A Quick Guide to Creating a Project Roadmap

A project roadmap is a key document that will help ensure your project goes smoothly and gets buy-in from important stakeholders. Here’s how you can create a winning roadmap.

Updated May 26, 2020

Storytelling is a key aspect of project management. And by that, we don’t mean crafting the next Harry Potter or Game of Throne series.

Project managers need to be able to quickly tell the story of their project. They need to have a kind of elevator pitch that explains what the project aims to achieve, how they plan to accomplish it, how long it will take, and how much it will cost.

To do that, you need to create a project roadmap. This roadmap is the document that will set stakeholders' expectations and keep them up to date with project progress. That’s why it’s important to create an easy-to-digest, visual document that succinctly describes your project plans.

This article explains exactly how you can put a project roadmap together and how it will benefit your project as a whole.

Overview: What is a project roadmap?

A project roadmap contains a high-level, strategic overview of the goals, milestones, resources, deliverables, and project management timelines of any project. Rather than delving into the nitty gritty of the project, the roadmap is designed to give stakeholders a snapshot of its status.

Project roadmap vs. project plan: What’s the difference?

A project roadmap is a strategic document that communicates the high-level vision of any project. In contrast, a project plan breaks down this vision into day-to-day tasks that the project team needs to carry out to meet the goals outlined in the roadmap.

While this strategic roadmap is aimed at stakeholders such as the C-suite, investors, or customers, the project plan is an internal document used by the product team to stay up to date with the status of tasks.

Normally, a project manager puts together a roadmap first before breaking down the goals, deliverables, and milestones into individual steps and tasks.

Benefits of creating a project roadmap

Documenting your project before you begin is key to ensuring you meet goals and milestones on time and within budget. Here are some ways a project roadmap sets you up for success.

1. Manage expectations

When your stakeholders see the objectives, resources, and timelines mapped out, then they understand when you can provide the deliverables and why you can finish the project in that timescale.

Instead of asking questions like, “Can’t we do this quicker?” or “Can you speed up this project?” the stakeholders have a resource that explains when you’ll meet certain milestones, what you can deliver, and areas where you have some flexibility versus ones that are non-negotiable.

2. Save time

Your project team is not static. People may leave, and others will join. Instead of having to explain the whole project from the beginning to new team members or stakeholders, you can present them with the project roadmap.

That way, they can not only see which stage of the project you’re currently working on, but they also get a snapshot of the history of the project and what you’ve already accomplished or delivered.

3. Make better decisions

As your project roadmap informs your project plan, you can use it to make important decisions in a speedier and more informed way. For example, if you’re running behind and you need to decide which task to prioritize, you can refer to the overall objectives in your project roadmap.

Then you can work on the task that will help you achieve the most important, or time-sensitive, goals and stay on track.

This also means you can justify the decisions you make to stakeholders and reduce back-and-forth discussions about what to do next, or what to prioritize.

How to create a project roadmap

Ideally, you want your project roadmap to fit on one page. That might seem unachievable considering how much information you want to include, but it’s important to be succinct and visual.

Being too detailed will weigh down the project roadmap and make it too confusing to quickly digest, especially for stakeholders who are short on time, or new team members who need to get up to speed quickly.

Here are our top project management tips on how to create a roadmap.

Step 1: Select a project management tool

Automation is your friend. Instead of trying to manually put together a roadmap, find a project management tool that can help you create and present it in a visually compelling way that engages stakeholders.

Team Gantt has impressive roadmapping functionality with project planning templates that allow you to quickly create a roadmap and reuse it for future projects. You can print a PDF of your project’s timeline, so you can easily present data to your stakeholders.

Team Gantt's project roadmaps and project plans

Team Gantt allows you to create detailed project roadmaps and project plans.

Step 2: Define your objectives

Setting objectives is one of the basic principles of project management. You need to know what you hope to achieve and why before starting any project.

How will you know if you have successfully managed a project if you don’t have any way of measuring this success or any indication of what you need to accomplish?

When you’ve defined your objectives, you also need to work out how you’re going to measure them. Decide on metrics and then find a way you can track this data to make sure you are on track to meet your goals. If you’re not on track, you can get insight into what you need to adjust.

Step 3: Set a schedule

The project schedule shouldn’t contain specific dates and times when you hope to complete milestones and complete tasks.

Instead, it should serve as an implementation plan and outline the overall timeline of the project, detail how long each milestone will take to achieve, and explain when you expect to fulfill the project’s objectives.

Make sure you have project management software or tools in place that allow you to track how well you are adhering to this schedule. Monday.com has a timeline system that maps out the different milestones and displays how long it has taken (or is taking) to complete each one.

Monday.com Project Tasks

With Monday.com, you can track whether your project is on schedule.

Step 4: Estimate costs

Cost refers not only to the tools and equipment you need to buy and pay for to complete the project, but also other resources such as the number of working hours from each team member, and special skills required to tackle different tasks.

Make sure you have access to both adequate personnel and tools before you start the project.

If you need to request resources from other teams or hire temporary or freelance employees, include that in the project proposal as well.

Asana's workload tracker

Asana lets you track the workload of different team members.

Project management software Asana includes resource management and time-tracking features, which can simplify the process by tracking workload and time spent on tasks.

Review and adapt

Creating a project roadmap is not a one-and-done exercise. If circumstances change, if you miss deadlines, if you’ve maxed out your budget, if you have a spate of illness, or if the world throws up some strange and unprecedented situation, you need to adapt your roadmap to the new normal.

It’s impossible to account for every possible scenario when putting together your roadmap, but if you stay on the ball and you’re agile, you’ll be able to know what to do to make the project work, and you won’t be afraid to ask for help.

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The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.