Due to all of the components of a project, it’s easy for a project manager to get lost in the details, and lose track of the big picture. But how can you see the entire project landscape to ensure you’re heading in the right direction? Better yet, how can you easily explain to your stakeholders how your project will develop without having to break down the entire project management plan?
A project roadmap is the best way to summarize the what, why and how of your project into an easy-to-understand document that can be shared with anyone. A project management roadmap is a unique tool that has a different purpose than other similar project documents such as a project charter, milestone chart, or project plan.
What Is a Project Roadmap?
A project roadmap is an overview that sets out the project milestones, deliverables and objectives. Its main purpose is to provide a high-level visual representation of the project timeline and explain its phases. Because it acts as a guide, the project roadmap is also a great communication tool that can be used to keep stakeholders informed at any point of the project lifecycle.
It is the overall document that speaks to the strategy of the project and why that strategy is being engaged. Therefore, the project roadmap helps project managers ensure everyone working on the project understands the project plan, regardless of what piece they might be working on.
Because of their simplicity, project roadmaps are commonly used as project portfolio management tools. They’re very useful for program managers who need to oversee multiple projects simultaneously. With project roadmaps, they can keep track of their project portfolios with ease.
The image below shows ProjectManager’s project roadmap tool being used to manage a project portfolio.
Under the task name column, program managers can list their project portfolio and zoom into each project to see its phases, tasks and milestones. Furthermore, they can track the progress of each task in real time and communicate with team members.
How to Create a Project Roadmap
Simply put, a project roadmap extracts information from your project plan to provide an overview of your project. The project roadmap must be visual and manageable in length, so it can be easily digestible by all the stakeholders and team members involved in the project. If it can fit on one page, better still. Think of the project roadmap like you would an actual map. It shows you and your team members the whole landscape and puts your trip in context.
The key components that you’ll need to make a project roadmap are as follows:
1. Project Overview
The main thrust of any project roadmap is the high-level goals and objectives of the project. There is no need to go into great detail here as your project goals and objectives are explained in your project charter.
2. Project Risks
3. Schedule Overview
Given that your project roadmap is a visual timeline of your project, you want to include a schedule overview. This schedule overview will only include your key project milestones and deliverables. You can also use Gantt charts for a more detailed representation of your project schedule.
Again, only from a high-level view, note the important project deliverables and how they’re connected. Creating your project roadmap with a Gantt chart software tool that allows you to link dependencies is the easiest way to represent dependencies.
Note the resources you’ll need to get the project done. These include the human resources like your project team and physical resources such as equipment, materials, etc.
6. Key Individuals
List the key people on the project team and how to reach them.
7. Kickoff Meeting
Meet about the project management roadmap and make sure expectations are clear to all stakeholders. (Be sure to have a kickoff meeting agenda prepared.)
8. Tasks & Assignments
Another aspect of the project roadmap is ownership. That means that the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the project are outlined. The project roadmap defines who is doing what and then those tasks and deliverables can be tracked. Project management software allows you to assign tasks and use team collaboration tools to facilitate this process.
Not everything can be so sharply defined, of course, which is why the project roadmap has something called “fuzzy time.” This is a project planning technique that allows tasks that cannot be clearly pinned down to reside in a looser time bucket. Now they are identified and can be tracked without fear of them falling between the cracks.
Project Roadmap Example
To better illustrate how to create a project roadmap, let’s take a closer look at the project roadmap example that we previously mentioned.
The image above shows a finalized project management roadmap. Now let’s look at each of its components.
- Project Phases:The image above shows the “development” and “testing” stages of the “Tannen Tech project”. They’re represented on the project timeline with the blue and red lines respectively.
- Milestones: The diamond icons represent the project milestones that mark the end of each phase.
- Tasks: Each bar represents a task. Our roadmap tool allows you to track their completion with a percentage. You can also specify the project deliverables associated with each task.
- Dependencies: The arrows on the roadmap tool represent the dependencies among tasks.
- Key Individuals: You can assign each task to the project team members that are responsible for them.
- Dates: Dates are a critical component of project roadmaps. Our roadmap tool allows you to set dates for your project’s tasks, milestones, and phases.
As you can see our project roadmap is very similar to a Gantt chart, but the main difference is that you can use our Gantt chart view to create a more detailed version of individual projects, while our project roadmap tool works best for project portfolio management.
Project Roadmap Tips
Here are some tips that we think might be helpful when creating a project roadmap:
- It should quickly and easily communicate the overall project objectives and goals.
- Stakeholder expectations are managed by making sure everyone involved in the project understands the basic reason for the project.
- Communication is one of the fundamental aspects of a project roadmap, and it should be able to speak to everyone on the project.
- The project roadmap is a tool to help make big decisions. By looking back at the project roadmap, the main thrust of the project is clear, and that information will inform your decision-making.
- The project roadmap is a versatile project management document that can be consulted throughout the project lifecycle, so it’s important to keep it updated. In a sense, it’s an overview status report for those who need an update.
- Make sure the project roadmap is realistic or else there will be delays, cost overruns and stakeholder expectations will not be met.
- Team members must always share their progress with the rest of the project team to keep everyone on the same page and not corrupt the integrity of the project roadmap.
- A project roadmap is not the same as a product roadmap. Even though they’re both visual planning tools, product roadmaps are specifically used for product development purposes.
- Even though you can use a project roadmap template or use graphic design tools, you’ll need to update those static documents every time you change your project management roadmap. Project management software automates this process and offers you features that project roadmap templates can’t.
- Project roadmaps also work if you’re using an agile methodology to manage your project. There are agile roadmaps that are compatible with your agile project.
Project Roadmap Tools
As we’ve discussed above, project roadmaps condense information from the project plan and project schedule into a high-level overview. To do so, they must include project objectives, milestones, resources and tasks.
These are a lot of things to keep track of and display in an easy-to-understand format that can be shared with the whole project group and accessed at any point in the project lifecycle. This can be overwhelming without the right tools. For this reason project managers need a project management software that has the right roadmap planning features.
There are many project management software products that address one or some parts of this larger whole. The struggle is to find a one-stop solution that can act as a planning tool, has a collaborative platform to not only help share the project roadmap but make it simple for teams update their status and then track the project milestones to make sure that you’re keeping to the schedule.
Our project management software has the features for everyday project management, but also the broad strokes necessary to compose a project roadmap for individual projects or project portfolio management. Our online Gantt charts give both a high-level overview of the project as well as a place to collect and assign tasks that then can be updated by project managers and team members anywhere and at any time.
The real-time dashboard then reflects these changes as they happen, so everyone sees exactly where the project is and can address issues before they become problems. The real-time dashboard is a powerful project management tool that goes beyond roadmap planning, allowing project managers keep track of their budget, progress, work and time.
ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software, which means data is collected in real time, and teams can access the tools even if they’re working remotely. Our software offers a collaborative platform and the ability to communicate at the task level to make sure that the project roadmap always reflects that latest information. See how it can help you create a project roadmap and manage its execution by taking this free 30-day trial.