What to Look for in a Roadmap Tool
By Jibility co-founder Chuen Seet
The growth in product-driven start-ups and the shift to a product-based mindset has given rise to a number of product roadmap tools in the market place. But roadmapping is not a new concept, and certainly not exclusive to products. It’s applicable to myriad use cases, such as business, technology, projects, strategies and careers.
The fundamental purpose of a roadmap stems from the word’s literal meaning: a map of roads. If you arrive in a new city and need to drive to the conference centre, you’ll bring up the map on your phone to get the best directions, notes of landmarks, and your ETA.
In a business context, a roadmap is a visual representation of why and what your business needs to deliver in a series of steps that will transform or transpose the organization from a to b over a period of time. Note that it doesn’t describe exactly how you do so – that detail is typically the domain of the implementation plan.
Why Should You Use a New Tool?
Creating any kind of roadmap is not difficult if you have an understanding of the business domain or subject area. Using a dedicated tool can significantly increase your effectiveness and reduce the time required.
It’s important to note that roadmap builders are not just visualization tools for drawing diagrams. They can help leadership teams make smarter decisions about their future, but, as with any tool, the content is only as good as the thought put in.
A Good Roadmap Tool Helps You To:
Capture and describe an understanding of ‘why’. Why do you require the changes that are the basis of the roadmap? What challenges must be addressed? What objectives must be met to address these challenges?
Define and analyze ‘what’ needs to change in order to meet your objectives. To substantiate your roadmap, you must provide traceability between the rational ‘why’ and the ‘what’, i.e. the initiatives and actions. Identifying and analyzing what needs to change and providing a link to your objectives is essential for this purpose.
Undoubtedly you will uncover lots of actions and initiatives that should or could be delivered to meet your objectives. However, if you cannot achieve everything within the given timeframe, budget or other constraints, then you will need to prioritize by highest value and lowest risk/effort.
Once you’ve derived a list of prioritized initiatives from the analysis of what needs to change in order to meet your objectives, you can build your visual roadmap.
At this point, you may be thinking that this seems like a lot of work. Granted, you could simply slap a few initiatives into a drawing that looks like a roadmap – that’s straight forward, and you can use a number of generic office productivity drawing or presentation tools. So, you don’t need a dedicated roadmap tool, right?
Wrong. As soon as you show that roadmap to your stakeholders, the first questions they will ask are ‘How did you come up with those initiatives?’, ‘What’s the basis for those initiatives?’, ‘What objectives are you trying to meet?’ or ‘What challenges are you solving?’
An unsubstantiated roadmap can’t answer these questions effectively. That’s why roadmap tools give you a significant advantage.
Many also support an agile approach by allowing you to work backwards and forwards, iteratively and incrementally, in order to explore and expand your roadmap. This increases transparency with you and your stakeholders, improving communication throughout the development process.
So, now that you know why you should be using a dedicated roadmap creator tool, start researching which of the tools out there is best suited to you.