Roadmaps help you bring bold ideas to life and not to stray away from your business plan. The key to success is to decompose the goals, the ways to achieve them, and the outcome. However, the number of roadmaps for different projects increases with the growth of the company. They become hard to manage, and a seemingly handy feature turns into a real hassle. But this problem has a very simple solution.
Roadmaps help you look at business processes from different angles.
Roadmaps are a relatively new tool that is actively used by high-tech companies. However, the rest of the commercial sector is also switching to this kind of business.
Simply put, a roadmap is a visualization of strategic plans that answers the key questions: why, what, and when? The "why" question helps us bring all the plans together. Moving on to the "what" question, we decompose the processes required to achieve the goals. Finally, we use the "when" question to think over the timeline. The roadmap is primarily a promise of what will be introduced to the market, not how it will be introduced.
Businesses constantly look for new directions to take, start new projects, and launch new products. Roadmaps allow you to look at what is going on in the company at the top level, clearly see business processes, and stay on schedule. Moreover, each employee can have their own roadmaps with details of what they want to achieve and when. Thus everyone involved in the process has the opportunity to clearly present to the team what they are doing and what results this will help to deliver. Roadmaps make it easier for managers to explain innovations or simple routines to staff, investors, or contractors. This principle works at all levels.
For example, product managers should constantly create, maintain, and update the product roadmap as needed. This is their key responsibility. Since roadmaps have become the foundation of strategy, timelines, and functions, teams can refer to them throughout a product or project life cycle. It is the visualization of processes that allows you to understand what is happening right now, what will happen in the future, who is in charge of it, and how to deliver the product value to the customer and update versions to meet the audience requirements.
If you look at roadmaps in terms of launching and introducing a product to the market, you will see that they are the only way to graphically represent all the goals and objectives. Visualizations are easier to discuss, evaluate, manage, and edit. If you think of the work of a developer who writes code, you will find it difficult to explain to the team without a diagram showing what it means and what it is for. In addition, based on the roadmap, you can easily forecast financial statements, unit economics and more.
Of course, you use old-fashioned Gantt charts instead of roadmaps. In some cases, technical documentation is indeed very difficult to represent and visualize. However, it will also be difficult to discuss with the team if there is no visualization at all. In my opinion, the absence of a roadmap leads to a huge waste of time in sharing and displaying information.
It is also important to understand that a roadmap and a project plan are not the same thing. Roadmapping visualizes strategic initiatives and key areas of work. In this case, the project plan is a supporting document that outlines the details of what needs to be done to execute these initiatives. A roadmap should be used to define high-level goals and provide an overview of how to achieve them. A project plan should then be created to record the step-by-step actions that will lead to the implementation of each goal.
Visualization as a path to success.
Practice shows that roadmapping is best used to coordinate a cross-functional product team around a common goal, whether it is a new product launch, a major release, or a version upgrade. There are several steps that should be taken to create a clear and effective roadmap:
1 - The most important thing is to build the product strategy.
You should describe your product vision, goals and initiatives in as much detail as possible. This will probably require in-depth research of users and their needs, competitive analysis, and determination of a market position. Then all information should be represented in a sticky note format, for example, using the Miro service, to explain all the processes to the team. Thus you can create the so-called "skeleton", which the "flesh" of the project or product will be built up on.
2 - Analysis and evaluation of potential functions.
Next, you should add product functionality ideas to your roadmap. Before doing that, it is worth analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness of the ideas. To do this, you can use the RICE scoring system to consider all the pros and cons of a potential feature.
3 - Prioritization and definition of requirements.
All steps of the product strategy can be broken down into smaller parts. For example, to better understand the value a customer will receive, you should first analyze user stories, study their behavior, and convert the data into a separate map. Thus the way a user interacts with the product will become as clear as possible, and the teams will already be able to prioritize their work and understand the requirements.
4 - Vision for the release.
Once key processes and metrics are added to the roadmap, you should group all paths into themes and decide on a release date. This can be the release of a brand-new product or an updated version of an existing product.
5 - Roadmap setup.
A roadmap often visually represents release dates and links them to the goals and various initiatives. If necessary, you can customize the type of information and level of detail that will be available to other team members.
Before you start creating a roadmap, you should determine what you need it for in the first place. There are nine types of roadmaps for different purposes:
- Business roadmap shows the most important strategic directions in the company. These maps are usually created by top managers and given to teams to adjust their personal roadmaps. Business roadmaps are aligned with the strategic planning process for the coming quarter or year.
- Strategic roadmap visualizes high-level goals and initiatives. Most often, it represents specific releases, related goals, and an employee work plan.
- Portfolio roadmap includes planned releases with dates across multiple groups or offerings. This can be dedicated to a single product or multiple products.
- Features roadmap shows the entire workflow over a given period of time. By linking each release to specific dates, the roadmap allows you to see exactly when the project is scheduled to be delivered.
- Agile roadmap allows you to consider the main work areas in terms of time, for example, product goals from a perspective of smaller features that can be changed or added. The implementation of the product depends on the developers, so the flexibility of the roadmap comes to the fore.
- Go-to-market roadmap gives an understanding of what needs to be done to successfully introduce the product to the market. This roadmap can include small tasks and activities within the company: training, pre-launch briefings, and more.
- Marketing roadmap shows how strategic marketing initiatives align with overall goals as well as represents a timeline. Depending on the complexity of the process, the marketing roadmap can be broken down into functions such as digital marketing and content marketing.
- IT projects roadmap allows you to see strategy, releases and features together on a timeline. You can also use this map to analyze all IT processes and look at the strengths and weaknesses of the projects.
- Technology roadmap visualizes IT plans by priority. It can include infrastructure and platform upgrades, and data transformation management. The technology roadmap paints a detailed picture of goals and initiatives, new opportunities, release plans, financial resources, risk factors, and reporting.
A single product may require all nine types of roadmaps, which traditionally come with a lot of visualization. To analyze all the features effectively, sometimes it is worth considering them in conjunction with each other, which creates a certain problem. It is not enough to make handy roadmaps. They should be combined somehow.
To prevent visualizations from turning into a mess, it is best to build an automated system. In this case, automation is about finding certain relationships and accelerating data processing. In my opinion, it would be difficult to analyze a lot of roadmaps unless you employ this approach. However, there is no service on the market yet that would allow you not only to build roadmaps, but also to combine them. Currently these services have only basic functionality like simple editing tools Miro and Draw. Yes, you can draw objects quickly and easily there, but not automate them. You can also maintain all the roadmaps in Jira or Trello, but that is not the ideal approach either. It requires manual input and, again, leads to an unnecessary waste of time.
Due to inconvenience, some companies end up reverting to boring Gantt charts that are difficult to present to teams. Others, on the contrary, try to continue working with a huge number of roadmaps and spend a lot of time demonstrating them. However, there is a way out of this seemingly hopeless situation.
First, you should group all the roadmaps into front office, back office and related projects functions in any convenient service, even Excel. The best approach is to cluster all the roadmaps and try to start applying the coordinate system. For example, if the task is to look at all the roadmaps at the same time, you should ask yourself: What are we trying to get out of this? What should be the solution? To what extent does the set of processes bring us closer to the goal?
When we combine multiple roadmaps, we adhere to the principle of high-level evaluation. If possible, get rid of details before doing this. It is better to remove small steps, and highlight large ones as brightly as possible. If all roadmaps can be displayed as sticky notes, then they can be brought together. Next, you should cluster them, find correlations, and start merging.
Learning how to manage roadmaps opens up new opportunities for the business to predict and evaluate the results. Regarding smaller tasks, roadmaps can be used to update business strategy, communicate goals and initiatives to teams at all levels, tie the work of different departments to a certain idea, share reports and outcomes with partners and investors, and generally track company performance and key metrics.
In fact, roadmap management is a major evolutionary step. We have only recently got used to the term itself and learned how to put it into practice. And now, we need to move on to the regulation of a large number of different maps and development of new systems. I am sure that soon the analysis of the whole cluster of roadmaps will become as commonplace as running complex processes in Excel or PowerPoint. The main thing here is to see the result and go for it, then any business approach will be clean and success-oriented.