Format Your Roadmap Differently to Foster Cross-Team Alignment

You’ll help foster cross-team alignment with less meetings simply by formatting your roadmap document to include what your team is working towards, and more importantly, why it’s important.

These are the five key areas of a roadmap document that make it possible for anyone to quickly understand your team’s plans:

  1. State your long-term vision in one sentence. This gives your roadmap the context necessary for someone who may not be intimately familiar with your team’s goals. Be aspirational, not prescriptive: “Be the most used web mail platform in the world” is more aspirational than “Launch a webmail platform using Node.js in 2017”.
  2. State the top three problems your team is currently addressing. This helps your reader understand what are the most important blockers to achieving your ultimate vision. Be descriptive, not prescriptive: “Our current offering isn’t considered reliable enough to run a company’s primary email system” is more descriptive “Our current offering is too slow”.
  3. Explain why these problems are the most important problems. All products have problems. This is where you get the reader to understand the scope of these problems, and why you are solving these right now. Be specific, not generic: “The #1 reason businesses don’t convert to paid accounts is because their email is delivered in a reasonable amount of time. Our strategy to $1mm in revenue relies on 90% conversion to paid, and today’s conversion is in the 40’s” is more specific than “Fast delivery is necessary for a good email system”.
  4. Identify how you’re addressing these problems. This is the tactical part of every roadmap that everyone’s familiar with: the list of work to be done. Be prescriptive at first, then get more and more aspirational: The top of your list should be very specific (“ability to compose a message in a new tab”), while the bottom of your list should be relatively undefined (“Native Android app”).
  5. Associate extremely rough timeframes with each solution. Attaching rough timeframes is strictly to help set the reader’s expectations. This is useful for your team to know what’s coming later, and for other teams to determine how to roughly align with you. Actual planning and alignment should not occur from your roadmap alone, so don’t overthink this. Your roadmap is about direction, not speed: Remember that your roadmap is not a project plan. Like a literal road map, it’s primarily purpose is to indicate the direction your team is planning to go, and not how fast you plan to get there. Use relatively generic terms like “near-term, mid-term, long-term and someday” instead of “this week” or “this month”.

Finally: Don’t overthink it. An incomplete roadmap is better than no roadmap. I made this example roadmap to get you started. Feel free to copy and replace it with your actual roadmap and start sharing it as quickly and broadly as you can. You’ll start seeing the results in your very next meeting, promise.

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