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What is a Project Roadmap?
A project roadmap is a high-level visual reference outlining a project’s goals and deliverables—this is typically presented as a timeline, and serves as a handy tool for quickly presenting the project’s status to various stakeholders, especially those less involved in the day-to-day work on the project.
The base anatomy of a project roadmap should be able to answer the following questions:
- Objectives: What does this project aim to achieve? How does it benefit its stakeholders?
- Milestones & Deliverables: What are the key outputs that contribute to achieving the project goals?
- Timeline: When is work on a milestone/deliverable expected to start? End?
As the project progresses and more information is obtained, the roadmap changes accordingly. Other key information that teams can expect to add include, but are not limited to:
- Resources: Who/what should be included, and how much will it cost, to complete project requirements?
- Dependencies: What might prevent output from being completed, if any?
How to Create a Project Roadmap in 6 Steps
While more assumptions need to be made at this stage in the project, building a roadmap right from the start is also the easiest way to focus on making it a high-level reference instead of over-engineering your strategy. It also gets your stakeholders immediately on the same page, for more efficient progress.
Using the structure presented earlier, you can follow this simple checklist for outlining your roadmap:
1. Identify your strategic goals:
What does success look like for this project?
2. Flesh out the key milestones:
What are the major tasks/outputs that need to be accomplished?
3. Identify key stakeholders:
Who is/are responsible for completing each milestone?
4. Project your timeline:
When might each milestone begin and end?
5. Anticipate risk:
What assumptions were made to come up with the above items, and what are the worst-case scenarios surrounding each?
6. Map it out:
Using the above information, plot each of your milestones as events, and attach relevant information to them. This is typically in the form of a Gantt chart, which helps to emphasize dependencies, as well as overlaps in workload between your stakeholders.
Project Roadmap Examples
A Gantt chart is the most commonly used format when illustrating project roadmap examples, as it helps to emphasize dependencies as well as identify overlaps in work across milestones. It pays to work on the key elements we outlined above in a simpler format, so you can focus on building a solid foundation before anything else. That way, you clearly understand your project, so you can confidently present it to your stakeholders.
The most basic project roadmap example is a spreadsheet—Gantt charts are fundamentally based on a table of information, so starting with a spreadsheet is an excellent option for starting your project roadmap. You can also consider a rough mind map, or even a basic document outline before plotting your timeline for distribution.
Project Roadmap vs Project Plan
Project roadmaps and project plans are often confused with one another, as they share a focus in terms of outlining deliverables. However, the two are distinct in their level of detail—a project roadmap offers a high-level overview, while a project plan goes into the specifics of the project.
These two resources are used interdependently in a project—the roadmap serves as a guide for assigning resources at the task level and making sure decisions are made in service of high-level goals, while the results and changes from every task reflect back towards an updated project roadmap for keeping stakeholders aligned.
Optimizing Your Project Roadmap for Success
1. Keep it simple
Remember: roadmaps in project management are distinct because they effectively illustrate a project’s status at a glance. This means reporting to your key stakeholders should be quick and intuitive, which translates to faster, more informed decision-making for all. Where able, aim to use simple language, and consider your roadmap’s ability to illustrate the project’s vision.
2. Keep it updated
There is no such thing as a “finished” roadmap while your project hasn’t closed—realities can (and will) change, especially if you’re working on a longer project.
Expecting and planning for delays is a highly-underrated skill in project management. On top of protecting the project itself from major delays, it gives your team, especially those involved in the day-to-day, room to balance their creative energies. By managing this risk from the project management side, your stakeholders are shielded from having to sacrifice quality for efficiency.
3. Keep it accessible
Ensure that stakeholders always have access to the latest version of your roadmap. This can be in the form of archiving older versions; using a dedicated tool to update a single roadmap is even better, as it eliminates the need to manually share new versions/links. This allows your project roadmap to follow the principles of being a living document and is especially useful considering the rise of remote and asynchronous working environments.
Benefits and Challenges of a Project Roadmap
The advantages of an effective roadmap share many similarities with effective stakeholder management, one of which is quickly briefing executives to achieve alignment and maintain buy-in. Keeping your stakeholders engaged directly translates to having more resources, and in connection, more room to succeed. Inversely, the lack of buy-in risks your project not being finished, or worse, not being greenlit in the first place.
Earlier, we also mentioned that creating your project roadmap in the early stages maximizes alignment. This helps your team prioritize the highest-value decisions while eliminating costs that don’t contribute to your project’s objectives. However, we also acknowledge that the early stages also offer the greatest uncertainty, as there is more room for new information and major changes—this is where our tips on keeping the roadmap simple, timely, and accessible play the biggest part.
Build Your Project Roadmap with Workamajig
An effective project roadmap ensures that all of your resources are funneled in the right direction—stakeholder decisions, resource allocations, and action plans are all made in service of a clear, unified vision.
With Workamajig, the premier marketing management software, you have an all-in-one solution for creating an effective project roadmap and a direct line to the tasks and processes for ensuring successful project completion. Maintain alignment and approval with key stakeholders with reporting tools, taking information straight from your day-to-day progress and back, so you can focus less on creating reports and more on achieving the results that would look great in them.