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, project schedule or project plan.
What Is a Project Roadmap?
A project roadmap is a tool that maps out project tasks, milestones and deliverables on a timeline. Its main purpose is to provide a high-level visual representation of the larger project plan and explain its phases. It also includes important scope, risk and resource management information. Because it acts as a guide, the project roadmap is also a great communication tool that can be used to keep stakeholders informed throughout the project life cycle.
It’s 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.
Project roadmaps are created with Gantt charts, which let you map out tasks on visual project timelines. ProjectManager’s online Gantt charts let you organize tasks, add milestones, link all four dependencies and filter for the critical path. You can even set a baseline to track progress in real time. Share comments and files with unlimited storage. Get started for free.
When Should You Use a Project Roadmap?
Project roadmaps should be used any time there’s a project, program or project portfolio that needs to be managed. A project roadmap should be created during the project planning phase, but they’re used throughout projects as a tracking tool everyone can check, such as key stakeholders, project managers and team members.
Because of their simplicity, project roadmaps are commonly used by project managers, program managers and project management offices (PMOs) as portfolio management tools. With project roadmaps, they can keep track of their multiple projects with ease.
Project Roadmap vs. Product Roadmap
A project roadmap isn’t the same as a product roadmap. Even though they’re similar visual planning tools, product roadmaps have specific features that made them better suited for product development purposes. Project roadmaps are very similar to product roadmaps, but they have slight differences. If you’re leading a product development team, you should use a product roadmap instead.
Project Roadmap vs. Project Plan
As stated above, a project roadmap can be seen as a “light version” of your project plan, which further defines all of your project areas such as your scope, risk management plan and resource management plan among others.
What Should Be Included In a Project Roadmap?
A project roadmap isn’t just a project timeline. There are other project management variables that need to be considered when creating one.
- Project goals and objectives: The main thrust of any project roadmap is the high-level goals and objectives of the project. There’s no need to go into great detail as your project goals and objectives are explained in your project charter.
- Project risks: State the main project risks that could make your project fail or compromise major elements of the project plan like the scope, schedule, goals, stakeholder expectations, quality assurance, etc.
- Project timeline: This project timeline overview only includes your key project milestones and deliverables. You can also use Gantt charts for a more detailed representation of your project schedule.
- Task dependencies: Identify task dependencies based on the tasks that you’ve mapped on your project timeline. Creating your project roadmap with a Gantt chart software tool that allows you to link task dependencies is the easiest way to represent dependencies.
- Project resources: Note the resources you’ll need to get the project done. These include human resources like your project team and physical resources such as equipment, materials, etc.
- Key individuals: List the key stakeholders and project roles and how to reach them.
- 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.)
- Roles & responsibilities: The roles and responsibilities of those involved in the project are outlined. The project roadmap defines who is doing what and then those tasks and deliverables can be tracked.
How to Create a Project Roadmap In 5 Steps
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. Most project managers use Gantt charts to create project roadmaps. Here’s how.
1. Break Down Your Project Scope
Your project scope is the sum of all your project tasks, or in other words, the work to be performed in a project. That’s why defining your project scope is the first step when creating a project roadmap, as you’ll need to know what project activities need to be done before drafting a project timeline. You can use a work breakdown structure to make sure you identify every task.
2. Map Out Your Project Tasks
Once you identify all your project tasks, it’s time to use ProjectManager’s Gantt chart to create a project timeline. Simply add your project tasks and their due dates. Our Gantt chart maker will automatically create a project timeline with that information.
3. Link Task Dependencies
Now that you have a basic project timeline with tasks and their due dates, you need to identify task dependencies. Task dependencies determine the order in which tasks need to be executed.
4. Identify Deliverables
Identify the deliverables that are expected from each task. You can attach files and comments to every task in the Gantt chart, so you can keep track of them.
5.Set Project Milestones
You can map your project milestones as well in the Gantt chart. Simply select a date and create a project milestone. They’re shown on your Gantt chart as diamond symbols.
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 Template
This free project roadmap template is ideal for beginner project managers. Simply fill out the task list and let our Excel template automatically create a visual timeline for you. Once you’re ready, you can open the project roadmap in ProjectManager to build a dynamic roadmap and track details in real time, manage resources and much more.
What Free Project Management Templates Can Help You With Project Roadmaps?
Creating a project roadmap can be challenging. That’s why we’ve created dozens of project management templates to help you plan, schedule and track your projects. Here are some that can help you with the project road mapping process.
This project plan template helps you gather the information you need to start building your project management plan. You can easily customize it and attach any supporting project documents as needed.
Project budgets are critical to start, execute and complete projects successfully. This project budget template is ideal to gather all your project costs and set spending limits.
Our work breakdown structure template helps you identify all your project tasks so you can create a project roadmap, timeline and budget.
What Project Management Tools Can Be Used to Create a Project Roadmap?
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. Some of the most commonly used project management tools to make project roadmaps are Gantt charts, kanban boards, project dashboards and project timelines.
There are many project management software products that address one or some of these features. The struggle is to find a one-stop solution that can act as a project planning, scheduling and tracking tool. In addition, project managers need a collaborative platform to not only share the project roadmap but also assign tasks, schedule resources and make it simple for teams to update their status.
ProjectManager Helps You Create Project Roadmaps in Minutes
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.
Track Your Project Roadmap with Online Dashboards
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 to keep track of their budget, progress, work and time.
Keep Project Resources Balanced
Keeping your resources properly allocated is how you stay on track. You don’t want to overallocated them. That leads to burnout. Retain your team members and keep them productive with our resource management features. Use the color-coded workload chart to see at a glance who has too many or too few tasks. You can reallocate your team right from that chart to balance their workload and keep them working at capacity.
Related Project Roadmap Content
- How to Write an Action Plan (Example Included)
- How to Make a Project Timeline
- Best Project Management Charts
- 15 Project Management Tools & Techniques for Project Managers
ProjectManager is online 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 the latest information. See how it can help you create a project roadmap and manage its execution by taking this free 30-day trial.