How to create a project roadmap: A toolkit for success
A project roadmap is the best way to communicate project strategies, milestones and deliverables to key stakeholders within your business.
But how do you create one and what should you include? Read our guide to effective project roadmapping below.
Communicating your project aim and strategy isn’t always easy. Often, key stakeholders and executives want to see how a project will unfold but not at the requisite of having to trawl through an overly detailed plan.
That’s why a project roadmap is so useful. It offers a concise way of charting project milestones and objectives so that decisionmakers know which deliverables to expect and when. It’s also a way of establishing effective workstreams, helping you delegate and manage tasks from the gestation stage.
Here, we cover the basics of creating a project roadmap, from setting a realistic timeline to establishing balanced workstreams with definable objectives.
We’ve added quick links to help you navigate the guide and find the information you need:
An effective project roadmap should communicate high-level project objectives and activity at a glance – and this starts with well-defined goals and an achievable project timeline.
Defining project goals and plans
A good project roadmap communicates goals and plans succinctly, providing high-level detail without relying on excessive planning notes and briefs. Your map should chart the objectives of the project simply, highlighting what stakeholders can expect and how your team will achieve it.
Start by creating a list of deliverables. This is a predefined rundown of what will be achieved, demonstrating the value and feasibility of the project to senior executives. Don’t offer reams of detail here; simply state your expectations before supplementing the goals with a workable project timeline.
Create a realistic timeline
A timeline is the most important part of a project roadmap. This sets out not only the duration of the project, but how it will evolve, when milestones will be met, and how individual workstreams will come together to achieve objectives in line with your project timings.
Begin by determining the necessary workstreams and resources needed to complete objectives, as these will dictate the length of the project and when to set key milestones. The timeline should identify the time it will take to complete your objectives and at what cost. How far into the future you look when communicating these timings and costs is up to you, and will depend on the scope of the project and the level of work involved.
How to establish project workstreams
Defined workstreams are fundamental to the success of a project, as they allow you to communicate to stakeholders and team members who is responsible for the management of specific tasks. Including workstreams in your roadmap is crucial, as it gives decisionmakers the peace of mind that all tasks are accounted for and have been assigned appropriate ownership within the business.
Here, we offer practical guidance on establishing effective project workstreams:
Assess the risks and value of each project task
Some tasks carry greater weight and responsibility than others, so you need to make sure these are delegated to the right people. Grade each task by how critical it is to the success of the project and assign accordingly to the appropriate team member or department.
Consider costs and resources
Each workstream should be carefully assessed to gauge the cost and resources needed. Stakeholders will want to see how much time, money and resource are being invested into specific tasks, so include this information in the workstream.
Once you have an idea of costings and resource, you can begin to delegate project activity to individual departments and team members. Delegation requires a careful balance between cost and feasibility; there’s little point giving a person chief ownership of a workstream as a cost-cutting measure if there are doubts on whether they can achieve their objective. Be realistic and consider the long-term viability of the project rather than short-term cost cuttings.
Don’t go too granular on workstream activity
A project roadmap is an at-a-glance solution, so don’t feel that you have to include every detail of how objectives will be achieved. Workstreams are a way of communicating ownership of high-level project tasks, but there should be no need to go more granular than this.
The activity of individual team members may form a large part of a wider workstream, so there’s no need to include this on the roadmap. This will keep things more flexible, allowing you to shift responsibility and create a contingency plan without justifying every change to stakeholders.
Set achievable milestones
Individual workstreams should help to highlight the progression of a project, and milestones are a simple way of communicating step-by-step progress to stakeholders. When establishing workstreams, milestones make it easy to see how individual activity will help towards meeting targets and objectives, ensuring each facet of the project is progressing as forecast in your roadmap.
Contingency and risk management
As you build out the timeline and begin to add defined workstreams, you need to consider high-risk areas and implement contingency measures which will steer the project back towards success should something go amiss.
Risk management is crucial to project roadmapping and key stakeholders will want to see that every eventuality has been accounted for. Caveat specific high-risk activity with an appropriate label, such as ‘limited resource’, ‘potential for external delays’ or ‘finance issue’, so that stakeholders are aware of areas of risk from the outset. This not only manages expectation but may help you resolve issues; for instance, if you approve additional funding or resources to support the smooth completion of individual workstreams and project goals.
To supplement your project roadmap, create a contingency document covering what action will be taken should any of the workstreams fail to fulfil their objective. This should effectively outline a ‘plan B’ for the project delivery, taking into account risk management analysis and contingency measures.
Here are some of the key takeaways and things to remember when creating your own project roadmap:
A project roadmap should make sense to anyone who reads it, giving a concise breakdown of your goals, strategy and activity at a glance. Try to avoid including too much detail; this can be included in a longer strategy or planning document.
A project roadmap should contain two key parts: a clear list of defined aims and deliverables and an accompanying timeline detailing the workstreams that will help you achieve your objectives.
Be realistic when drawing up a project timeline and think carefully about who to delegate specific tasks to.
Don’t overload workstreams with granular activity and processes; include only high-level information to keep the project’s workstreams flexible.
Ask a colleague to sense-check your roadmap before distributing it to stakeholders. If they can’t understand something or have uncertainties about its achievability, you may need to make some changes.
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