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What is a project roadmap?

Last updated

15 April 2023

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

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A project roadmap is a strategic overview of the major elements of a project. It includes the project’s objectives, milestones, deliverables, resources, and timeline. Used as an ongoing reference guide to keep a team of stakeholders updated on a project’s progress, this bird’s eye view communicates the reasoning for pursuing the project.

A project manager uses a project roadmap to keep everyone involved in the project up to date on milestones and objectives. Keeping all project stakeholders on the same page is key to its success.

What is the difference between a roadmap and a plan?

A project plan is an internal resource for those in charge of getting the work done so that they can see how a project is progressing. It presents a project’s task-level details on a timeline, helping project managers assign responsibilities and track all aspects of the project on a granular level.

On the other hand, a project roadmap presents a high-level view of a project. It doesn’t delve into the day-to-day tasks or give an indication of what everyone is working on. Instead, its purpose is to help the team present an at-a-glance view of the project’s status to other appropriate team members. These might be investors, executive staff, and the marketing and sales departments.

When should a project roadmap be used?

A project roadmap serves as an ongoing reminder of the project’s main objectives. It should be used when high-level stakeholders are involved who need to be kept in the loop about how a complex project is progressing.

As a project progresses, changes will occur based on the day-to-day realities. These changes may necessitate adjustments in terms of budgeting, priorities, and staffing. A project roadmap can help the team make more intelligent and goal-oriented decisions, such as whether to adjust the timeline or increase the budget.

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How can a project roadmap be helpful?

A project roadmap is a visual representation of what is expected to happen and when. This indispensable tool aids in the following:

  • Communicating goals to the team

  • Recognizing priority tasks

  • Communicating with stakeholders

The roadmap keeps the project on track to ensure its success.

Examples of project roadmaps

Roadmaps rally a team around a project and help generate excitement from investors, executives, and potential customers. Some examples of effective roadmaps include the following:

  • Goal roadmaps show the big picture by outlining objectives and the plan for when those objectives will be accomplished.

  • Strategic initiative roadmaps outline the high-level efforts used to achieve project goals.

  • Release roadmaps serve as a visualization of what needs to happen in order to deliver releases on time.

  • Feature roadmaps communicate the details of what is coming and when.

  • Portfolio roadmaps show planned releases of deliverables across multiple groups within an organization.

  • Epic roadmaps organize upcoming work by grouping related features under one umbrella that may span multiple releases.

Roadmaps can be adapted to fit a team’s preferences, product type, or development style.

What should be included in a project roadmap?

For optimal project management, a project roadmap template should include the following:

Goals

For investors and executives, the most important part of a project tends to be key goals and objectives. Stating this on the roadmap keeps it top-of-mind.

Resources

The resource section of the project roadmap includes the costs and estimates of labor, equipment, materials, and any technology needed to complete the project. If the required resources change over the duration of the project, that should be noted on the roadmap.

Deliverables

Deliverables are the tangible or intangible products or services produced within a project’s scope. This information helps the project manager set expectations and allocate resources.

Milestones

The milestones refer to the events or deadlines the project manager wants the team to be aware of. They may directly relate to the project’s progress or specific dates the team needs to keep in mind, such as when to expect deliverables.

Timeline

The project timeline communicates when a project is expected to be completed in addition to what should happen at each stage.

The timeline should be updated regularly as it helps everyone keep track of progress and make informed decisions.

You can also include potential challenges in the project roadmap. These help keep the team realistic about what to expect along the way.

How to create a successful project roadmap

A project roadmap is a visual tool that’s manageable in length. This is so that project stakeholders can easily understand and digest the information it presents.

To create a successful roadmap, follow the steps below.

1. Break down your project scope

The project scope is the sum of all tasks to be performed on the project.

You won’t be able to draft the timeline until you have identified all the necessary activities, so you’ll need to conduct this step before you can create your project roadmap.

2. Map out your project tasks

Once the project tasks have been determined, it’s time to create a project timeline.

Include due dates for each task.

After you have created a project timeline with tasks and their due dates, it’s time to identify and link task dependencies. Task dependencies determine the order in which specific jobs need to be executed. 

4. Identify deliverables

You’ll need to identify deliverables resulting from each task. These may be tangible or intangible.

5. Set project milestones

Decide on hypothetical dates for key project milestones, such as critical delivery dates and a potential completion date. If the timeline on any milestone changes, be certain to record it. 

Tips for producing an effective project roadmap

The following tips are helpful for producing an effective project roadmap that resonates with your team.

  • Develop the project roadmap before devising the project plan. A well-thought-out set of strategic objectives is necessary for any project. The project roadmap helps you intelligently break the project up into detailed responsibilities and roles.

  • Use the roadmap for your project’s kickoff. The project roadmap should be presented when you pull your project’s entire team together for the first time. This is a great way to make sure everyone understands the goals and respects the timeline.

  • Keep your roadmap constantly updated. Realities often change over the course of a project. Ensure you always have an up-to-date roadmap and that all relevant individuals have access to the current version at all times.

FAQs

What is the difference between a project roadmap and a timeline?

The project timeline is part of the project roadmap.

A project roadmap communicates a project’s goals, while a project timeline is a visual that sequences the project’s chronological events, including firm start and end dates.

What are the five phases of a project?

The five basic phases of a project and the activities within each include the following:

  1. Initiation. In this first stage of the project, the project team defines goals, creates the business case, completes the project roadmap, and draws up a list of stakeholders.

  2. Planning. During the planning phase, the team defines the project’s scope, creates the project plan, sets the budget, and determines roles and responsibilities.

  3. Execution. The project’s execution phase is the most active. Resources are allocated and managed, and the product is built. The team meets often during this stage to keep up with progress and to fix problems as they arise.

  4. Monitoring and controlling. Effort, costs, and progress are tracked and monitored during this stage. To reduce the chance of disruptions, the team will ensure that the plan is being adhered to.

  5. Closing. At completion, project deliverables are reviewed and handed over. The results are approved.

Once a project is complete, all necessary data is stored in a secure place that project managers can access.

What is a roadmap diagram?

A roadmap diagram is a tool for mapping existing elements of a roadmap against a timeline. It is used to visualize how a project changes over time.

What is the difference between a milestone and a roadmap?

A roadmap features milestones. They refer to dates signaling events or deadlines that the project manager wants the team to be aware of.

Is a project roadmap the same as a Gantt chart?

Named after Henry L. Gantt, an American management consultant, a Gantt chart features a series of horizontal lines that shows the amount of work done in relation to the amount of work planned for a project during a certain time period.

A Gantt chart isn’t the same as a project roadmap. It serves as a detailed, linear schedule of tasks related to the project rather than an overview that communicates the project’s vision and goals.

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