What Is a Project Roadmap?
A project roadmap is a high-level, easy-to-understand overview of the important pieces of a project. It’s a resource that you can share with anyone to provide a quick snapshot of the work’s aims, important milestones, key deliverables, dependencies, and possible risks.
The project manager compiles the project roadmap and uses it as a key communication tool prior to and during project kickoff to set appropriate expectations, share high-level plans, and highlight important components of the work to come.
With the right stakeholders and project contributors at the table, the simple, graphical nature of a project roadmap helps set the stage for a successful project. Essentially, it should be an easy-to-digest infographic that communicates the most critical details of your project to any interested parties.
It is also important to note what project roadmap is not:
- A Project Plan: While it can be connected to a product roadmap, a project plan is the backbone of your project once activities are underway. The critical components that make up a highly functional project plan (such as resource management, start and finish dates, and critical path) are too detailed to include in your project roadmap.
- A Project Charter: A project charter is an excellent tool to keep your project team and key stakeholders on the same page, working toward the same goal and operating from the same playbook. While it may share elements with your charter, the project roadmap is effective for working with a wider audience and should be approached from that angle.
- A Resource Management Tool: It is important to see how your resources are allocated across one project or multiple projects, and every team should have a method to make sure its people are working on the right areas (and aren’t overextended). However, this level of detail is too in-depth for your project roadmap. Your project roadmap can include key contacts working on your project, but even that can be too much information.
- A Product Roadmap: A product roadmap provides information about a development-specific undertaking (one with an end product) and is typically more detailed than a project roadmap. We’ll explain more about the differences between the two below.
- A Backlog or a List of Features: Though a project roadmap does include key deliverables, it is much more than a to-do list. A backlog and features list simply itemize and prioritize unmet needs, but a project roadmap is a visual tool that also includes high-level goals, deliverables, a timeline, etc.
- A Project Management Tracker: Teams often use a project management tracker to maintain scheduling over the course of a project. A project roadmap is much less detailed and merely offers a rough timeline that can change as the project evolves.
- An Epic: In Agile methodologies, an epic is a large chunk of work (including multiple tasks) that shares one common objective. By contrast, a project roadmap can outline multiple goals, and it includes the supporting information outlined below.
Although the project manager will usually create the project roadmap, team members, internal and external stakeholders, customers, and product owners and managers also use it.
A project roadmap is appropriate for many types of projects, including the following:
- Marketing plan or project
- IT strategy
- Strategy development
- New business development
- Technology project
- Project portfolio management
Though this article mainly focuses on project roadmaps in enterprise, they are also found in other industries, such as education or healthcare.
Project Roadmap vs. Project Plan
Project roadmaps and project plans are both important, distinct tools. A project plan is used to plan and manage project execution and project control, while a project roadmap is the big picture of the project’s course.
In a project plan, you’ll record the schedule, scope, and cost baselines. This document also tracks project-related decisions and assumptions, and the communication plan. The project plan is a working document that is updated on an ongoing basis, and the project roadmap shows the current state of many of those updates.
Sample Consulting Project Roadmap Template
Download Sample Consulting Project Roadmap Template
This sample roadmap template provides an example consulting project, including swimlanes for project phases and progress. You can use this template for Agile projects that require a theme and an epic-oriented roadmap.
You can also use the template for any project that focuses on high-level categories rather than timeline dates. Alternatively, you can edit the template to show months or years using the arrows to display elements of each project phase across time.
IT Project Roadmap Template
Download IT Project Roadmap Template
Add goals, milestones, and important dates to this roadmap template for IT project initiatives. Include various work streams for a single complex project or for multiple projects in order to get a big-picture view of objectives and dependencies.
This template provides a timeline view of a one-year time frame. Insert markers for quarterly goals and significant milestones, such as product launches. Use the template to map infrastructure, security, or other IT projects.
Agile Project Roadmap Template
Create an Agile software project roadmap template showing work streams, sprints, milestones, and release dates. The template displays sprint dates at the top and a timeline for the project work streams below. You can also use the color-coded key to highlight departments or other project categories, or to show priority or risk levels for each item on the roadmap.
Project Roadmap Timeline Template
Download Project Roadmap Timeline Template
This one-year roadmap project template provides a high-level timeline featuring milestones at the top and initiatives below. The template includes color-coded bars based on project phase. The layout of this template makes it easy for stakeholders to visualize the timing of individual project elements and how they align with strategic objectives.
Project Portfolio Roadmap Template
Download Project Portfolio Roadmap Template
Manage your project portfolio with this roadmap template, which offers a visual timeline for each project. The template divides the timeline into quarterly increments, so you can easily keep track of the items in your project portfolio and their anticipated completion dates. Select a status to indicate whether a project is scheduled, in progress, or completed. Then, the status color will show up on the roadmap, providing a quick status overview of all the projects in your portfolio. The roadmap also lists start and end dates as well as markers to indicate milestones.
Multiple Project Roadmap Template
Download Multiple Project Roadmap Template
Communicate plans and goals for multiple projects on a single roadmap. Use the color key to identify high-risk areas. Create a broad timeline for project initiatives and deliverables using a monthly and quarterly schedule, and add important dates, strategic goals, key events, and dependencies. This template provides a simple layout with swimlanes for each project, creating a high-level snapshot of multiple project plans.
6-Month Project Roadmap Template
View project components over a six-month time period with this project plan roadmap template. Work streams are color-coded, and the roadmap provides a graphical representation of project components over time. Edit the template to reflect the dates involved in your project plan, and add titles and descriptions to provide stakeholders with a high-level view of the major steps in your project.
3-Year Project Roadmap Template
In this project roadmap slide template, each work stream is displayed in a horizontal lane over a three-year period. Edit the color key to display stages, owners, status, priority, or risk for each bar on the roadmap. Then, adjust the bars to represent the length of time for activities within a workstream. For a modified version, use the workstream lanes to list multiple projects, departments or long-term objectives.
Project Management Roadmap Template
Download Project Management Roadmap Template
This project roadmap tracker template combines a standard roadmap and dashboard. The roadmap portion provides a timeline with monthly increments and clearly visible milestones, while the dashboard displays KPIs related to budget, pending items, and status. Keep track of project resources, areas of concern, and on-track elements, while also viewing the project overview shown in the roadmap timeline.
What Is a Project Roadmap Template?
A project roadmap template is a visual summary of your project’s strategy. A timeline view often works well for highlighting key initiatives, deadlines, and other milestones, but you can organize your data in many different formats.
When specific deadlines are not your primary focus, you can use a multi-column template with vertical swimlanes as an alternative (the sample consulting project roadmap template at the top of this page offers an example of this format). This view provides a high-level summary of the status of project activities, which can help you manage stakeholder expectations, visualize long-term projects, and work in an Agile setting with shifting project dates. Roadmaps are used in all kinds of projects, from marketing to construction.
To learn more about the difference between a project roadmap and a project plan, or to get guidance on what to include in your roadmap, read our article on everything you need to know about project roadmaps. For more resources, view our selection of free product roadmap templates.
Super-Charge Your Projects with Free Project Roadmap Templates from Smartsheet
From simple task management and project planning to complex resource and portfolio management, Smartsheet helps you improve collaboration and increase work velocity -- empowering you to get more done. The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.
From simple task management and project planning to complex resource and portfolio management, Smartsheet helps you improve collaboration and increase work velocity -- empowering you to get more done.
The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.
When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.