They should give audiences a good understanding of what is happening with a project at a high level over time.
It’s a good way of getting all stakeholders on board for better project understanding at any stage of a project – beginning, middle, or end.
Elements of a roadmap
Points on the roadmap that symbolize when important goals or deliverables should be completed.
Schedule or timeline
Represents dates or portions of each task or objective at any given time.
After a task has been completed, the status of it can be changed from incomplete to complete. Sometimes the status also represents when tasks are in progress.
Rows on a roadmap can indicate a task, feature, department, or anything you would like.
Why roadmaps are effective
Roadmaps are an effective tool for strategic communication tools to stakeholders. Whether it is at a business, department, project or product level, it may take different forms.
They’re a platform for alignment
Roadmaps allow for a better understanding of goals and schedule through the ability to view a visual representation of them.
When teams or portions of a project have dependencies on one another, sometimes it’s difficult to manage the dependencies or communicate them to stakeholders.
When dependencies are represented on a roadmap, it creates a clear understanding for everyone that if the deliverable for the dependency is late, it may affect the entire project schedule.
Roadmaps can be a schedules – with or without dates
In an article on mind the Product, Janna Bastow outlines how putting dates on a roadmap could be risky. Anything beyond a couple of weeks out can be difficult to predict, and when you have dates on a roadmap, it can lead to finger-pointing when the project breaks delivery dates.
That being said, you may need to put dates on your roadmap for a number of reasons. Just make sure that your roadmap remains a high-level overview and not a calendar for your project. Small details should be left off of
Types of roadmaps
Businesses use roadmaps to communicate with stakeholders about initiatives or objectives for the business.
Business roadmaps are be used as a business plan to outline what needs to happen with different facets of the business at different times. For example, a roadmap could outline what needs to happen with sales, marketing and business departments all on a single roadmap.
Through creating a high level overview of a project, roadmaps can help build a shared understanding across teams.
Marketing professionals can use roadmaps to plan for campaigns. Each row can represent different campaigns and how long they are running. It can be shown if a campaign starts late or it is decided that it should be run longer.
These can also be used for different channels of marketing. Each row can represent when and where you are focusing resources. Social media on one row, content on another row, advertising on another, and so on.
Project roadmaps often show which parts of a project are being worked on by which team or team member.
This is very beneficial to teams with dependencies, because you can visually show when one team is late – how another team will be affected.
These are often are refined to functions required to meet specific project goals, which tends to be at a more local level. This is in contrast to product roadmaps, which are often intended to show a global view of an entire product, with different functions that may be unrelated
Similar to a project roadmap, product roadmaps are a very useful tool to communicate and plan what is happening with the different parts of a product.
They communicate the schedule of what features of a product are being worked on by which teams – research, design, development, etc.
Where project roadmaps differ from product ones is that they display rows or line items only relevant to that specific project. Product roadmaps may have rows that are completely nebulas to each other – for example a product roadmap may have information about marketing or support, which doesn’t often directly affect development efforts.
Roadmaps can be used for a variety of purposes in business. There is no right or wrong way to create a roadmap – it’s up to you as a manager to decide what format works best for your project, team and stakeholders.
Remember that the goal of your roadmap should remain to give everyone involved with your project or business a high-level overview of your strategy or objectives. Non-critical details should be avoided at all cost in order to accomplish this.