“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”
– Maya Angelou, American Writer
Does your company have a strategic roadmap? Product or services roadmap? IT roadmap? Does your department have a roadmap?
I lean on roadmaps to help focus, align, manage and motivate teams. Roadmaps are the simple blueprints outlining the future of an organization. They are visual calendars outlining the hopes and aspirations of an organization. And, every time a milestone can be ticked off a roadmap it is a cause to celebrate as the organization is driving down the road of success.
Teams that don’t use roadmaps are often chaotic, misaligned, uncoordinated, and a mess. For these teams, collaboratively creating their roadmap is typically one of the priorities to provide vision, focus and align the efforts of the team, and enable better coordination with other teams.
What is a roadmap?
Roadmaps are simple, and public documents outlining the timing of significant milestones, new capabilities, and product launches which organizations coordinate and rally their efforts around. Roadmaps are living documents, encapsulating strategic and tactical course corrections and changes. Roadmaps are critical to an organization’s success since they:
1. Focus and align the efforts of a team on the most important capabilities, products, and initiatives
2. Improve coordination and planning with other teams
3. Enable the cascading of strategies to ensure the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts
4. Help hold leaders accountable for their plans and objectives
5. Documenting and communicating strategic changes within roadmaps creates organizational agility
I can go on and on, but I think you get the picture. If you don’t have a roadmap, create and use one.
Let’s use the below product roadmap as an example.
The product roadmap is separated into new products versus new versions of existing products. It is color-coded to denote tier 1 launches versus tier 2 launches (i.e., a simple reflection of the investment level that will go into a product launch). And, the product roadmap evolves from a monthly view for the next three months to a quarterly view for the next three quarters.
To maximize effectiveness, this product roadmap should be published for an entire organization to view and use. Marketing would incorporate product launches into its campaign roadmap. Sales would use it to begin talking to and planning with their distribution and customers about new products and new versions of existing products. Operations would utilize the product roadmap for inventory and logistics planning. Customer service would use it to plan for call volume and training needs. And, the product roadmap would hold the product development team accountable to launch products on time.
In my experience, effective and efficient organizations have roadmaps within each function to help guide and coordinate activities across the organization. As an example, below are the typical roadmaps you should have in a consumer goods product company.
How do you create and use great roadmaps?
Roadmaps are an abstracted visualization of your strategies. They encapsulate the high-level interdependent and prioritized activities necessary to achieve the goals of the organization. In creating great roadmaps, below are important best practices:
Codify your strategy
If the items on a roadmap don’t reflect a team’s or organization’s strategy, then what will, and how will people execute the activities necessary to make the strategy a reality? Make sure your strategies are encapsulated within your roadmaps. Strategy development is a dynamic process; so reflect changes to your strategy in the roadmaps.
Keep them simple & layer them
A roadmap should be fairly high-level and understandable within a few minutes. Roadmaps are the highest level of a plan and should be layered below with supporting detailed plans, calendars, budgets, project status updates, etc.
Use them in leadership meetings
Great roadmaps are constantly used by leadership teams to understand progress, and what is coming up, and to debate and codify strategic course corrections. Using them in leadership, team and all-hands meetings ensures that leadership is aligned, coordinated, and accountable to each other.
Sync up roadmaps
Teams need to ensure the roadmaps across functions are coordinated with each other, properly synced up, and communicated to stakeholders. Syncing is especially important between product roadmaps, marketing calendars, distribution & customer launches, sales forecast & inventory supply models, and the strategic vision.
Roadmaps serve as the sheet music for a team, while the leader is the conductor. Last time I checked, the musicians in an orchestra had the sheet music in front of them as they play. Well, think about a roadmap in a similar fashion. It is the sheet music that helps ensure everyone is playing the same tune in a coordinated fashion. Have roadmaps visibly displayed in high-traffic areas or on the intranet. Use the roadmap in team meetings, communications, and wherever you can to reinforce the priorities of the team.
DOWNLOAD THE POWERPOINT ROADMAP TEMPLATE
To get you going on your creating your roadmap, download the free and editable PowerPoint Roadmap Template.