A roadmap is a visualization of the strategic development of a company or product. Generally speaking, a roadmap answers the questions “who?”, “what?” and “when?”. The key advantage of a roadmap is that it indicates the relationships between various departments over a long period of time. Since this tool is understandable to any professional or investor, you can use the roadmap to explain the business strategy in literally any negotiation.
What is a road map?
Let us imagine a typical situation for a large or medium-sized company: along with the existing tools, a fundamentally new one is launched. For example, a mobile application. The development of such a product is a resource-intensive process. In order for the time spent and investment in development to pay off, it is necessary to do a lot of preparatory work with clients and leads. At this stage, there is a significant challenge. Marketing materials are needed for the sales department to fuel the target audience. In order for the marketing department to prepare presentations, a working version of the product is needed.
Without strategic planning, the worst way out of such a predicament is as follows. The marketing department waits until the mobile app is complete, after which marketers create promotional materials. The sales department receives the materials and starts calling the CA. The result is repeatedly missed deadlines and, consequently, lost profits.
A strategic action plan should be developed to ensure effective interaction between departments. This plan should include milestones for the project, with appropriate people and deadlines. To make this strategic vision visible, a roadmap is drawn up. This is most often a table with the departments involved, milestones, and deadlines. A quick glance at the roadmap is enough to understand who is doing what work at a certain point in time.
Thus, a roadmap is a visual representation of the list of tasks that need to be performed in order to achieve the desired goals in the long term. Using this tool, it is easier for different departments or specialists to organize parallel work on separate tasks within a project. That is, the roadmap facilitates the formation of teamwork, regardless of the complexity of the project.
Before you start creating a roadmap, keep in mind what it is not. It is not a SCRUM and it is not a project tracker. That is, when creating a roadmap, you don’t need to describe in detail the task and subtask for each employee.
The roadmap only specifies goals, but does not focus on the methods of achieving those goals. For example, during the development of a mobile app, an idea for a useful feature may come up that will require additional time to develop. This does not fundamentally affect the fact that the marketing department should receive comprehensive information about the general principle of the mobile app at the specified point in time. The advertisers can find out about the functionality of the new feature later. As a result, the release of the working version of the mobile app may be pushed back to a later date, but the basic timing of interaction between the departments will remain the same.
Before starting to create a roadmap, the following points should be defined:
- Goals – time-limited milestones that can be assessed using certain metrics;
- Strategy – a plan for implementing the actions that need to be taken to realize the specified perspectives;
- Product (or business) perspectives – what your product should become in the foreseeable future;
- Functional – the part of the product or the main feature whose creation is one of the project’s goals.
- Timeline – the time frame for achieving a certain goal. As a rule, the product roadmap provides only an approximate chronological framework.
- Status markers – used to track progress.
- Metrics – tools that allow you to determine the extent to which your goal has been achieved, such as the probability of uptime or organic traffic.
Since this tool is used for a long period of time, the implementation of the roadmap should be the responsibility of a high-ranking specialist. This can be a product manager, a project manager, or a company manager. He or she is responsible for the interaction between departments and the approximate adherence to deadlines.
Why can deadlines shift? Because the roadmap does not answer the question of “how”, i.e. when the task is set at the beginning of project development, it is difficult to predict what difficulties or, conversely, successful opportunities will arise in the process of implementation. The project manager’s job is to assess changing conditions, and to promptly make adjustments to the roadmap.
This flexibility is another advantage of the roadmap. In the absence of such a tool, any changes to the original plan could critically affect the work of the company as a whole. That is, specialists in one department will not wait for an answer from their colleagues, and will reallocate resources to other tasks. On the contrary, with the roadmap in hand, the manager will inform the relevant specialists of the need to allocate labor resources in the near future, even if the original deadlines have changed.
Similarly, the roadmap is allowed to make adjustments to the list of project participants. For example, at a certain stage of the project, it will turn out to be beneficial to outsource some of the tasks. The project manager adds new performers to the roadmap, and continues to monitor the project as a whole.
For effective use of roadmap, it is recommended to implement the Deming Cycle (PDCA) in business processes. The acronym stands for “Plan-Do-Check-Act” (Plan-Do-Check-Act). Accordingly, each step means:
- Verification – monitoring the effectiveness of the actions taken.
- Check-Act – defining milestones and steps, listing first actions.
- Planning – defining strategy, setting goals.
- Correct and Act – auditing, correcting, and shaping the standard.
Features of using roadmap
Can the product roadmap also be used as a release plan?
This substitution is not appropriate because a release plan is a detailed document that describes the execution of a specific task without reference to the company’s long-term strategy. On the contrary, a project roadmap is a verbalization of the company’s or project’s prospects, which primarily takes into account the impact of the product or company on the target audience.
Why not use a product backlog instead of a product roadmap?
In a small company, a product backlog can really serve as a roadmap. However, as the company grows, the product roadmap provides information on why you create certain products, what their value to customers is.
How often should the product roadmap be updated?
Meetings with stakeholders twice a month, monthly or quarterly are the main criteria for agreeing on changes to the roadmap.
There are two main types of roadmaps – the cascade type (waterfall) and the agile type (agile). The first is less popular because of the outdated planning method on which it is based. The short difference between the two types is that the cascade roadmap describes a sequence of actions over a very long time horizon, from a few years. In contrast, the agile roadmap describes the parallel execution of work on a timeline of a few months to a few quarters.
Accordingly, building a cascade roadmap is quite simple. The manager sets the maximum timeline for project development or business development, and then determines a separate pool of tasks and deadlines for each team, after which the project is redirected for further implementation to another team.
Any marketing strategy is based on business goals. The American economist Michael Porter identified three types of competitive strategy, which are considered classic:
- Concentration – focusing on a niche, working in a narrow segment, specialization. Usually used as an adjunct to the previous two.
- Cost leadership – achieving the company’s lowest costs and offering the best price to the customer.
- Product leadership, differentiation – creating a unique product, detachment from competitors. It intersects with the concept of Selling proposition – a unique selling proposition.
Only a well thought-out strategy allows a company to achieve market leadership. Its implementation includes three steps:
- Positioning – choose a fundamental direction based on opportunities and considering the strengths and weaknesses of the business.
- Product – to create a sustainable competitive advantage that will strengthen the chosen direction.
- Analysis – determine the target audience and competitors, make a plan of action to improve competitiveness.
A good strategy has the following attributes:
- Provides an accessible platform that everyone can use.
- Has specific goals and starting points.
- Solves problems.-It is concise, clear and visual.
- Methods for solving problems are flexible.
There are three types of Internet marketing strategies:
- Internet PR – performs the same tasks as the classic PR, but using the power of the Internet.
- Viral and guerrilla marketing – aimed at creating content that can potentially have a high degree of distribution and engagement.
- Comprehensive Internet marketing – uses all possibilities and channels, all appropriate tools are used. Due to the breadth of coverage it is universal.
Scheme of an integrated strategy
About the project
- Brief description
- Competitive advantages
- Market positioning
- Features that may affect promotion
- Methods of evaluation: ROI – return on investment, KPI – achievement of key performance indicators, etc.
- Current indicators
- Planned indicators
- Defining the target audience
- Audience segmentation
- User portraits
- Main indicators of competitors’ sites
- Traffic sources: analysis of search results, advertising
- Optimization for mobile devices
- Channels for content distribution, methods of work with them
- Activity and ways of work in social networks
- Advantages and peculiarities
Choice of promotion channels
- Search engine optimization and promotion
- Content Marketing
- Contextual advertising
- Targeted advertising
- Marketing in social networks
- E-mail marketing
- Video marketing
- Crowd marketing
- CRM Marketing
- Banner and media advertising
- Tone of messages in social networks
- Format of communication with audience members in different channels
- Editorial policy
- Content Forms
- Publication plan
- Managers and performers
- Allocation of roles
- Task Managers
- Performance Metrics
- Used analytics systems
- Frequency of report analysis
Hydeline on creating an Internet strategy
Set a goal.
Formulate specific goals for a specific period. Example: increase market share to 30% for the year, increase average check by 10%, increase conversion rate by 1%.Record the current figures.
Identify the target audience
- Segment. The target audience consists of smaller groups – segments, each with different needs, values, and pains. The groups are divided according to different criteria: geography, behavior, psychography, social demographics, etc. The product is the same, but for each segment it is worth preparing a different page and choosing the appropriate promotion channels.
- Describe the planned behavior of the user – where he can meet your product, where you can find representatives of your target audience.
- Make a scenario of the sale – the stages, the motivation to buy, possible barriers, work with objections, the scenario of product selection and additional sales.
What to do if you don’t know who your target audience is:
- Order research in a marketing agency or buy a ready-made database.
- Interview users on thematic resources.
- Analyze the statistics of search engines.
- Use your own customer database.
- Search for mentions of similar products in social networks, analyze users and make a generalized portrait.
- Search competitors – analysis will make a portrait of a typical user.
First of all, it is necessary to choose correctly those whom we will analyze. There are 2 types of competitors:
- Indirect – offer a different product, but solve the same need.
- Direct – offer the same product.
First of all you should analyze the direct competitors – market leaders, then the remaining direct and indirect competitors. You should analyze the site itself, SEO and social networks.
What to pay attention to:
- The types of content used, the quality and volume of texts, photos.
- The structure of the site: how it is divided into product groups.
- The user-friendliness of the site, how well thought out the navigation. The best examples can then be used.
- Forms for capturing leads: telephone, callback order, feedback forms and online consultants.
- Trust elements: customer and employee reviews, diplomas, documents, recommendations, video reviews, photos of facilities, certificates.
- Adaptation for mobile devices.
Choice of promotion channels
Before selecting promotion tools, it is worth conducting an audit of existing advertising campaigns and the site.
- Audit of analytics. Make sure the counters are working, and the targets and events are set correctly.
- Check how the scenarios are worked out on the site, assess the ease of navigation, the forms’ work.
- SEO-audit. Determine the technical state of the site, the absence of errors and warnings from search engines. Look at the list of requirements for a modern site for successful promotion in search.
- Calculate the percentage of conversions, determine the sources of applications, the number of calls and applications, the number of processed leads.
- Contextual advertising. Advertising in the search engine and partner network “Yandex” and Google.
- Content marketing. Attracting users by creating and distributing quality content.
- Search engine optimization and promotion. Visitors come from search engines on key queries. Users have high loyalty, while the price of the transition is quite low.
- Targeted advertising. Ads in social networks to specific groups of users. Portraits of users and segments of the target audience are useful here. A subtype can be considered retargeting – showing ads to users who have already visited the site. Marketing in social networks: creating and promoting communities, posts, working with opinion leaders. Recently this also includes work with an audience in messengers.
- E-mail marketing and mailings. Work with an existing database of leads, those who have left contacts. Special offers and actions with mailing to the mail or phone.
- Video-marketing. Creation and distribution of content on video hostings, first of all on YouTube.
- Crowd-marketing. Work with the image of the company, goods or services in thematic communities and forums. Specialists recommend a particular brand or put a link to a site. It also includes work with testimonials.
- CRM-marketing. Work with the customer base from the CRM. Modern CRM allows you to send mailings directly from the system. To help you choose – a comparison of different customer relationship management systems.
- Referral advertising. Users come from other sites – it can be native advertising, guest posts, reviews, blogger posts, etc.
- The format of communication sets the rules for communication with representatives of the audience in different channels.
- The tone of voice determines the tone of messages in social networks, the overall intonation.
- Editorial policy dictates editorial standards of quality of materials, explains what the author is responsible for and what the editor is responsible for.
- Rubrics – a list of key areas for the blog and social media.
- Formats of content – what will be used (photos, video, text, pictures, infographics, etc.), quality requirements, what will be the emphasis on.
- Publication plan – a selection of topics in the calendar plan. and for what – the editor.
Creating a project roadmap
The process of creating road maps is called Roadmapping or road mapping. It should include mandatory elements:
- A timeline for implementation. For example, the overall timeframe is three years, broken down into quarters, analyzed, and adjusted at marker points.
- Business goals. For example, the general goal – doubling the margin, intermediate goals: increasing conversions and repeat sales, reducing rejections, returns, etc.
- Description of the company’s business model. For example, the online store, the model – e-commerce.
- Target audience. Men and women from 35 to 55 years old, with stable average income, active Internet users. The level of development corresponds to the average in the region, but lags behind the market leaders and federal aggregators.
- Audit of the current site and Internet marketing. SEO and usability improvements are required, commercial factors need to be worked out.
- Promotion channels and tools to work with them. SEO, SMM, content and video marketing.
In addition to the mandatory elements, you can add your own goals and metrics you want to achieve to the roadmap.
A completed roadmap should have the following attributes:
- Variability. You must provide for several ways to achieve the main goal.Economic effect.
- The map should clearly demonstrate the positive result of its implementation.
- Long-termism. This is primarily a strategic planning tool.
- Interactivity. There should be a possibility of adjustments and a certain flexibility.
- Transparency. There should be unified metrics to evaluate results, available to all participants.
Now that you have a development strategy, deadlines, goals and objectives defined, and actions broken down in stages, you can proceed directly to drawing up a roadmap. You can do this in several ways: manually in spreadsheets, with presentations, or with special online services.
Examples of a roadmap
Developing an online store
Let’s look at an example of a roadmap for launching an online store, made by ProductPlan. The diagram shows the work plan for the whole year. There are three teams involved in the project: the web development department, the mobile development department, and the marketing team.
There are two key earlier milestones in the specified timeframe. The first is the May 30 launch of the site. The second is the August 28 release of the iOS app. As you can see from the example, the strategic planning does not end there. Further work until the end of the year involves adding new features to the web and mobile version of the application, as well as intensive work of the marketing department.
In this example, there is another notable deadline, March 31, when the beta version of the mobile app is scheduled to be released. And on the same date, the lead generation that the marketing department does begins. It is noteworthy that the strategic planning for the year specifies the development of an Android application. At the same time, the release of the application is not specified. From this it can be assumed that the finalization and release of software will be carried out the following year based on the results of the iOS-application.
Another illustrative example of interaction between departments can be seen in the third and fourth quarters. In July and August, the marketing department collects analytics on the site, and then in September, the web developers begin finalizing the shopping cart. Thus, we see that the ongoing analysis and refinement of the site is planned for the entire year ahead. Project managers do not expect to get a perfectly working product initially, so they initially distribute the company’s resources needed for further modernization.
Aha! has built a roadmap for Fredwin Cycling, a fictitious company that develops a mobile app for sports-oriented people. What makes this fictitious project special is that Aha! users can import it as a visual example into their accounts.
The Fredwin Cycling app works on the principle of social networking: users sign up for the mobile app, where they receive tasks or complete Challenges. Notably, in the roadmap example, the breakdown is not by team, but by task: the app itself, marketing and working with the platform. And all three areas are developed in parallel. This is a realistic scenario for real companies, especially small companies or startups, where there is a core product whose idea is clear to all employees.
Templates for creating a roadmap
Roadmap in Excel or similar program
The easiest and absolutely free option is to create a roadmap in Excel, Google Tables, or another spreadsheet application. If you want to test a roadmap on the example of your company, we recommend starting with this type of software, especially the cloud versions.
- Ability to view changes (in the cloud service)
- The interface is not optimized for fast editing
- The interface is not visually appealing
A handy application, which initially pre-installed several dozen templates for different areas: portfolio development, IT-product development, overall company strategy, etc. There are several options for displaying the roadmap. A 14-day trial is available.
- Templates for different projects
- Two ways to display the roadmap
- Chat about current tasks
- A separate block with ideas
The paid version starts at $49 per user per monthThe paid version starts at $49 per user per month
Similar in functionality, the application does not have preinstalled templates, but it has developed integration with the following services: Jira, GitHub, Slack, PivotalTracker, Trello, Azure DevOps, Confluence, Microsoft Teams.
VisibilitySeveral options for displaying the roadmapChat on current tasksSeparate block with ideasSynchronization with popular project trackers
The paid version starts at $39 per user per monthNo preloaded templates
An application that combines a roadmap and a management tracker. There is integration with third-party services via API. A free trial period is available to users.
Price – from $6.5 per user per monthUsing roadmap and project managerAPI integration
Jira roadmaps are available in different versions for different Jira Software Cloud subscriptions. The obvious advantage for Jira users is easy integration.
Included with the Jira Software Cloud packageExtensive customization options for road maps
ShortcomingsSchematic map displayComplicated interface
An interesting alternative to the standard roadmaps, created especially for developers. The application consists of a project tracker and a roadmap. There is a fairly efficient free version. The most expensive subscription is $14 per user per month.
PriceIntegration with Project TrackerIntegration with third-party services
Insufficiently clear map displayComplicated interface
Discussing the topic in the business community
The topic of introducing roadmaps into business processes is actively discussed abroad. Books are being published, written about the methodology in general, as well as about individual aspects of roadmap application. Among the landmark works is the book “Business Intelligence Roadmap: The Complete Project Lifecycle for Decision-support Applications” by Larissa Terpeluk Moss. In this publication the author analyzed the implementation of roadmaps in IT companies. The main purpose of the book is to demonstrate that it is possible to establish business processes in the IT community to achieve given business goals.
In 2018, a book by Tiffany Pham (and co-authors), From Business Strategy to Information Technology Roadmap: A Practical Guide for Executives and Board Members, was released. This work is a practical guide for managers at various levels to implement a value-driven roadmap into the IT infrastructure development of a for-profit and non-profit organization. In addition to numerous examples, the book contains two detailed case studies.
The Kids’ Roadmap to Business Ownership is an original example of modern nonfiction literature. The author, Althia Ellis, has written a short primer for kids ages 9-18 on how to become an entrepreneur in today’s environment and why you should use a roadmap to do so.
A roadmap is a handy tool for planning business tasks. Regardless of the complexity and duration of the project, roadmap will help to establish effective work between departments.
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