Creating the Perfect Project Roadmap

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In project management, we talk about a lot about tools and techniques. The risk logs, the schedules, the resource charts, the budgets, etc. are always mentioned but what about the simplest but most effective tools that exists …. The Project Road-map? Often forgotten, often misjudged, it is one of the current project tools that can offer more than any other. Unlike the project schedule where details are fleshed out, the road-map should be simple and free of mind-blogging details. This makes the project road-map a very useful tool for working with clients, as well as communicating, but also managing the project at a very high level. The project road-map should contain the project goals and objectives, a timeline indicating the schedule, important milestones and deliverables, maybe possible risks that could occur at that level and of course dependencies

But a question, we often get is how to create one. Let me explain this a little further, you are at the onset of the project and you know little about it but still need to create a road-map. It is like a chicken and egg scenario …. I need the road but I don’t know how to do it. Well here are some of our steps / tips in defining a road-map. Caution at this point, we are never saying the road-map will be prefect, it is an artifact that is about guidance and not perfection

  • Step 1. Define the Project: – The first step in road mapping a project is to define the project. This process involves determining what the project is (justification), what the objective of the project is (what will be delivered), and what defines project success (the key performance indicators). In defining the project, the aim is not about been specific but understanding the deliverables the project will produce.
  • Step 2. Plan the Milestones and Tasks: – Once you have a solid definition and scope for your project, and the deliverables are known, you can define the milestones and associated deliverables of the project. The milestones may need to be understood a bit more and the deliverables should be decomposed. The best form of decomposition is often a visual mind map that can show the level of definition and more importantly, the level of understanding.
  • Step 3. Dependency Planning: – This is the key step in road mapping any project. Creating dependencies between phases, milestones, and features is about visualising all of the deliverables and their relationships. This allows the project to see when things are not progressing as planned. This also helps to mitigate potential problems before they have a chance to impact your launch date.
  • Step 4. Resource Planning: – The next step on the project road mapping is resource planning. Once the milestones and dependencies are identified, the next question is who can be assigned ownership of that deliverable / phase? Since duration’s may have been estimated, the resources that will be required can be estimated. This can start the process of building the core project team.
  • Step 5. Risk Analysis: – After resources and milestones have been identified, the risk analysis should begin. This is not risk analysis as we know it, this is more focused on scenario or ‘what-if’ analysis. It requires the project to be honest in the assessment of what if different scenarios happened, what it would mean to the project road-map. This is the first step in identifying risk.
  • Step 6. Rework: – A road-map will always be a living document / artifact so it needs constant attention and rework. Don’t make the mistake and think it is a static document. It can be used to show high-level progress at all times

The best project managers see the big picture but can also drill down into the weeds. When it comes time to map out the road-map, you need to visualise the details but not produce it. And this is where reporting / communication becomes a major advantage of a good road-map.

Communication depends on who is asking for what and what the data has to say. As project managers, we continually get asked about the status of your complex projects, so any relationship that you create between the details and how this can be visualised at a high level is a major assets.

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