We recently worked with a project team as they were defining their digital roadmap for the next 18 months. They were creating the roadmap in PowerPoint, which for their presentation- and meeting-heavy culture made sense – it would get the most use. However, it quickly became evident that the templated slide was driving the strategy. The team was going to great lengths to make sure their roadmap could fit in a single slide. They were consolidating major initiatives into single line items, and even removing key strategies, to fit the format. The height and width of a PowerPoint slide were driving the roadmap as much or more than the business objectives. (Red flag!)
For a digital roadmap, it is critical that it accurately represent the business’ digital needs in a visual manner. Form is really important. The roadmap is meant to be a widely used document – whether that means actually printing (!) and hanging it on the wall of every team member with responsibility to execute against the plan or using it as a desktop background. At the very least, reviewing the roadmap should kick off every single meeting with reference to how the goals/objectives/agenda tie into the plan. To do this effectively, you do need a nice-looking roadmap that can be used in a variety of settings, including PowerPoint. But, form should never come before function.
A few principles to keep in mind:
- First, the roadmap should be a well-designed document, but also easy to update. Your roadmap will change. Choose software that is accessible within your organization. If you have easy access to a designer, take advantage of that. If not, it may be worth a small investment in a style guide for your roadmap to make sure you know how to use size, color, typography, etc. to help reinforce priorities and dependencies.
- Second, your roadmap will likely be filled with interdependencies. These can be hard to document visually. Swimlanes are the design technique of choice for most roadmaps, but don’t be afraid to explore other options, including bubble diagrams or mind maps. While a left-to-right time axis is certainly intuitive for a mindmap, expressing time from the center out in a bubble diagram can also work if it better represents relationships.
- Third, don’t be afraid to have a high-level roadmap that references more detailed views (or slides!) of specific portions of the roadmap. This is critical. We want the roadmap to be clear and we want it to build shared understanding and consensus. Whether presenting up to leadership or to a new hire, the road map should take the form needed for others to understand quickly where you are and where you’re headed on your digital journey.
- Finally, your roadmap should be an inspiring and motivational tool for your teams. If possible, keep a little history in your roadmap so the team has reminders of what has already been accomplished. This can also help build confidence and vision in executing future plans.
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