What is a project roadmap? (+ project roadmap template)

What is a project roadmap? (+ project roadmap template) - cover 2

Managing projects can be overwhelming, and you can easily get lost in details. 

So, how can you quickly demonstrate a project overview and its predicted progress to your stakeholders without breaking down the whole project management plan? 

You should create a project roadmap — i.e. a project management tool that summarizes your project’s what, why, and how.

In this guide, you’ll learn what a project roadmap is and how it is different from a project plan.

We will cover why you need a project roadmap and how to create one.

Moreover, we will provide an example of a project roadmap and a project roadmap template you can download for free and use for your projects.

What is a roadmap in project management?

A project roadmap is a strategic, high-level overview of the essential elements of a project. A project manager is in charge of creating it and using it over the course of the project lifecycle as a reference, to ensure that the project stays on track.

You may wonder what should be in a project roadmap?

A project roadmap should have the following elements:

  • Project objectives — i.e. what you plan to accomplish with your project.
  • Deliverables —  i.e. a tangible or intangible outcome produced from a project intended to be delivered to a customer.
  • Project timeline — i.e. an overview of a project’s deliverables arranged chronologically.
  • Milestones — i.e. checkpoints that emphasize the successful completion of major tasks along the project timeline.
  • Potential risks — i.e. any event that can affect your project, positively or negatively.
  • Resources overview — i.e. anything necessary to complete the project, like the budget, people, equipment, etc.
  • Dependencies — i.e. relationships between products, tasks, and activities.

Simply put, a project timeline acts as a guide for your project and gives a strategic overview of its main elements.

Project roadmap vs. project plan

You should not mistake a project roadmap with a project plan. It is easy to do that, but we will help you differentiate these two documents.

What is the difference between a project plan and a roadmap?

We create both documents at the beginning of a project. The main difference is in the level of detail provided in them.

A project roadmap is a straightforward and high-level overview of the necessary steps in a project.

On the other hand, you want to incorporate more details when creating a project plan.

The project management plan includes information about the following:

The project roadmap is practical for project managers to keep stakeholders up-to-date. On the other hand, the project plan is primarily an internal resource that helps project managers communicate tasks to team members, track milestone progress, and consists of various plans. 

The main elements of the project management plan are the following:

  • A scope management plan,
  • A requirements management plan,
  • A schedule management plan,
  • A cost management plan,
  • A quality management plan,
  • A resource management plan,
  • A communications management plan,
  • A risk management plan,
  • A procurement management plan, and
  • A stakeholder engagement plan.

To sum up, a project plan is far more complex than the project roadmap — it offers a comprehensive view of the project by breaking it down into tasks. This makes it easier to set responsibilities and track progress.

Why do you need a project roadmap?

A project roadmap should be simple and has the following purposes.

A project roadmap improves communication with stakeholders

According to the latest project management statistics, “41% of underperformers will point to inadequate sponsor support as the cause of project failure.” This percentage decreases to a mere 17% in high-performing organizations.

A project roadmap helps manage stakeholder expectations and keeps them informed at any point of the project lifecycle — which should improve sponsor support.

So, a project roadmap provides a high-level overview of the project — it enables updating different stakeholders quickly without providing too many details.

That makes it a valuable tool for communication with project stakeholders, such as executives and investors, as they need a macro-level view of the project.

A project roadmap makes coordination with other teams easier

A project roadmap shows an overview of deliverables, dependencies, and timeline — so you can coordinate shared work and resources.

A project roadmap summarizes your project’s objectives and boosts transparency

A project roadmap outlines your project objectives and provides an insight into where you’re going.

Moreover, sharing the project roadmap with all relevant parties improves transparency, as everyone who participates in the project or has a stake in it can view how the work is progressing.

Some statistics related to project communication show that 31% of companies find miscommunications about project objectives the number one reason why projects fail.

Therefore, having a high-level, transparent document that summarizes them comes in handy.

A project roadmap helps you recognize priority tasks

A project management roadmap can assist you in pinpointing the steps that require the most attention.

It includes task dependencies, so everyone knows which tasks are tied together and in which order they should complete them.

It is evident that a project roadmap is a helpful document.

However, creating it can be challenging.

Let’s find out more about these challenges you can encounter.

Challenges of creating a project roadmap

There are a few challenges you can face when creating a project roadmap:

  • Not planning realistically.
  • Not updating regularly.
  • Updating the roadmap too frequently.
  • Incorporating too many details.
  • Failing to share progress with all relevant parties.

Let’s take a look at how each challenge can cause a problem.

Challenge #1: Not planning a project roadmap realistically

It is not rare that projects are planned unrealistically, especially when it comes to the project timeline.

Poor time estimates lead to delays and cause dissatisfaction to project stakeholders and the team who work on a particular project.

Under those circumstances, the team members are urged to work faster on complex problems that require time and dedication.

Delays can compromise the company’s reputation, and changes made later in the project can be pricey.

Challenge #2: A project roadmap is not updated regularly

A project roadmap is not a static document you create once and never revisit. If it is not updated regularly, the entire project might be delayed.

You do not want a stakeholder to refer to an outdated project roadmap version and come to the conclusion that your team is failing to meet promised deliverables.

Priorities may shift, and you should use the roadmap to guide prioritization decisions.

Why does a team fail to update a project roadmap regularly? Well, there are several reasons why this may happen:

  • Team members can easily miss updating the project roadmap as they are busy with challenges that can emerge throughout the project.
  • The team may lack the motivation to keep up with project roadmap updates if it is time-consuming — especially if they need to update a document and send it to all relevant parties.

However, the team members must regularly share their progress with all parties involved to promote trust and transparency.

For this purpose, they can use project management software and save their time and energy while keeping everyone on track and avoiding falling behind schedule.

Challenge #3: A project roadmap is updated too frequently

Just as with everything else in life, having balance is important in project management.

No one can keep track of too many changes. It can be frustrating for the project team.

Project objectives and deliverables that change too often may make them question leadership’s ability to make strategic and long-term decisions.

Challenge #4: A project roadmap incorporates too many details

As we mentioned earlier, a project roadmap is a high-level document that does not go into detail.

Including too many details may make it difficult to understand it at a glance. 

Other project documents provide more information, so you should leave the extra details to them, and keep your project roadmap brief and concise.

Challenge #5: A team fails to share progress with all relevant parties

You need to share your project roadmap with all relevant parties involved in the project.

That means you should share it with those who directly participate in the project and the rest of the organization that your project may impact. 

Parties who rely on a project roadmap may include the following: 

  • Project team members
  • Internal and external stakeholders, 
  • Product owners and managers, and
  • Customers.

Now that we understand the challenges that arise alongside project roadmaps, it’s time to create your own project roadmap. 

How to create a project roadmap

How do you make a roadmap? 

Well, in order to do it easily and successfully, you should follow these steps:

  • Define project objectives,
  • Outline deliverables,
  • Provide a project timeline,
  • Set key milestones,
  • Identify potential risks,
  • Provide a resources overview,
  • Identify dependencies,
  • Use a project roadmap template, or
  • Use project management software,
  • Make it collaborative, and
  • Review and update your roadmap,

As a project roadmap is not an in-depth document, every section should be brief and concise.

Step #1: Define project objectives

Set realistic project objectives and be concise.

Project roadmaps are there to help everyone understand which objectives they have to achieve, and for project stakeholders to stay focused on them.

There is no need to go into great detail.

Other documents, like a project charter, and a project plan, incorporate more information, while a project roadmap serves only as a guide. 

Step #2: Outline deliverables

Identify the results you intend to generate from your project.

Pinpointing deliverables on a project roadmap enables stakeholders to quickly and easily measure project progress.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

If you want to learn more about deliverables in project management, check our guide:

Step #3: Provide project timeline

A project timeline puts the project’s progress into context by tracking how long it is estimated to last.

It is a high-level overview of when project initiatives will begin and end. 

By having it, we are able to determine if everything planned is achieved on time.

Step #4: Set key milestones

Determine key milestones and estimated dates for the main achievements in your project.

Milestones indicate a certain level has been reached within a project, and milestone tracking offers a way of measuring project progress.

Step #5: Identify potential risks

Specify risks that could potentially block successful project completion. 

These can be obstacles related to:

  • Resources,
  • Task dependencies,
  • Team members, or 
  • Other internal or external factors. 

Simply put, identify anything that could endanger the project or timeline from a high-level view.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

Find out more about risks in project management in our guide:

Step #6: Provide resources overview

Do you know how many organizations complete projects on time and within budget?

According to the project performance statistics, only 34% mostly or always complete projects on budget, and the same percentage applies to completing projects on time. 

Calculating the allocated resources makes it easy to measure their impact on the project.

Based on how well they’re doing and how quickly the project meets objectives, you can decide to increase or decrease the resources you committed to the project.

Step #7: Identify dependencies

In a nutshell, dependencies are relationships between tasks that determine their order in a project.

It is well known that, in a project, order matters. Therefore, you need to determine dependencies because understanding them is crucial for work organization and project schedule preparation.

Tasks are tied together, and they can be predecessors and successors to each other.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

Want to go more in-depth about dependencies in project management? Read our guide:

Step #8: Use a project roadmap template

Using a template always comes in handy. It ensures your project roadmap is universal for all your projects.

In addition, using a project roadmap template saves you time, as you do not have to build a new one from scratch. 

What’s the best — you don’t have to waste your time creating such a template. 

We have prepared an easy-to-use project roadmap template you can download and edit for free and adjust to suit your purpose.

Project roadmap template
Project roadmap template

🔽 Download the project roadmap template

Alternative to step #8: Use project management software

Another option would be to use project management software to create your project roadmap. It is a great choice to quickly and easily visualize your project and have everything in one place. 

Moreover, it allows everyone on the project to collaborate efficiently, and stay on track.

Let’s look at Plaky, as an example of a project management software and what it has to offer:

  • Is intuitive and straightforward to use.
  • Offers table and Kanban views to help you visualize projects.
  • Enables tracking your workflow by labeling your tasks with urgency, status, and due date.
  • Makes collaboration transparent and easier by having the option to subscribe to tasks. You can include yourself or other people who are interested in the work’s progress to track the activities within a specific task.
  • Enables sharing your workspace with stakeholders and anyone else involved in a project.
  • Provides a free plan for unlimited users and projects.
  • Values your privacy — Plaky is ISO 27001 certified and GDPR compliant.

Step #9: Make it collaborative

If you use a template created in Google documents, share it with all relevant stakeholders and team members. 

This way, they can add their comments, and you can keep the project roadmap updated. 

If you’re using a project management software, collaboration features are likely built-in, so it will be even less of a hassle to collaborate with the teams and stakeholders.

Step #10: Review and update your roadmap

As mentioned earlier in this guide, a project roadmap is not a static document. It constantly changes together with the project. Many factors affect a project’s outcome in its development stages.

Therefore, you should regularly update your project roadmap to avoid project stakeholders concluding that your team is falling short of promised deliverables.

Project roadmap example

We can use a project roadmap for various types of projects, including the following:

  • IT,
  • Marketing,
  • Sales,
  • Business development, etc.

Let’s show how it works by providing an example. 

Suppose you have a physical store and want to develop an e-commerce website to help you expand your sales. 

Then our project roadmap may look like this:

Project roadmap elementDescription
Objectives– Increase people’s awareness of the business
– Support sales by increasing the number of monthly qualified leads by 20%
– Increase monthly sales by 25%
Deliverables– SEO competitor analysis report
– Content for all landing pages
– Product descriptions
– UI and UX design
– Products and category architecture
– Filtering options
– Payment processing setup
– GDPR compliance documentation
– The test strategy
– The deployment plan
Timeline– SEO competitor analysis report: April 11, 2022 – May 13, 2022
– Content for all landing pages: May 16, 2022 – June 17, 2022
– Product descriptions June 20, 2022 – July 22, 2022
– UI and UX design April 11, 2022 – May 13, 2022
– Products and category architecture May 16, 2022 – July 11, 2022
– Filtering options  July 12, 2022 – July 29, 2022
– Payment processing setup August 1, 2022 – August 5, 2022
– GDPR compliance August 8, 2022 – August 19, 2022
– Quality assurance August 8, 2022 – August 23, 2022
– Deploy August 24, 2022 – August 26, 2022
Milestones– Design is prepared: May 13, 2022
– SEO analysis and content preparation are completed: May 13, 2022
– Basic functionalities are developed: July 11, 2022
– Advanced filtering and payment options are integrated: July 29, 2022
– Data entry is completed: July 29, 2022
– Payment processing setup is done: August 5, 2022
– The Consent Management Platform (CMP) is integrated: August 19, 2022
– QA is finished: August 23, 2022
– Deployment is finished: August 26, 2022
– The website is launched: August 29, 2022
Risks– Underestimated time/resources
– Problems with integration 3rd party systems such as payment options and chat support
– Cross-platform compatibility
ResourcesDesign team: 2 members
Marketing team: 2 members
Development team: 3 members
QA team: 2 members
Budget: 500.000,00 USD
Dependencies– SEO analysis and content preparation are completed before data entry
– Basic functionalities and advanced filtering are developed before the data entry
– Payment processing setup is done before GDPR implementation
– The Consent Management Platform (CMP) will be implemented before the website launching
– Website testing is done before release

Now, we will explain how to use Plaky project management software to create and keep your project roadmap up-to-date.

In Plaky, you can start creating a project roadmap by simply adding a new board within a workspace of your choice, like the main workspace or project roadmap dedicated workspace.

Create a board in Plaky
Create a board in Plaky

After creating the new board, you are ready to customize it to suit your needs.

Add items in Plaky
Add items in Plaky

Everything is highly customizable. You can create item groups and rename them as you wish. Moreover, you can add custom columns with the values you need for your project.

In addition, you can add a status label that is useful for the project roadmap as you can use it to show task status and priority level. You can rename columns, create your labels and choose colors you prefer.

Status labels in Plaky
Status labels in Plaky

When set, status and priority columns can look like this.

Labels in Plaky
Labels in Plaky

You can set start and end dates for all project activities, rename every item you create, assign people, comment on items, set start and end dates for project activities, and more. As Plaky offers flexibility,  you can use it to manage every type of project.

Last but not least, it’s time to show you all the data from the table above in Plaky project management software.

Project roadmap in Plaky part 1
Project roadmap in Plaky part 1
Project roadmap in Plaky part 2
Project roadmap in Plaky part 2

It looks great, doesn’t it?

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

If you want to find out more about the options you have in Plaky, check the following pages:

Wrapping up: A project roadmap guides you through the project

Just as sailors in the past relied on a map, project managers rely on a project roadmap.

It summarizes the what, why, and how of a project. 

The project roadmap comes with many benefits.

It helps manage stakeholder expectations and keep them informed without getting into small details. 

Moreover, coordination of shared work and resources becomes easier, and it summarizes your project’s objectives and helps you recognize priority tasks. 

Use the template or project management software we recommended to save your time creating this document and focus on managing your project.

References

  • Indeed Editorial Team. (2021, April 29). 5 Tips For Developing a Project Roadmap. Indeed Career Guide. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/project-roadmap
  • Stone, K. (2020, July 9). The State of Project Management in 2020 [42 Statistics] | SaasList. SaasList. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://saaslist.com/blog/project-management-statistics/
  • Wellingtone. (2021). The State of Project Management Survey 2021. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://wellingtone.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/The-State-of-PM-2021.pdf

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