Project roadmap - with structure to the goal

As a project manager, you know that planning is one of the basic components of any successful project, and that it is also a challenge to set up a really good project plan. To tackle this essential task of all project managers, there are many different tools and methods to choose from. They all have advantages and disadvantages, of course. It is best to know several tools and know how to use different techniques or maybe even mix the best ones.
But first, what is project planning all about? It's about getting from the status quo to the goal as cost-effectively, quickly and efficiently as possible. That sounds like a really good plan would be useful.
Several people are bent over a table with notes and a map.

Reaching the goal with a project plan

The project plan is a document that shows the long (or short) path that the project will or should take to reach its goal. The project plan divides this path into manageable bites - and at the end of each bite, a partial goal is reached. We like to call these milestones.
A project plan assigns responsibility for each milestone to someone within that document. At each milestone reached, there is an opportunity to review, revisit, evaluate, and possibly correct mistakes along the way. A good tool to create a roadmap for a project is a Gantt chart. However, this is only an example of the different ways to keep an overview.

Digital project plans have the enormous advantage that they are almost infinitely expandable. On a clipboard, somewhere the border is simply reached. With a Gantt chart, you can always add something to it. However, this is also the disadvantage, because such an overview can also quickly become confusing if it becomes too complex. Grasping the visualization becomes almost impossible with increasing complexity. Everything that is no longer legible when printed out on a Din A0 paper can basically no longer be grasped by a human being. Another disadvantage is that with a Gantt chart, only the project manager has insight into the program and it is difficult to share the plan with other project participants. This makes communication more difficult.

Alternative roadmap

A good alternative to a complex project plan is the roadmap. It is considered by many to be simpler and it is actually easier to create. You can think of the roadmap like a map of a city, or like a diagram of a route. A roadmap is nothing more than a plan that shows the project flow. How do we get from A to B? Such a roadmap is created by the entire project team and not only by the project manager. This is one of the decisive advantages. The dialog leads to the creation of the roadmap and thus the cumbersome communication of gigantic plan documents becomes unnecessary. Such a roadmap is also updated and revised in the dialog.

How do I create a roadmap?

Ideally, you call together all the stakeholders who are relevant to your project. Call it a workshop or whatever you like. In any case, everyone whose input is important should be there and these people should bring some time. You now roughly map out the way forward. You give points A (status quo) and B (the pre-formulated goal) and then point out possible ways to get from A to B. This is best done on paper. This is best done on paper, like a real road map. Use long sheets of paper or table cards. This is more memorable than visualizing on a screen, where there is no active intervention. Along your route, mark the different task areas. Now each workshop participant receives a card and writes their own task or responsibility on it. These tasks are jointly assigned dates or time periods and then you can start to organize them. Step by step, a sophisticated plan emerges that shows the flow of the project in all its steps. If a question, a discussion or a suggestion for improvement arises, the cards can be moved or adjusted on the timeline.

Advantages of a roadmap

By working on the roadmap and by each person actively contributing to the procedure with his or her own map and task, the workshop participants internalize their roles rather than simply being presented with a complex project plan. The challenges become clear, as do the interrelationships. Who depends on whom and where can processes be optimized? Subgoals become clearer and are put into the right context. The joint development of different solution approaches and the joint agreement on the ideal solution welds a team together and ensures more commitment and identification with the project.

What can't the roadmap do?

The roadmap cannot do everything. It should be seen as an important part of project planning, but not as a substitute for a project plan. Before a roadmap can even be created, a plan must be made or at least the goal clearly defined. You also need to delineate task areas in advance and have a rough idea of who can or should take on what. In addition, the roadmap reaches its limits when it comes to financial planning. There are other good tools for this.
Author: IAPM internal 

Key words: Project management, Project plan, Project planning, Tips

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