A project roadmap is one of the most important tools in project management. Without it, projects fall behind. Yet simply having a project management roadmap is not enough in itself to guarantee success.
This article seeks to define what a project roadmap is and how it is different from a project plan. It goes on to discuss the benefits of using a project roadmap, before offering some tried and tested practical tips for putting together project roadmaps of your own, with some examples of what that might look like.
If you are looking for more information on project management in general, see this article first:
What is a project management roadmap?
A project roadmap is a high-level – usually graphical – overview of a project’s goals and deliverables presented on a timeline. Alongside deliverables, it will typically also display objectives, milestones, and resources.
A project roadmap is a simple, easy-to-follow source of truth for key stakeholders. For project managers and their teams, it allows them to visualize the project from a strategic standpoint and make critical decisions without having to sift through the detail. For senior and external stakeholders, it helps them to keep track of progress.
Project management roadmaps will usually offer a clear breakdown of:
- The project’s progress at any given point
- How allocated resources are being utilized
- Whether the project is on track to hit its strategic goals and SMART project objectives
Project roadmap vs project plan: What’s the difference?
Where a project roadmap gives a high-level strategic view of a project, the plan will go into more detail at the level of specific tasks.
A project plan provides task-level details of a project, presented on a timeline. This helps project managers to assign responsibilities to team members and track aspects of a project at a granular level. It is designed as an internal project team resource that helps them stay up to date with project progress.
A project roadmap presents only the high-level, strategic view. It avoids going into day-to-day tasks or delving into a detailed view of what team members are working on. The roadmap is designed to help the team present an at-a-glance view of the project’s status to other teams, such as the executive committee, investors, the marketing and sales departments, or others outside of implementation.
Benefits of using a project roadmap
Project roadmaps come with several key benefits:
- They articulate the strategic reasoning for pursuing a project in ways that everyone can understand.
- Project managers can use them to communicate a project’s strategic objectives to stakeholders in a way that’s easy to understand.
- PMs can use them as an ongoing reference guide to keep on track of a project’s progress.
- Having a quick visual reference as an at-a-glance reminder of high-level goals makes it easier for teams to re-prioritize tasks as their project changes.
- They are good for setting expectations.
- They are good for earning buy-in from senior stakeholders and budget holders.
- They are good for keeping executives and investors in the loop with project progress and developments.
In summary, a roadmap is great for communication, tracking progress at-a-glance, and keeping stakeholders informed without them having to go through the entire project management process.
Project roadmap template
Project roadmaps are big-picture, high-level overviews for stakeholders that don’t need nitty-gritty details. Project roadmaps convey the goals, significant milestones, and dependencies of a project to implementation teams, managers, and senior stakeholders.
Here’s an example of what a project roadmap looks like in Teamhood:
This roadmap shows the initiatives involved in a project over a specific timescale. You can see that time is displayed in units of months, you can also add milestones to mark quarterly deadlines, as well as other important dates such as product launches and testing.
You can also see that the initiatives on the roadmap are color-coded to easier identify their type.
Tips on how to produce a project roadmap
Define project objectives
The first step for project planning is to work out your strategic goals and objectives, and then work backward to come up with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that relate to those goals. Consider the scope of the project, your target audience/market, and possible timescales.
Identify relevant data points and KPIs
These are the KPIs you will use to track project progress. What deliverables and milestones are relevant to the goals that you can track accurately during the project?
Define the project timeline
The simplest way to do this is to take the milestones you’ve devised in the step above and lay them out on a timeline. Consider the dependencies between them and how they are related. Once you have laid out the milestones and you have estimated how long each one will take, you will be able to come up with an overall project timeline.
This is what laying our milestones could look like when using a project management software such as Teamhood:
Create an MVP or mock-up of your roadmap
Just as you would do with a software product, it is useful first to test your assumptions by building a minimum viable version – or mock-up – of the roadmap.
Take your project objectives and available data points, then plot the variables against the timeline. This is where you will likely want to use a project management software tool like Teamhood to map out the information easily.
Review the mock-up
Review the mock-up with your team and any stakeholders you trust to give an honest opinion. Does the mock-up offer a realistic general overview of the project and its timeline? Is it easy to read and interpret? Does it seem accurate? Is there too much detail?
Ask these questions and collect all relevant feedback.
Create the roadmap in full
Once you’ve received all the feedback, review it to see if you agree. Incorporate those feedback items you agree with and that you think will improve the roadmap. Then flesh out all the details as needed.
Update and adapt the roadmap throughout your project
Once your project begins, make sure to update your roadmap to accommodate any changes that arise.
Choose the right project management software
When creating a practical project roadmap, you need to use the right software tool that has all the functions you need. You need to be able to collect and visualize data quickly and view it at a glance. Your project management software should be able to do all of that, but also consider that you might need it to fulfill other project management functions for you as well. Here are some articles that compare different project management tools using a range of different criteria.
Once you choose the right software for you, creating and using project roadmaps will become a lot easier.
How to start creating project roadmaps for your team
Teamhood’s suite of project management software tools is perfect for all aspects of the project management lifecycle, including project road mapping. It comes complete with a range of Agile tools, Gantt chart capabilities, templates, and more.
Best of all, you can try it today for free, with no need to give us your credit card details.
Get started using project roadmaps in Teamhood:
2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood.
2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank.
2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course
2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise.
Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games
Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products.
MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University.
Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing