7 Steps to Create a Killer Project Roadmap
By Angad SinghSep 8, 2022
Project managers are forever split between keeping their eye on the ball and staring into the future. It's a balancing act that only a few pull off with grace.
Those who do certainly don't do it without taking project roadmaps seriously. But what are project roadmaps, why do they matter, and how can you make ones that stand out?
We answer all these questions in this blog. So, let the scrolling begin ;)
What is a Project Roadmap?
Think of a roadmap as a visual representation of your project's strategy. It gives a high-level overview of your project's scope and impact.
This easy-to-digest, visual document helps project stakeholders and team members understand the big-picture rationale behind picking a project. It also informs execution by defining the different phases of a project.
In cross-functional projects, a roadmap clarifies responsibilities for different teams in broad brush strokes. A key trait to identify here is that a project roadmap doesn't get too granular on who does what.
The intent here is to bring everyone on the same page about overall expectations.
Project Roadmap v/s Project Plan
Both the roadmap and plan are vital artifacts that project managers swear by.
The two have just as much in common as in contrast. For starters, the plan and roadmap both inform decision-making on projects.
The project plan tells you granular details like...
- what tasks need to be done,
- who the assignees are, and
- by when they need to complete the tasks.
On the flip side, the project roadmap gives you a high-level breakdown of a project. It helps win stakeholder approval for new projects and is also a great tool to update everyone on progress.
7 Steps to Create a Project Roadmap
1. Define Your Project
Remember all the building blocks we discussed above? Now is the time to tie them together into a project definition. Think about your objective, deliverables, and risks.
Don't dip your toes into any implementation details yet. Focus instead on building a foundation for the planning that'll come later.
For instance, you may define that you wish to revamp your website's user experience. The deliverables for that could be...
- building customer personas,
- creating a new design system,
- improving your positioning,
- and optimizing the code.
The risks involved? You may target the wrong people. Your website traffic may drop after the changes you make. Legacy customers may disapprove of your new direction.
Catch the drift here? The first step is to be as clear about what your project is all about while resisting the impulse to plan low-level details.
2. Decide on a Timeline
The stage is set. You know what you want from the project. You've defined what success looks like. The next move? Think about timelines. Figure out how long you want your project to be.
Is it going to be a couple of weeks? Will the project take months?
Don't worry about hitting bulls-eye with your numbers. Educated guesses are fine since projects evolve anyway. The purpose is to understand what kind of commitment you're walking into so you can allocate resources accordingly.
3. Break Everything Down into Parts
Most projects are cross-functional these days. Different teams work together to bring about a common goal. So, breaking the project into work streams makes sense.
But even if that isn't the case and you've got a specialized team working on a specific problem — it is still wise to break a project into stages.
The effect? You end up with something more concrete than a big lump of aspirations. Contextualizing progress becomes a lot easier.
If you execute this step in SmartTask, you can create sections and add tasks (deliverables) to them. Here's what it would look like:-
4. Map Out Deliverables Onto a Timeline
By the time you get to this step, you'll have gathered all you need to build an actual roadmap. So, let's take things up a notch, shall we?
With clarity on project deliverables and timeline, you can give all you know a visual representation. People have done such mapping using excel and even plain-old pen and paper… but we recommend using SmartTask.
Here’s what an early roadmap will look like:-
5. Create Milestones & Dependencies
Milestones help pace complex projects and keep morale up. They serve as functional dopamine hits to keep your team going. Not only that... seeing you achieve milestones also keeps stakeholders happy.
However, be careful not to become too liberal with creating milestones. Insert them only at those points in the project timeline where they feel significant.
Next, portray dependencies between deliverables the best you can. Doing so will help identify crucial pieces in the project that influence progress in several places.
Setting milestones & dependencies in SmartTask is super easy.
6. Get Stakeholder Sign Off
The roadmap is mostly ready. You can introduce the final version to your team once you...
- get stakeholder feedback,
- deal with any issues they find, and
- rinse and repeat until they sign off.
Congratulations! You've successfully created a killer project roadmap.
7. Keep it Fresh
Here's one last step – one that never really ends.
Projects are ever-evolving entities, and roadmaps need to embrace the same. So, be prepared to spruce up your creation every now and then.
But don't worry...making changes to your project roadmap is hassle-free with SmartTask.
SmartTask: The Secret to Perfect Project Roadmaps
Building roadmaps is not a one-off thing. As a project manager, it's something you'll do more times than you can count.
That can be pretty exhausting without the right project management software. There are only so many pen-and-paper roadmaps you can draw, right?
But we're living in the golden age of tech... which means you can build project roadmaps using SmartTask.
Did we mention there are plenty of templates to get you started?