A detailed roadmap is not something every single project requires — some of them can be completed without extremely careful planning. But some brilliant ideas may still fail exactly because their authors don’t know what, when, and how to do! A good roadmap can solve this problem, and here are our 8 tips and tricks on outlining it.
1. Define Your Target Audience
Every time you create a product you have to define your target audience, and a project roadmap is not an exception in this case. Just answer a simple question: who do you create a roadmap for? If you are going to show it, for instance, to external stakeholders and sponsors, it may be enough to create a more or less general document which will outline only milestones and deadlines. For such an audience, a roadmap may even cover several years — sponsors usually appreciate having far-reaching and credible plans.
In turn, if you create a document for your team, it is essential to focus on tasks and specific features of your product. In this case, it would be better to make a roadmap more detailed, and plan everything over weeks and months.
However, you can still choose both of these options and get two separate roadmaps: one for a team, and another one for stakeholders and sponsors. The only taboo here is trying to create a universal roadmap for everyone — this just won’t work, as the document will be too messy.
2. Define the Tasks
So, after you are done with the target audience, it is time to make a list of tasks and start working on the roadmap itself. To develop it, we usually use the Gantt chart. You have definitely seen such charts before — they are horizontal bar charts where every bar represents a separate task.
We create a bar for every task which helps to keep everything in mind. Each bar extends from its expected start date to the expected deadline. The dates can be vague, and this is fine — a bit of ambiguity can even make the roadmap better! But no spoilers, we have a separate paragraph devoted to this topic, so we will talk about it just a bit later.
However, the most obvious and minor tasks are usually not included in the roadmap. With every single task described, a document will become too heavy and, therefore, not really efficient. Including such tasks as, for example, “Inform the project manager that the task is completed” is not crucial — come on, a really professional team does such obvious things without any reminders!
3. Organize the Data
A good roadmap is a coherent roadmap, so it is important to organize the tasks. When all the essential bars are created, we group them by team (if there are multiple teams involved in the project) or initiative. Besides, to save some space and improve the roadmap’s readability, we don’t give every task a separate row in the chart. No, sequential tasks can be placed in the same row. And, obviously, the bars should be sorted by priority or start date — this little trick on roadmap project management will help to complete everything on time.
4. Make It Colourful
Just imagine a huge roadmap covering plenty of tasks and… designed in black and white colours. Will such a document look boring? Definitely. Will it be inefficient? Well, this may happen too! To avoid these troubles, make your project roadmap colourful. For example, we often use colours to categorize the tasks by their status or priority.
A high-priority task can be marked with red, while the low priority one — with green. And so on, you got the idea. Colours can make even the most detailed and complicated roadmap readable and clear, so the team will miss nothing. By the way, the Gantt chart even allows for changing the pattern of the bars, which is also useful.
5. Emphasize the Milestones
Unlike tasks which can be represented by bars, milestones don’t have start and end dates. However, milestones are key points of a project, so they also deserve some attention and must be highlighted in the roadmap. We usually mark them with diamonds and place these symbols in the same line with the tasks they apply to.
In case a milestone (for example, an MVP release) applies to several tasks, we put it into a separate timeline. It is a much better decision than adding diamonds to, let’s say, 10 lines at the same time.
6. Follow the Progress
When it is important to understand the progress of each separate task, we equip the bars with fill levels. This trick helps to make sure that the project is carried out according to the plan, which is great. However, fill bars require regular updates. This can be inconvenient, but only in case a team suffers from forgetfulness. Everything is okay with our memory, so we don’t have any difficulties with updating the bars and checking the project’s progress.
7. Let the Roadmap Be a Bit Flexible
Just like software requirements, the plans may change. That’s why it is important to keep the timeline and the roadmap itself flexible. To do this, we don’t usually specify exact dates for every task mentioned in the roadmap. It is much better to have time horizons: for instance, weeks or months. If something happens and it will be essential to complete several extra tasks, a team will be able to deal with the changes without any stress.
The only thing is that only one person should be able to remove tasks or to add the new ones. Otherwise, a document may turn into a true mess.
8. Review the Roadmap On a Regular Basis
In the previous paragraph we talked a bit about changes and how to deal with them in the right way. Now, here is another change-related thing to remember: to understand if the changes to the roadmap are essential, it is important to review it regularly. The more dynamic the market is, the more often the roadmap must be reviewed. Actually, we recommend checking the roadmap every day — it won’t take a lot of time, but you will understand how things are going.
All these tricks are not something exceptionally new and unusual, but our experience proves that they work, which is the most important thing. So, does your project need a roadmap? Yes? Then just fill the form below — we would be glad to apply our skills in practice and provide you with a roadmap with no dead ends.