What Is a Roadmap? (And Other Frequently Asked Questions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 24, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project managers typically use different planning tools to prepare for a project. A project roadmap is a planning tool that allows these professionals to supervise and monitor their projects. Understanding what a project roadmap is can help you learn how to create and use one to manage teams and monitor timelines. In this article, we answer "What is a roadmap?", provide answers to other frequently asked questions about project roadmaps, and highlight tips you can use when creating one.

What is a roadmap?

To answer "What is a roadmap?", it's a visual representation of your strategies and goals for specific initiatives. It may guide your budget and short- and long-term investments that can help you achieve project goals for a company. While working on projects, you may prepare roadmaps that outline your goals, timeline, and strategy.

Project roadmaps typically allow you to communicate realistic expectations to stakeholders and help you to manage resources. They may also assist you in overseeing and supervising projects. Unlike a project plan, a roadmap provides a broader scope and view of a project's objectives and growth strategies.

Related: What Are Roadmap Templates? (And How to Create One)

What are the differences between a project plan and a project roadmap?

Project plans and roadmaps are similar but have crucial aspects that differentiate them. Unlike project roadmaps, project plans contain extensive details and outline each department's responsibilities and roles. These plans may specify different milestones, short-term goals, tasks, and resource tools. Project plans can include a company's marketing strategy and consumer profiles.

Project roadmaps typically provide an overview of a project's strategy without giving specific details. These roadmaps may include the significant objectives and goals of a project, and they typically function as internal planning tools. Unlike project plans that executives may share with investors and partners, executives typically only share project roadmaps with the appropriate teams and employees. Project managers may use both planning tools to improve their strategies.

Related: What Are Project Management Milestones? (With Types)

What are the benefits of using a project roadmap?

A project roadmap allows you to outline your objectives and goals for a specific project. This helps you in dividing tasks and responsibilities within the team you work in. You may assign these activities according to the team members' competencies and skills. Project roadmaps also enable you to estimate how long each task may take, which can help you set deadlines. Assigning deadlines helps ensure that the team remains accountable and focused.

Unlike project plans, roadmaps may not require constant adjustment and modifications. This is because these roadmaps provide an overview of a project without detailing specific activities. Roadmaps also serve as tools that remind team members about the objectives of the project. They may also help companies modify strategies to match changes in external policies and trends. Roadmaps are crucial in creating project plans, which describe tasks, activities, and schedules.

Related: 7 Types of Project Objectives (Plus Tips and Examples)

Who creates a project roadmap?

A project manager typically oversees and guides the creation of a roadmap for a project. Before creating a roadmap, you may organize meetings with team members and note their ideas and contributions concerning a project. This improves the project's strategy and shows that you value your team members' opinions.

Review the project roadmap with the team to understand their interpretations of it. This allows you to confirm project goals, objectives, and expectations. It also helps the team understand the dedication and commitment level a project may require. You may also consider the opinions of other stakeholders when creating a roadmap. Communicate with them, answer their questions and concerns, and allow them to review the project roadmap. This helps you manage their expectations, set realistic deadlines and milestones, and ensure that they understand all stages of a project's development.

Related: The 5 Phases of the Project Management Life Cycle

How can you specify priorities in a project roadmap?

Project roadmaps may not specify all the goals, objectives, and expected results from a project. They outline the most important goals and highlight the priorities within the project. Include objectives crucial to a project's success, and list them according to their importance, urgency, and relevance to other tasks and activities.

This helps you manage resources and budgets effectively. It may also help you prepare appropriate cost estimates for clients or customers. While external factors may affect some project goals, a roadmap enables you to identify what goals you may not modify. Roadmaps may allow you to remove unnecessary goals and strategies that may not be essential to a project's completion.

Related: Project Manager vs. Project Coordinator: What Makes Them Different?

Can you monitor a project's progress using a roadmap?

When creating a project roadmap, you may outline intervals and periods for reviewing progress. This improves the team's accountability and ensures stakeholders can track project milestones. While evaluating progress, you may identify challenges and issues that negatively affect a project's completion. You can work with the team to discover solutions to these issues before continuing with the project.

At each stage, you can assess the roadmap's expectations and current developments to understand how external or unforeseen circumstances may affect them. This allows you and the team to modify strategies, resource distribution, and deadlines to reduce the effects of these policies. At the end of a project, you can also compare the final results with the project roadmap to determine the project's success.

Related: Essential Project Manager Technical Skills

How can you create a project roadmap?

Here are steps you can follow to write a comprehensive project roadmap:

1. Understand project scope

Schedule meetings with stakeholders to discuss the project's purpose and expected outcomes. This can help you clearly understand its scope and communicate this appropriately to the team. Ask detailed questions to determine the client's priorities and strategies concerning the project. Before you begin, you can carry out research to investigate external policies and market trends that could affect a project's success. Consider consulting with mentors and other professionals before creating a project roadmap.

2. Identify project risks and deliverables

Project deliverables describe potential outputs, documents, and results from project-related tasks and activities. You may work with stakeholders to define the expected results of a project. The results of completed projects may also consist of different reports and milestones. Ensure that these deliverables are realistic, as stakeholders may use them to assess a project's success. Before creating a roadmap, outline project risks and potential challenges. This helps you assess its feasibility and create contingency plans if necessary.

Related: What Is a Project Contingency Plan? (With Types and How-to)

3. Prepare a timeline

Communicate with team members and stakeholders to understand project deadlines. When creating a roadmap, you can outline different stages and assign deadlines to them. Estimate how long it may take to implement different tasks before selecting a deadline. You may identify dependent tasks that control the outcome of other activities. Preparing a timeline also helps you highlight the project's priorities.

4. List available resources

Discuss the available resources for the project with stakeholders. You can create an estimate or budget that outlines the cost of all necessary materials. Consider the project's scope, deadline, and personnel when creating this estimate. You could also review previous projects and their budgets to predict how much the project may cost.

Tips for creating a project roadmap

Here are tips you can use to create a comprehensive project roadmap:

  • Set realistic expectations. Ensure that project expectations are feasible and resources are available for completion. This prevents project delays and funding challenges.

  • Exclude details. Your project roadmap can provide a broad view of a client's plans and strategies concerning a project. It may not be necessary to include many details about the project to keep the document concise.

  • Use simple language. Using plain language typically improves your roadmap's readability. This ensures that team members can understand and apply it effectively.

  • Provide regular updates. You may encourage team members to write and submit regular progress reports on a project. This helps to identify challenges or milestones that may affect completion.

  • Highlight necessary contacts. Consider including contact information for the key individuals concerned with a project's development. This ensures that team members can easily contact them if necessary.

  • Use feedback. The team may review your roadmap and provide feedback. Their observations may allow you to make improvements to your plans.

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