Do your roadmaps answer these questions?

There are two key questions that anyone should be able to answer about a project or initiative they are working on:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why are we doing this now?

But these questions are not enough by themselves - projects can start for the wrong reasons and they can continue running long after their reason for existence has gone away.  So it is important to understand 'why' in a bit more depth and detail.

Roadmaps are a good way to do just that.  They are an excellent tool to help develop and communicate programmes of work, but they should also be able to link the specific programme initiatives back to purpose and outcome.  In doing so they will help answer the following more specific, and more useful, questions:

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  • What benefits will each initiative deliver?
  • Who owns these benefits?
  • How do the benefits relate to wider strategic themes and outcomes?
  • What internal and external influences affect this initiative 
  • What high level dependencies exist between initiatives?
  • What is the impact of not completing an initiative?
  • Does in-flight work remain relevant?

Answering these questions will provide a lot more context about the existence of a specific project, connecting it to strategy, outcome and relating it to other activities. Having this information for each initiative will provide the following benefits:

  • Make it clearer why money should be spent on an initiative
  • Help maintain focus on the initiative once in flight
  • Provide the information needed for prioritisation calls between initiatives
  • Define the impact of not doing or stopping an initiative
  • Help understand the impact of more fundamental changes in strategy and external influences

Knowing the answers to these questions will provide valuable information to support decisions around project funding and prioritisation, ensuring that these important decisions are based on facts and made within a strategic context.

This might sound a bit like programme management, but it is different.  Programme management provides the framework and governance for delivery while roadmaps identify what needs to be delivered, in what order, and to what end (strategic benefit).  A programme or portfolio management capability within an organisation may well be able to add great value to developing a roadmap, but it may not be a core competency.

Of course, this leads to yet another question to consider: where does this competency reside in your organisation?

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