October 22, 2020 Last updated October 22nd, 2020 665 Reads share

How to Create a Successful IT Project Roadmap

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

Project managers have to be able to convey all the details of their projects in a way that everyone understands it at a glance, and having an IT project roadmap is the best visual means for doing so.

Having a roadmap improves the project manager’s visibility into the workload, allowing for a more accurate delegation of tasks. This, in turn, creates a focus, enabling team members to understand what they have to do and feel more valued.

Let’s take a look at some figures: About 85% of IT organizations deviate from the yearly plan a few times a year. Additionally, in the US alone, nine weeks per year are wasted as teams attempt to collaborate across different organizations, toolsets, and geographies.

Enter: project road-mapping. Project roadmaps are great for creating long-term plans or schedules, but they also allow you to conduct short-term, sprint-based planning.

In this article, you’ll learn how to create a successful project roadmap that will help you plan, execute, and connect all pieces of the IT project management puzzle.

Project Plan vs. Project Roadmap

Is there a difference between a project plan and a project roadmap? You bet. You have probably created many project plans over the years. They are very specific and contain lots of data, details, and instructions meant for the doers, the coders, etc. In other words, project plans are everything a roadmap should not be.

IT project roadmaps, on the other hand, are all about the goals and benefits. They contain explanations on how you’re planning to achieve those goals. Project roadmaps focus on the outcome instead of on the execution. An IT project roadmap serves as a great project kick-off tool. It uses a familiar frame of reference and helps simplify communication with the stakeholders.

When creating an IT project roadmap, start with the project’s general goals. Once your project roadmap is done, you will be able to develop a project plan with more clear objectives and priorities.

Identify the Workstreams and Activities

Your IT project roadmap should clearly split the workload into different workstreams. You can define these workflows based on the organizations or teams involved in the project (development of front-end elements/UX/database/architecture) or on environments (network/desktop/server).

Each of the workstreams will have multiple activities. When identifying your key activities, bear in mind that less is always more. Be concise and succinct when documenting your objectives, priorities, and goals for each activity. You should aim for a few sentences at most.

Once you get an idea of the major work that is required, you can start putting the activities in order and set rough dates. A large portion of this will depend on the logical order of operations. For instance, you first need to finish the UX design before you begin with the front end. Try to be realistic and avoid assigning a big number of activities to each of the workstreams.

Create a Timeline and Define the Milestones

When creating the timeline, try not to include too many details. Your project roadmap should show the overall scope of work, so you only need to plan when you will work on each activity and note rough deadlines. However, even though your project might last for months or even years, avoid going out so far that rough delivery dates become impossible to predict. In cases like this, you should divide the IT project into phases where each phase can get its own project roadmap and a separate timeline.

In addition, highlight several important dates, i.e. your milestones. These milestones will help you track the progress of the project. They may mark the start or finish of an important phase, a key decision point, or a linchpin dependency.

Identify Key Contacts and Allocate Resources

Make sure to identify the key people working on your IT project and provide their contact info. This is especially important when you’re engaging with external stakeholders, like consultants.

In addition, provide an estimate of the human resources and cost required to complete the project. Make sure that the staff has enough time to complete what you’re requesting; in case they don’t, reorganize the team to adequately divide the workload.

Adjust and Update the Project Roadmap Regularly

Because your team doesn’t operate on a tight rope, you can’t make 100% sure that the project roadmap will run on a straight line. Your plans will probably need to be adjusted for various reasons, so make sure to leave room for flexibility. You should review your project roadmap on a regular basis to ensure you haven’t missed anything.

In addition, make sure that you’re not working with an outdated project roadmap. Whenever there’s a divergence or delay, create a new version or the roadmap right away and make sure everyone has it. Even though the project manager usually creates the project roadmap, employees, stakeholders, product owners, managers, and customers might also use it. So, a quick note letting everyone know there’s an update is always a good idea, even if you’re using a tool that allows everyone to automatically see the latest roadmap version.

Final Thoughts

By creating a project roadmap, you can convey the objectives, dependencies, and significant milestones of the IT project. In order to build an effective IT project roadmap, you should focus on the high-level details. A project roadmap should be concise and very visual, fitting all information on a single page. Ultimately, your goal is to have a snapshot of your IT project that everyone will be able to digest at a glance.

Three business people working -DepositPhotos