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What is a Roadmap in Project Management?

A project roadmap is a graphical, high level overview of the project's goals and deliverables presented on a timeline. Unlike the project plan where details are fleshed out, the roadmap should be simple and free of minutiae. This makes the project roadmap a useful tool for managing stakeholder expectations, as well as for communicating plans and coordinating resources with other teams.

The project roadmap should contain the following:

  • Project goals and objectives
  • A timeline indicating the schedule
  • Important milestones and deliverables
  • Possible risks
  • Dependencies

Why do you need a project roadmap?

When you start a project, chances are that you have many variables to keep track of. How do you manage all the content? How is the work divided between your team members? And, more importantly, how do you keep track of the many tasks, ideas, and resources without getting bogged down by the details? 

A roadmap provides a bird’s eye view of the project without getting into the infinitesimal details. This makes it an important tool for project managers who are tasked with keeping the stakeholders informed of the scope and progress of a project. 

In essence, a project roadmap is indispensable for anyone who requires a macro-level view of the project. It is an important tool of project management as it also aids in the development of a more comprehensive project plan. 

How can a project roadmap help you?

Here are some of the ways a project roadmap can help you:

To communicate your goals to your team

A project roadmap is a highly visual document that clearly outlines all the goals and objectives of your project. Once your team understands the objectives, it makes it easier for them to focus on specific tasks. 

It also gives an overview of the project, which can help you and your team estimate the time required to complete each stage of the project. Additionally, it reminds your staff of the project’s baseline so they do not get side-tracked during the execution stage. 

Recognize priority tasks

A project management roadmap can help you identify the stages of your project that demand the most attention. It can also provide an estimated overview of the amount of complexity and effort involved. Usually, further development of these stages leads to product maps. 

Product roadmaps are similar to project roadmaps, except that they provide an overview of a particular product’s vision and life cycle. 

Communication with stakeholders 

A project management survey conducted by KPMG stated that only one in three organizations develop projects that are likely to satisfy their stakeholders. 

This dissatisfaction is due to stakeholders’ expectations for teams to accommodate minor changes during the execution process. Consequently, this causes projects to deviate from their original goals, which leads to productivity loss. 

A project management roadmap helps to avoid miscommunication between stakeholders and your team by making sure that everyone stays on the same track. It can also clarify to stakeholders what steps were taken during the execution of the project. 

Tips for producing a project roadmap

We have already talked about how a project management roadmap can help you streamline your work process. In order to get the most out of a robust roadmap tool, here are a few tips that you can follow:

  • Your project roadmap should have clear and precise information to assist in decision-making.  
  • Your project roadmap should also outline realistic goals because hard, unachievable deadlines can add to cost overruns and delay the project.
  • Your team should update each other about the progress of the work in order to maintain the integrity of the project roadmap.
  • Make sure you highlight contacts of the stakeholders and people responsible for the project, so it becomes easier to reach them.

Product Development Tips From the Wright Brothers

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Challenges of a project roadmap

Despite its benefits, a project roadmap comes with its own set of challenges. 

  • Your roadmap should only provide an overview of the project and avoid details that can be difficult to understand at a glance.
  • Teams often focus heavily on the research and execution of the project in the roadmap and neglect the testing and feedback aspect. 
  • A project roadmap is likely to be more successful when your entire team and stakeholders agree with it. 

The main thing to remember is that your project roadmap is not a detailed overview of your project. It mainly functions as a “single source of truth” for your stakeholders and project team so they can understand goals, objectives, scope, and other high level details.  

Get started building your very own roadmap with our Wrike product roadmap template.