What is a Roadmap? (Complete Beginner's Guide)

By Matt Mazur · Last updated March 3, 2022

Roadmaps provide an overview of a project's high-level strategy (where a product is going, and how it will get there) with a graphic visual representation.

Project roadmaps provide a whole host of benefits for businesses, including:

  • Promote communication across various company stakeholders to facilitate further action and dialogue
  • Highlight the overall vision and goals of the company
  • Allow readers to gain a thorough understanding of a complex process in a matter of minutes

3 Common Roadmapping Mistakes

With that being said, let's talk about some of the most common roadmapping mistakes that we see all of the time:

Not A Backlog

After a business' goals are determined, a roadmap is meant to serve as a high-level overview of the strategy to accomplish those goals, both for team members, investors, and consumers.

On the other hand, a backlog is a specific type of document, separate from a roadmap – instead, a backlog is a prioritized to-do list of tasks geared toward completing a strategic initiative.

The relationship between a product roadmap and a product backlog is crucial. A good project manager will use a backlog of key tasks to accomplish the goals outlined in the roadmap.

Not a Project Management Tracker

Roadmaps are meant to serve as a bird's eye view of the overall strategy, not an exhaustive list of day-to-day tasks and assignments.

Roadmaps are sometimes confused with software applications or documents that are used to manage projects, such as individual assignments and meetings to discuss issues, goals, and deadlines.

Individual tasks and assignments should be monitored and updated with a project management application such as Trello or PivotalTracker, not with a project roadmap.

Not a List of Features

A product manager's planned list of features or epics does not make a proper roadmap. Your roadmap needs a high-level plan that defines a strategic objective and lays out every step along the way towards completing that objective.

Make sure your roadmap is cohesive and reflects how themes and features will come together with a strategic aim to satisfy a company's vision.

In case you weren't aware, there are a TON of different kinds of roadmaps. In this section, we're going to talk about each one in a bit more detail.

What is a Product Roadmap?

Product roadmaps define the growth plan of a product.

This projected growth is predicated on communication that occurs internally within a product development team, as well as externally within a product's stakeholder and customer base.

A product roadmap features a list of initiatives for the development of a product in addition to the team's plan for executing those initiatives.

You can check out our full project roadmap guide by clicking here.

What is a Technology Roadmap?

A technology roadmap outlines the systems that enable core action across the organization. Technology roadmaps help tech companies better understand what needs to be done to accomplish their mission, and when.

Segmenting each task into a smaller bite-sized piece of the project makes software and technology development much easier to manage.

Here are some key components of a great technology roadmap:

  • Long and short term goals
  • New system capabilities
  • Release plans
  • Milestones
  • Resources
  • Training
  • Risk factors
  • Status reports

If you want to learn more about technology roadmaps, you can read our full guide by clicking here.

What is Project Roadmap?

Project roadmaps provide an overview of the significant elements in a project, including objectives, milestones, deliverables, resources, and a planned timeline.

Project managers use roadmaps for two main reasons:

  • Roadmaps remind team members of strategic project objectives
  • Keeps everyone on the same page, even across various teams

This roadmap comes before a project plan and is an efficient tool to make sure everyone (team members and stakeholders) understand the project goals and how they're going to achieve them.

They help you take a large project and break it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces that are easier to digest.

You can check out our full guide on project roadmaps by clicking here.

What is a Strategic Roadmap?

A strategic roadmap answers the following questions:

  • Where a business is
  • Where the business wants to go
  • What their plan is to go from A to B
  • How that plan will come to fruition

Strategic roadmaps visually represent essential information in an easy-to-understand manner, as strategic decision making is a critical factor for success and relies heavily on communication.

A strategic roadmap assumes that various departments and individuals possess information vital to strategy based decision making.

Building upon the idea of collaboration, the first stage is to deliver a vision (preferable future state of a business).

Following the vision, concrete goals are outlined with statements from the team.

The third and final stage of strategic roadmap planning is gap analysis, where the critical tasks needed to achieve the vision are determined.

What is a Career Roadmap?

Career roadmaps help people establish plans toward their career end goal, as well as steps needed to get there. Creating a career roadmap will help give employees direction toward their desired status.

Start by assessing your strengths and weaknesses and define your work values by describing what's important to you. Personal interests play a crucial part in the self-evaluation phase of establishing a career roadmap.

Use the information gathered from your self-evaluation to create a list of possible career options. Many online resources help you narrow down career options based on your self-assessment.

For a full guide on career roadmapping, check out our guide.

Implement Strategy

Once you've found your choice of career, figure out how you will get your foot in the door. Consider the skills, experience, or certifications needed to work this position so that you can set yourself apart from other candidates.

Also, consider monthly progress goals when assessing what steps you need to take to bridge the gap between you and your missing traits as a potential employee.

One must prioritize what gaps they need to fill to gain the skills or traits necessary to be competitive for a specific career. This planning will help you put one foot in front of the other and stay on the right track toward your final goal.

Value Networking

Don't underestimate the networking aspect of your career roadmap as it is an essential step in a career planning strategy. Through networking, you can form critical connections that will lead to insight and support in your career journey. Networking additionally creates the opportunity to meet and establish a mentor who has more experience and knowledge than you currently possess.

Make sure your career roadmap is flexible enough to shift with the ever-changing patterns of life. Change plays a part in career growth, so if you work with it rather than against it in a thoughtful way, you'll have a much easier time overcoming obstacles. When establishing goals, define them specifically, measure them, make them attainable, relevant, and time sensitive.

Roadmapping Presentation

A roadmap is a statement of your production plan for the coming months, so you ought to make it look professional. They serve as a means to express your expectations, establish your goals, and set deadlines.

If you want your investors, team members, and customers to stay happy, creating an awesome roadmap (and sticking to it) is mission critical.

Oh, and winning over a company’s board members is crucial to the initiation of your plan/approval of your roadmap. No pressure.

Before your presentation, be ready to talk about how your product vision aligns with the company's image.

More specifically, know the company's stakeholders, their motivations, pain points, etc. Knowledge of these factors will significantly increase the degree to which your investors not only understand your presentation, but enjoy it as well.

When crafting your roadmap presentation, know the level of available resources your company can allocate for the given project. An inside-and-out knowledge of resources will help determine time frames to execute any given task.

The design of your roadmap – meaning its color scheme, organization, and layout – is going to have a huge impact on the success of your presentation.

With that being said, the importance of using the right tool for the job cannot be overstated.

Luckily for you, Preceden timeline maker makes creating a stunning roadmap easier than ever, and it's free to sign up.

We have a bunch of tips to make your roadmap presentation a success that you can check out by clicking here.