Roadmaps: What Have We Done For You Lately?

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Roadmaps: What Have We Done For You Lately?

Kathy MacDougall Erie, Colorado, USA

Good communication inside and outside the project team is a key factor in the success of any project. An important communication tool for all projects is the official project roadmap. The project plan helps your immediate project team chart a course for change at the task level. By contrast, the project roadmap allows the broader stakeholder community to understand the change that will happen at a higher level. The project roadmap is a vehicle which helps to communicate the planned changes, the timeframes for specific changes, and the impact these changes will have on the business.

So how does one go about creating a project roadmap? First, enlist the input of top project stakeholders. What features are important to them? What's the priority level of each of these features? Are there things happening within the business that will make it important to have particular features ready by a specific date? Capture the voice of the customer and use this as the foundation for a draft roadmap.

Next, create the draft of the roadmap which shows a list of high level features grouped into a realistic timeframe (quarterly typically works well). For each feature, describe the business value (e.g. reduce time to place an order by 2 minutes; reduce cost to place an order by $10) on the roadmap. If the business value cannot be described, this should bring into question the validity of including the feature in the project. In short, items without tangible business value shouldn't appear on your roadmap and warrant further scrutiny in the form of a cost / benefit analysis.

Once a good draft has been created, get feedback from the project's executive sponsor as well as from the project stakeholders. Provide a live forum for discussion which allows stakeholders to ask for clarity, voice concerns regarding prioritization, and alert the team to items that are missing from the roadmap. These frank discussions build understanding of the project and help to ensure the roadmap is in alignment with stakeholder priorities. Adjust the draft according to the input received. Ideally, after completing this step, you'll have a roadmap which is supported by all key stakeholders.

Finally, shout it out loudly -- post the roadmap prominently on the project website, present it to secondary stakeholder groups, use it as a primary communication tool for the projects. Review the roadmap quarterly to make sure you are on track. Tell stakeholders what has been completed and what will be coming during the next quarter. If delays make it necessary to revise the roadmap, go back to the draft stage above and repeat. Communicate the newly revised plan to all involved.

This method of creating a project roadmap gives project stakeholders a voice and lets them know what to expect. And last, but by no means least, it affords your team a regular method by which to communicate to others what they have successfully delivered during previous quarters.

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