What is a Roadmap in Project Management?

Did you know that according to a KPMG study"Only one in three organizations develop projects that are likely to satisfy their stakeholders"–a fatal mistake. Getting stakeholder sign-off at the very beginning forms the basis of successful project management.

Plus, every seasoned project manager understands the value of having an ongoing reminder of the project’s strategic objectives, the current reality of project progress, and the high-priority tasks that need to be catered to in real-time. Enter: roadmaps.

Project roadmaps double up as a useful reminder of the high-level goals that the team needs to work towards–empowering managers to drive intelligent decision-making in the process. Let's deep dive to understand the integral role of project roadmap to project management success. Here's a beginner's guide to project roadmap. Let's get started right away.

What is a Roadmap in Project Management?

Starting with the very basics, let's understand the project roadmap definition first. Here are a few of its defining characteristics:

  • Graphical, high-level overview: A project roadmap represents a visual, bird's eye view of the project's goals and objectives on a timeline.
  • Simple and strategic: The project roadmap is not as detailed and comprehensive as a project plan. It is relatively simple and more strategic in terms of the major elements of a project.

If you are wondering about what a project roadmap should include, here's a quick run-through of its integral components:

  • Project goals and objectives
  • Planned timeline that signifies the project schedule
  • Resources
  • Key milestones and deliverables
  • Potential risks
  • Dependencies

The learning: A project roadmap represents a high-level, strategic view of the project instead of delving into the day-to-day tasks of what the team members are working on. It is designed to represent an at-a-glance view of the project’s performance and status.

Now that you have understood what roadmap means in project management, let's look at a comparison of its key benefits as well as challenges.

Benefits and Challenges of a Roadmap in Project Management

Benefits of a Roadmap Challenges of a Roadmap
Inform/update stakeholders: Helps manage stakeholder expectations by setting the right expectations and getting buy-in early on. Plus, it helps keep the stakeholders informed of the project's scope and progress at all times. Across the board approval: Getting the team and stakeholders to agree and approve the project roadmap can be difficult, and may require constant to-and-fro in the beginning phases.
Informed style of working: Keeps the team informed of a project's status, clearly outlines the goals and objectives of a project, and essentially, acts as an ongoing reference guide to keep the team on-track and truly focused on what's most important. Testing and feedback takes a backseat: Often, teams end up spending too much time on research and execution as opposed to feedback and testing, which can lead to inefficient outputs. Real-time feedback gathering and testing is key, both of which are often ignored in a project roadmap.
Friction-free communication: Allows for seamless communication of plans and coordination of resources among teams for a variety of changing variables such as tasks, ideas, resources, budget, timelines, etc. Difficult to understand: Since it provides a high-level overview of the project, it can be difficult to understand the project details at a glance. Without the minute details, getting a 360-degree grasp of the requirements at hand can be challenging.
Signifies the reasoning: Articulates the strategic reasoning for pursuing the project in addition to understanding the underlying goals behind specific tasks. Time-taking: Building an accurate roadmap can take time and effort, especially in the beginning, and needs constant revisiting throughout the project lifecycle. The need to update it instantly is a must-have or else people might end up working with stale data and inaccurate goals.

The learning: Note that project roadmaps come with their own set of pros and cons. The accuracy and efficiency of your projects will ultimately depend on how strategically you create your project roadmap, how often you update it in real-time, and how easily you make it accessible to all the team members at every stage of the project lifecycle.
Moving on, let's look at how do you write a project roadmap.

How to Create a Project Roadmap?: Expert-Approved Tips for Creating a Killer Project Roadmap

In the final section, let's look at some expert-approved tips for creating a successful project roadmap. Having a few tips and tricks up your sleeve can help build a robust project roadmap and streamline your work process. Here are a few tips you can follow:

  • As a thumb rule, develop the project roadmap before making the project plan. This will act as a baseline for the team, based on which you can deep-dive and create a more in-depth project plan.
  • Strategically think about why you're undertaking the project in the first place to nail the project roadmap goals and objectives.
  • Make sure to have clear, accurate, up-to-date, and concise data at all times and make it easily accessible.
  • Ensure that the goals you outline are realistic, measurable, and achievable to prevent cost overruns and unpredictable delays.
  • Have a detailed break-up of the roles and responsibilities in addition to thinking about the timelines and costs.
  • Make sure to keep everyone in the loop about the project progress and maintain the integrity of the project roadmap.
  • Always highlight the contacts of the stakeholders, making it super-convenient for people to reach them.

Closing Thoughts

Roadmap is a macro-level overview of the project that effectively communicates the project goals to the team as well as the stakeholders, streamlines the workflow, ensures that the team focuses on high-priority tasks, analyzes time and budget required to complete the project, and fosters seamless communication between the teams. All in all, it acts as the single source of truth for every member involved in the project, making it an indispensable part of project management.