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How to Build A Roadmap Around Your Org’s Tech Priorities

If your org is in the throes of goal-setting, you’re not alone! Let’s talk roadmaps.

Roadmaps are a great way to visualize priorities, in a format that’s “easy” for others to understand. If you’ve never seen one before, here’s one very lite example

..and here are a few more (scroll through to see the images).

The term “roadmap” may sound corporate, and some of the examples may look intense. But roadmaps aren’t reserved for large orgs. They can be especially helpful for small teams – including solo shops (👋) – to project what the coming months will look like.

Personally, it’s the overlap that does it for me. I’m quick to dive into projects. But when I take time to lay things out roadmap-style, it clarifies to me just how busy I am… and which timelines are lessssss realistic.

Credit: Giphy

So, what makes for a good roadmap?

Keep in mind there are many kinds of roadmaps: tech roadmaps, product roadmaps, etc…And I don’t recommend running off to create 10 different ones for your org.

For our purposes, a solid roadmap highlights specific projects that lend to your org’s priorities. It also:

  • Doesn’t get bogged down with details
  • Shows the “progression” of projects over a period of time
  • Shows projects by team, function or some other relevant grouping
  • Doesn’t take a ton of time to build, because #efficiency
  • Is flexible, subject to change, & consistently referenced by your team

And these roadmaps don’t have to be org-wide. You can create one that highlights projects that sit squarely within your team.

How to Get Started

Before you can build a physical roadmap, get clear on what’s up with your org’s goals.

Tech/data teams often serve as in-house consultants for the rest of the org. So if you’re looking to build a tech roadmap, you may need input from everyone else on what their priorities are.

But all that aside, start with your org’s high-level priorities. This is the big picture stuff your org needs to accomplish, straight from the horse’s (C-Suite’s) mouth.

From there, drill down to team/functional priorities. In theory, those feed into the high level stuff – while offering a bit more specificity.

p.s. Tech+data peeps, add your own priorities here. Security, adoption, upgrades…figure out what’s pressing to you at this step.

From there, teams should identify the projects that hit each priority. This answers the implicit “how do we get there” question from the last step. (It should also raise some flags, for projects that require cross-team collaboration!)

By now, you have the minimum. So here’s what you need to actually finalize that roadmap.

Finalize Your Roadmap

If your role is largely focused on supporting other departments, then their priorities will inform yours. And unless those peeps are exceptional at anticipating your team’s workload…you may be asked to do more than what’s reasonable.

So once you’ve all identified those projects, it’s time to get consensus on:

  1. which projects take priority
  2. the necessary order of projects (slash if any are dependent on one another)
  3. what due dates & start dates make sense/are realistic

On that last point, be conservative. Life happens, systems break, people go on vacation (hopefully), and so forth. Don’t just plan for the amount of time it will take to get the thing done: add in buffer for the unexpected.

Credit: Giphy (Insecure)

Once you’ve got a first draft of those projects, sequence and timeframes, it’s time to put it all together.

Choose Your Roadmap Tool

There are tons of options for how to display your roadmap. So remember that the actual tool you use doesn’t matter. It’s the substance of your roadmap – and whether your team can access it – that counts.

Paid solutions abound. Platforms like Asana, Trello, Monday and similar tools can be solid options for building a roadmap, as well as task management. But keep in mind the latter is more complicated, and only effective if your team actually intends to use them. (Plus, these tools can cost $)

On the freer side, you can always use cloud software like Google Docs/Sheets/Slides for visualizing your roadmap. (If your org uses Microsoft, you can obviously do that too.) Here are a few template ideas for inspiration (and a link to the template pictured earlier in this post)

Finally, Stay Accountable

You may be itching to start this roadmap! But don’t forget to consider what comes after. How will you decide if your team/org is executing well on the roadmap? Or if anything needs to change?

You can help this by deciding those checkpoints in advance. I recommend checking in at least once at the halfway mark, if not more frequently (ex. end of each quarter).

You can also set yourself up for success by scheduling some of those project kick-offs now. Project launch meetings give stakeholders a chance to come together & review the biggies: goals, outcomes, roles, & timelines. So setting those up in advance assumes you’ll stay on track! And even if you don’t, they can always be rescheduled.

Good luck!

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