The importance of a project road map

It’s natural to jump right into a new project without a plan once it has been allocated, this can be due to pressure or excitement.  It’s essential to set the goals before work begins so the project manager, the client, and team are all on the same page. Starting without good goals is an invitation for failure. Good goals need to be realistic, clear, and measurable.

  • Realistic– Are time frames realistic and resources available.
  • Clear– Is the scope of the project understood?
  • Measurable– Are there quantifiable indicators.

There’s no way to know if a project is a success without set goals, with good goals as the foundation of a project roadmap, there is an understanding that the project is headed in the right direction.

Many project managers have a mental picture of exactly what needs to be done and how. The problem is when it remains a mental picture. A vision contained in just one person’s mind can’t be realized by a team of people. There are multiple stakeholders in any project– the client, the company, the team, the end users, and sometimes the larger community. All of these people have questions that need to be answered and even concerns that need to be addressed. A project roadmap can help with that.

Without a clear roadmap, each member of the team is left to interpret the vision of the project for themselves. No matter how skilled the individuals are, every team needs the direction of a clear project plan. Beyond clearly defined goals, the team needs deadlines, communication guidelines, and a way to track their individual progress and that of the project. Lack of direction can result in de-motivation, poor performance, and even high turnover, all of which are bad for both short and long-term outcomes. Without direction, the team and the project outcome may end up in chaos.

Project management involves resource management because the team and company have a finite number of resources to work with. Good resource planning often includes taking other projects into consideration to ensure that the resource demands of one project aren’t in conflict with any concurrent projects. It is common to conduct financial resource planning to cover for human resources, physical work spaces, outside vendors, and any knowledge or skill gaps within a team. Including all of these factors in the project roadmap from the beginning will help avert collisions along the way.

Scope creep is when, over the course of a project, the vision is expanded to include things that were not part of the original scheme. It’s a common cause of project failure, but having a clear plan can prevent it. Scope creep happens when either a) the parameters of the project were not well-defined from the outset or b) there’s pressure–either internally from the team or externally from customers or bosses. If you’ve drawn a good roadmap for your project, you can point back to the plan any time someone suggests an idea that would expand scope and possibly derail of the project.

In the realm of projects and processes, transparency means creating a system in which all team members can access all relevant information about a project easily and efficiently. While some managers feel that providing transparency poses risks to the project, the benefits of transparency far outweigh these risks. Some of those benefits include clear communication, establishing collectively recognized expectations and standards, and improved motivation on the team and individual levels. When combined with a clear roadmap in the form of a string project plan, project transparency leads to better outcomes for both the team and the project itself.

With a clear roadmap from the beginning of a project, advantage can be taken of the power of automation.

  • Have clear goals– Having measurable goals enables automation reminders and status checks to keep projects on track.
  • Communicate the vision– Automated communication on missed deadlines, task completion, and changes to the project can remove the time burden of composing emails and also prevent lapses in communication.
  • Provide direction for the team– Using automated processes to help guide a team’s activities can take a huge burden off the project manager, allowing only focus on larger issues as they arise.
  • Manage resources– Automated resource tracking helps prevent conflicts among projects and gives time to adjust if resources become delayed or unavailable.
  • Avoid scope creep– With automated process management, there’s less room extra tasks to creep in and disrupt the tasks and goals at the core of your project.
  • Effortlessly promote transparency– Transparency is important, but manually generating and sharing status updates other reports can consume valuable time. Automated reports and updates provide transparency without burdening the team.

Automation and roadmaps go hand in hand. If not clearly defined then automation becomes a challenge, but once there is a good plan in place, automation can take project management to the next level.

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