Project management is a highly complex and challenging job that requires extensive planning capabilities and an advanced level of self-organization. Since projects consist of multiple components, project managers can easily get lost in details and fail to see the bigger picture.
That's where a project roadmap comes in handy. This tool helps shareholders understand the project's objectives, targets, expected deliverables, and allocated resources. It shows everyone involved in a project which stage they are at while helping them move towards a mutual goal.
If this is your first time creating a project roadmap, you've come to the right place. We've prepared a step-by-step guide that helps you understand the entire process and ensures you don't miss any important elements when creating a project roadmap as part of the project's initiation phase.
What Is a Project Roadmap?
In a nutshell, a project roadmap is a document that identifies a project's big goals and milestones. Usually, you will find that a project roadmap is presented as a timeline, with each milestone and goal mapped out according to when it needs to be accomplished.
The roadmap can also assume the form of a Gantt chart or a list that contains goals and objectives. Remember that roadmaps aren't designed to go into detail and outline every task. They will only provide a rough overview of the project. In any other case, you need a project plan.
Roadmaps assist project managers in ensuring everyone is on the same page. It also helps team members working on a project understand the project plan, regardless of the part they are in charge of.
Due to its simplicity, a project roadmap is often used as a portfolio management tool. It is highly beneficial for project managers who oversee multiple projects simultaneously. A project roadmap allows them to monitor their project portfolio without too much effort.
What Should a Project Roadmap Include?
If you are building a project roadmap, you need to know what elements to include and what to leave out. In most cases, a project roadmap is a single-page document that doesn't require you to go into details. Here are a few key components you don't want to miss.
You need to clearly identify objectives and check whether they are being achieved on time and within budget. Try to answer the following questions:
- What are our targets for this project?
- Can we accomplish them?
- How fast can we achieve them?
- Are we on the right track to achieve them all by the time the project's timeframe elapses?
The project roadmap records all the targets, deliverables, and resources linked to the project and plots them across the project timeline. This way, people involved in a project can always see what's happening and whether something is on the project schedule.
What accomplishments tell us the project is moving toward its completion? Milestones are there to remind us about our achievements and indicate that a certain level of progress has been reached. We use milestones to measure project progress and check whether the project has outlined completion levels.
Project deliverables are tangible results a project should deliver within an allocated time frame or as long as the project lasts. By inspecting deliverables, shareholders viewing a project roadmap can easily measure project progress.
How many resources and personnel are included in the project? Once you know how many resources are allocated to the project, you can easily measure their impact and decide whether to increase or decrease them. It all depends on how fast the project is hitting its objectives.
How long is this project going to last? The timeline helps you put a project into context by estimating how long it will last. By looking at the targets, milestones, and deliverables, shareholders can check whether the project is on the right track.
The roadmap should include potential risks and obstacles that might hinder the project's success.
How Do I Create a Roadmap Timeline?
Write a business case: when creating a roadmap, your organization will want to know the most important information upfront. Therefore, you must describe and justify your project by outlining costs, risks, and benefits. The purpose of a business case is to get approval.
Write a project charter: after your project has been approved, it's time to write a project charter that outlines crucial points of the project, like key stakeholders, deliverables, milestones, and schedule overview, among others. The business case and charter contain all the information you need to create a roadmap.
Use a template: creating a roadmap from a template saves you a lot of time and ensures your roadmaps look the same.
Enter relevant project information: now is the time to fill out your project roadmap with data. Enter project goals, along with risks, benefits, scope, workflow for each team working on the project, high-level activities that need to be completed, and milestones.
Work with stakeholders: while you already have the necessary data, get some input from key stakeholders as you build your roadmap.
Update: if you are taking an Agile approach, you know that projects constantly change. You can also change a roadmap to reflect changes in milestones, resources, timelines, and dependencies.
Example of a Roadmap for Projects
A project roadmap is a summary of critical deliverables and features of your project. It's also an overview of all strategic steps while describing when, how, and who will complete them. If you have a well-prepared project timeline, you can look at the project's development from a bird's-eye view.
If your project doesn't have a roadmap, you will start feeling long-term effects. In most cases, project managers will resort to quick fixes, only to find out that completing a project takes much longer than planned, eventually leading to poor-quality work.
Redoing some steps will increase costs and cause delays. Therefore, it's highly recommended that project teams create a roadmap from the first day of their work.
An excellent roadmap example includes key data that's easy to understand but without detailed knowledge about the project. Do not underestimate friendly templates and budget-friendly examples of a roadmap because it might be challenging to create your first timeline correctly.
Let's take a look at the example of developing a blog that will accompany a website.
- Web team: New admin console, Pages, Social media sharing, Subscription
- QA team: Testing blog pages, Testing social media, Testing subscription
- Content team: Home page, Welcome content, First blog
Project Roadmap Tool
As we mentioned, the project roadmap summarizes information from the project plan and schedule into a high-level overview. Keeping track of many elements and displaying information in an easy-to-understand manner can be challenging without the right tool.
For that reason, many project managers seek help from a project management tool with roadmap planning features. ActiveCollab, a project management tool, allows your team members to access information at any point in the project lifecycle.
This could be your ultimate planning tool that has a collaborative platform to share a project roadmap and will keep your team members on the same page and help them efficiently track milestones to ensure they are on the proper schedule.
ActiveCollab contains standard project management features and necessary components to create a roadmap for smaller individual or major projects. For instance, a Gantt chart gives your team members a high-level overview of the project. On the other hand, a real-time dashboard reflects any changes instantly while keeping track of time, work, progress, and budget, so you can address the issue before it happens.