What Is a Roadmap in Project Management?

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Last updated on
06th Aug, 2021
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06th Aug, 2021
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What Is a Roadmap in Project Management?

Building a product is a huge undertaking that requires commitment from not just those involved in building the project, but also those investing in the project and the management driving the project. Helping all those involved in the project understand the project goals and benefits of the project, ensures buy-in and commitment from the stakeholders and investors, and helps the development team better plan and space out their work. The project roadmap that presents a bird’s eye view of the project is an essential part of strategic planning and a must for projects of any size or type.

What Is a Project Roadmap?  

The project roadmap is a visual representation of the goals, mission, vision, resource allocations and key deliverables of the project. It is a high-level view and aims to provide stakeholders and those involved in development with a macro level understanding of important objectives and milestones.  

A project roadmap is an easy and simple to follow guide for the entire project. It allows the key stakeholders and project personnel the ability to visualise the project from start to finish and make important decisions without getting into the minute details of the project, which may be more time consuming.  

A project roadmap should help convey: 

  • Allocation of resources 
  • Project progress at any given time 
  • Key project releases 
  • Whether the project is on track and within budget

Why Do You Need a Project Roadmap?

The project roadmap is an everyday reminder of the objectives or final goal of the project. During the project, changes can be made to several things. Priorities may change, new requirements may arise, release dates may be pushed based on market demand etc. This may need some re-thinking in terms of team and resource allocation and planning of releases. Through this all, the team and others involved with the project should not lose sight of the overall vision and goal of the project. The project roadmap serves as a ready reckoner and a reminder of the high-level goals that must be accomplished, helping the team make more intelligent decisions. 

The project roadmap is also an essential tool when project information must be conveyed to investors, stakeholders or clients. Any of these parties may show an interest in understanding the position and progress of the project but may not show the inclination to get down to the micro level details of the project or sit through the task-by-task details of the project. The project roadmap serves as a good visual representation that can be shown to interested parties to help them understand the strategic milestones the project has reached.

What to Include in Your Project Roadmap?

Source: business-docs.co.uk

What information should you add to your project roadmap and more importantly what should you keep out? What elements would you add in the roadmap to make it relevant to the audience? While each project and organization require its own specific roadmap, there are certain key elements that must be included in all roadmaps. 

  1. Objectives: The roadmap, after all, defines the key objectives of the project. Hence this is the most important element of your project roadmap. It should help viewers understand the key tasks, project targets, how are the targets being achieved, the time taken to achieve the targets, deadlines, and whether the project is on time and within budget. Deliverables and resource allocation is presented with respect to timelines so that it’s easy to understand whether timelines are being followed and the status of things.  
  2. Targets: Targets or project milestones are an important aspect of the project roadmap. They help stakeholder buy-in and help team members to schedule their work commitments and priorities accordingly. Monitoring milestones helps track project progress.  
  3. Deliverables Just like targets or milestones, deliverables are also a means to measure project status and help stakeholders clearly understand how the project is progressing. Deliverables are the product releases that are expected to be derived from the project. 
  4. Resource Management: Resource management helps to track the resources in terms of team members, technology, budget, etc allocated to the project. Plotting them on the roadmap ensures efficient use of resources and helps decide whether to increase or decrease resources allocated based on project performance.  
  5. Risk Management: Risk management is among the most important stages of a project lifecycle. The roadmap identifies possible risks or problems the project might run into. By having this always listed out the team members would avoid them or take the necessary actions if they do run into these risks.  
  6. Timelines: Timelines and schedules need to be maintained for every stage of the project. This helps the team as well as the stakeholders who can understand if milestones and key deliverables are being delivered on time and if the overall project is on track.

Project Roadmaps

Source: pmmajik.com

Project Scope Statement 

The Project Scope Statement is an important part of the project roadmap and maps out details of the project objectives, deliverables, assumptions, requirements and constraints. It is a legally binding agreement between the project sponsors and the project manager and as such must be included in the project plan.  

The project scope statement highlights: 

  • Organizational needs 
  • Project objectives 
  • Project need/justification 
  • Key deliverables 
  • Key milestones or releases 

How to increase the value of your Project Roadmap 

A project roadmap is common for different types of projects. But what’s essential is that each team should find out ways to enhance effectiveness and maximize value. This can be done by: 

  • Identifying the key internal and external stakeholders 
  • Identifying the key project components and defining the project plan 
  • Identifying resources and allocating tasks and roles 
  • Holding a meeting to go over the project roadmap and clarify doubts and set expectations 
  • Defining project scope 
  • Identifying project risks 
  • Maintaining communication with all involved by developing a solid communication plan 

Benefits and Challenges of a Project Roadmap

A project roadmap offers many benefits including: 

  • Offering a clear brief to the team members and the stakeholders: The project roadmap is the best way to easily, effectively and quickly communicate project goals and plans to all those involved in the project. It helps to maintain a high level of transparency and removes ambiguity.  
  • Manage priorities: The roadmap helps team members identify priorities and work towards the goal.  
  • Stay on path: The project roadmap serves as a reference guide for the team to stay on track and meet project goals. 
  • Sets expectations: The customers know what to expect when they see the roadmap that has clearly defined goals and milestones. 

Project roadmap challenges, include: 

  • Guess-timating: It’s never a good idea to guess estimates even if for a roadmap. This could lead to several challenges as the project progresses and may lead to compromise on quality.  
  • Not sharing the roadmap: The roadmap is your project’s story. It must be shared with all those involved to maintain transparency and set expectations.  
  • Not updating the roadmap: The roadmap is a living document and should be updated continuously. Any changes that have been made on scope, resource or budget allocation or deliverables must reflect in the project roadmap so that anyone accessing it will know the status of things. 
  • Too much information: The project roadmap unlike the product roadmap is a strategic document and only presents a high-level view of the project details? It does not require too many details that would obscure its readability. 
  • Not enough foresight: The project roadmap should provide a view of the future. By not planning enough for the future, there are risks that the project may run into delays, risks, cost overruns etc. 

Roadmap best practices

  • Create the roadmap before you create the project plan:  

The roadmap and project plan are two different elements of the project. While the project plan outlines the tactical details of a project, the roadmap outlines the strategic details of the project. So, it is obvious that the macro level document that focuses on the overall, high-level view of the project should be created first. This will help as a source to create the more detailed document that is the project plan. Getting an understanding of the overall goal will help in breaking down tasks, roles and responsibilities.  

  • Make sure everyone understands your roadmap: 

There’s a reason why we create the roadmap and that is so that all those involved, especially those outside the project team, such as management, stakeholders and investors, understand what the project is about, its objectives and goals. If you present this information in a way that is complicated or doesn’t make sense to external stakeholders, then there would be no point is making a roadmap. Hence makes sure to use tools that are clear and help to present information in a visually appealing and easily understandable manner.  

  • Keep the roadmap updated: 

Any changes in scope, release date modification or change in resource allocation etc should immediately be updated in the project roadmap. This is especially true for complex projects that are very likely to undergo changes due to scope changes or the long duration. Since this is a document that serves as a view on the project dashboard and both stakeholders and project team members can access it, keeping it updated always is important; so that anyone accessing it will know where the project stands and the status of deliverables. Old or non-relevant information can mislead stakeholders and even damage your reputation.  

To summarize… 

The project roadmap sets the stage for you to start the work on your project. The creation of the project roadmap should not be neglected as it brings all those involved on board and ensures that everyone is in alignment with project goals and objectives. The project roadmap gives teams the clarity to be effective, productive and motivated.  

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