13 July, 2023

What is a Project Roadmap? How to Make One and How is it Different from a Gantt Chart?

In this video, I answer the question, what is a Project Roadmap? And I also look at why we use them, how they differ from a Gantt Chart, and how to create a Roadmap.

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Project Roadmap Templates for PowerPoint, SLides, or Keynote

The Project Roadmap illustrations in this video were adapted from standard templates from SlideEgg. You can get your own SlideEgg subscription or lifetime deal.

The ‘What’ of a Project Roadmap

What is a Project Roadmap

A project roadmap is a visual overview of the project’s goals, benefits realization, major work streams, and key milestones, presented on a timeline.

It is a strategic tool, so can also include other things that help create a high-level understanding of your project. So, you may also include things like resources, risk, dependencies, and deliverables.

Why Do We Use Project Roadmaps?

There are many good reasons for using a Project Roadmap. It will help you to:

  • Articulate your ideas
  • Clarify those ideas
  • Identify project priorities, key milestones, and dependencies within and outside your project 
  • Focus on strategic tier objectives
  • Convey important information quickly and in one view for briefings and strategic discussion. This will help your to communicate ideas and expectations with your team and with your stakeholders
  • Coordinate resources with other teams.

How does a Project Roadmap Differ from a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt Chart typically works at the task level, with ‘rolled-up’ summaries. Its purpose is to visualize all the detail of your plan.

Roadmaps work at the level of full functionality deliverables and significant outcomes (sometimes with some narrative that breaks them into their key components). They offer a high-level, strategic view that avoids the day-to-day tasks.

So, it’s largely a matter of degree.

Also, Gantt Charts have strictly linear time scales (ie the same distance on the chart always means the same amount of time).

Roadmaps have no formalism, so they can – and sometimes do – adopt the rolling-wave approach that near-term timeframes are shown with greater degrees of detail and cover more space, while longer-term events are compressed into smaller distances. 

Because these plans and roadmaps both have a different, but valuable, purpose, project managers should use them both.

First, develop your roadmap to show a strategic overview of your project. Then break the strategic goals and milestones into the task-level details of the project plan.

The ‘How’ of a Project Roadmap

What Goes into a Project Roadmap?

What you put into your roadmap needs to focus on only what is most essential – remember, it is a high-level, strategic overview. So, this list is of items you may consider. But only include what really matters to you, your stakeholders, and your project.

  • Goals, Objectives, and other success measures
  • Key milestones, such as critical delivery dates, or internal and external deadlines
  • Project timeline
  • Delivery of major project benefits – and of key deliverables.
  • Resources and key individuals
  • Dependencies
  • Significant initiatives, activities, major workstreams, and project phases
  • Major project risks

How to Create a Project Roadmap

Develop your Project Roadmap before you create a detailed project plan. It is a great tool to brief your team at your project Kick-off Meeting.

When you create your Project Roadmap, here are the essential steps:

  1. Break down your project into phases and workstreams.
  2. Map these out against a timeline in quarters or, at most detail, months.
  3. Identify dependencies between work streams or phases and between these and external events.
  4. Identify key benefits and deliverables, and when they will be delivered (quarter- or month ends). Add in other Project milestones.
  5. Add additional information that team members and other stakeholders may need. Consider having alternate views that highlight different information.
  6. Keep your roadmap updated.

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What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

Learn Still More

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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