Almost every company uses roadmaps, but are they using them to their full potential? In my experience, not always.
Roadmaps are the most accurate way to communicate the direction and goals of portfolio, product, and project planning, it’s critical to ensure your roadmaps enable the types of innovation that best push an organization toward its goals.
Let’s take a look at some critical components of roadmapping that will help companies reduce risk and empower superior decision-making related to projects, products and portfolios.
Roadmaps are a living document
American infomercial pitchman extraordinaire Ron Popeil popularized the saying “set it and forget it” in his quest to put a rotisserie chicken oven in every kitchen. Unfortunately, some organizations treat roadmapping the same way and don’t regularly update the document or use it effectively to see if they are on track with achieving their strategy.
A strategic roadmap must be treated like a living document, with continuous updates that reflect new information, progress, internal and external challenges, new initiatives and other information that affects the trajectory of innovation efforts. Roadmap updates can uncover new interdependencies while keeping existing ones top of mind.
Frequent updates are especially important once roadmaps extend beyond silos. When the roadmap document reflects all of the company’s efforts, interdependencies you didn’t know existed come to the forefront. It becomes easier to see how a single decision in one department could drastically impact initiatives in another.
It is important when you create a roadmap that you set expectations for its update, including regular review and approval milestones (or even gates). And that you identify and inform stakeholders as to what is required from them to ensure the roadmap is a live document.
A living document approach to roadmapping gives decision-makers the sightlines they need to make more accurate, informed decisions.
Strategic roadmaps are collaborative
A roadmap’s richness of insight is directly linked to the breadth and diversity of information it contains. With the right people contributing and collaborating on a roadmap, you’ll have deeper insights because it’s based on information from numerous lenses. The fuller the picture, the more confident you will be that you’re seeing the most accurate, up-to-date data.
Who should contribute to the roadmap? In my experience, strategic roadmap rosters should include business leaders who understand the company’s corporate strategy, marketing, product people, technologists, researchers and company executives who are responsible for funding. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Every business is different, and your roadmap contributors should reflect the unique areas where expertise lives within your organization.
As an exercise to help you get started, think about who is involved from start to finish and who you seek advice from. Try hard to identify people outside of your organization (manufacturing, for example) and their role and ability to contribute. Look beyond any given person and look for teams who should be involved.
Intuitiveness is a must
Most of us drive, but we aren’t mechanics. We click the seatbelt, start the car and head to our next destination without giving any thought to what makes the car go. Roadmaps ought to be the same way. Within a few clicks, users should be able to add information and gain insights easily. Similarly, most people don’t know how to read an entire roadmap—nor should they. It should be easy for users to extract the important information they need for a specific action item.
It’s much easier to spot errors that might otherwise go unnoticed if users were sifting through every item. And it makes the job of finding dependencies infinitely simpler. Roadmap functionality should also simplify sharing information across the company and identifying all appropriate stakeholders, especially when time is of the essence.
Roadmaps must be customizable
A roadmap should yield realistic expectations for any situation, which can only be achieved when users can tailor for their specific needs based on multiple scenarios. Sometimes, the view must be very narrow—like trying to determine the status of product planning. Other times, it’s necessary to have a 30,000-foot view that includes product portfolios, project planning statuses and resource availability.
Creating a roadmap that can be used in this way speeds the ability to assimilate information, enabling the ability to make business decisions with speed. This is especially important when dealing with change or external impacts.
It should lead you to realistic expectations
A roadmap isn’t a crystal ball, but it should empower organizations to make the best possible decisions based on all available information. This is especially important when planning for something like a business downturn or a potential recession. As mentioned, having that information requires it to be collaborative, intuitive and customizable. When those components are in place, a good roadmap will clearly articulate the next steps, specifically the ‘must-dos’ and ‘nice-to-dos.’
Users should be able to color strategy, funding, probability of success or anything else that would help to articulate if an item is a firm, solid or loose commitment or to better understand its potential impact against strategy. Ultimately, if a roadmap reduces risk and results in consistently spot-on decision-making, it’s doing its job.
If you’re interested in learning more about the roadmapping process and how you can use it to your advantage, make sure to listen to this episode of Innovation Talks.
A roadmapping strategy that incorporates these elements will result in the sharp insight necessary to innovate in a competitive market and uncover information that reduces project chaos and optimizes product performance. Learn how Sopheon’s Accolade brings your organization’s innovation ecosystem together with its superior roadmapping technology.