Everywhere I’ve worked a good roadmap is essential. At first I couldn’t understand why everyone in the organisation kept asking for the roadmap. Over my years in strategy roles I’ve come to realise roadmaps make good companies great.
In this post we’ll look at seven ways roadmaps help companies focus on their priorities and achieve strong performance.
1. Roadmaps give direction
Roadmaps put the flag on the top of the mountain. They signal to people where the organisation is going. And by having a clear direction, this gives people the focus to start the climb.
2. Roadmaps force challenging questions
Have you ever seen a roadmap with too many priorities on it? I certainly have. In fact, roadmaps that list too many priorities are the best start to getting focused. That’s because whenever we see a busy roadmap, we are forced to ask ourselves questions like these:
Do we have our priorities right? Is there simply too much that we’re doing? How can we truly concentrate on the important things if there are so many things to distract us?
3. Roadmaps give context for every discussion
If we have a roadmap, when we speak about a specific project we can reference the project’s place within the roadmap. This helps everyone focus on the details of a specific project, while still keeping the broader picture in mind.
This is valuable because it allows people to jump in conversation between the strategic level and the project level. In doing this we can see how one project depends upon another to create momentum for the business.
Without this context projects would be at risk of being irrelevant to larger goals, and strategic conversations would be disconnected from the tangible change created by projects.
4. Roadmaps give us a measure of our achievement
Because roadmaps clearly display priorities on a timeline, as time passes we can see whether or not we have achieved our objectives.
The very best roadmaps don’t only show the future, they also give a sense of what has just happened – whether that is six months previously, or several years.
In this way roadmaps allow us to reflect on our history, and also celebrate the change we’ve created.
5. Roadmaps provide the focus necessary ready to deliver priorities
An organisation can only achieve its priorities if every level of its resources are allocated to support the work.
The value of a roadmap is to provide a reference point for ongoing conversation. This reference point forces the organisation to always ask – are our resources allocated in the best way to deliver?
Unless we breathe life into this conversation every day, resources are at risk of being distracted and allocated to less purposeful tasks.
For this reason the best organisations discuss their roadmaps on a regular basis and at all levels.
6. Roadmaps allow organisations to reflect on whether they’re doing enough to beat the competition
When a competitor puts out a press release announcing the launch of a new product or feature for their customers, organisations can be thrown into a reactive panic.
Roadmaps provide organisations with a blueprint for competition. With a roadmap, leaders can discuss whether they have enough in their plan to counteract the competition. With this knowledge they can consider if they need to bring some projects forward, introduce new initiatives, or re-prioritise their plan.
This creates a balanced conversation about an appropriate level of response.Without a roadmap, company attention can be suddenly misdirected into a reactive response that might distract from the longer term goal.
7. Roadmaps allow long-term planning.
Some projects are long-term by their very nature.
Take the Great Wall of China, for example, which took 276 years to build.
While many of our projects will span six months to two years, some companies will manage longer term projects.
Roadmaps allow leaders to take a very long-term view of their strategic plan, and mobilise resources over extended periods to achieve their aim.
Without this long-term perspective, many projects would only be short term, and would lack the longer term sense of purpose a roadmap can deliver.
Many formats exist to create your roadmap. The main criteria for a good roadmap is that it can be shown visually over one or two pages. Here are some example formats I found interesting: Apple Product History, Agile Roadmap, Change Program Roadmap.