November 10, 2021

Six Simple Steps to Creating a Digital Roadmap

Libbie Garner

Senior Digitial Project Manager

Article 38

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Having a well-defined roadmap is crucial for effortlessly evolving your digital product. It makes all the difference between a smooth rollout and one that hits roadblock after roadblock.

If you find yourself grappling with conflicting requirements or demands, waiting weeks for approval on simple actions or always being short of resources, you need a digital product roadmap.

There’s no right or wrong way to create one. It all comes down to the individual needs of the business. However, there are some fundamentals that every roadmap needs, and I’ve created this simple 6-step approach to help you create your own strategy.

First, I’ll quickly recap what a roadmap is.

 

What is a digital roadmap?

A digital roadmap defines what a business wants to achieve and how it’s going to get there. It’s a list of critical actions needed to achieve both short and long-term goals that feed into your wider business objectives.

 

How is it different from a business plan?

A business plan focuses on the high-level objectives that your company wants to achieve. A digital roadmap is an actionable plan that maps out your step-by-step journey from where your digital experiences are now to where you need them to be.

Sound good? Let’s walk you through how to create one.


Step 1: Develop a vision

The first step to getting to where you need to be is to know where you’re going. I recommend starting your roadmap with a vision statement that you can use to guide your goals and decisions. This is usually your business vision and is expressed in a single short sentence that sums up what you ultimately want to achieve.

Examples of well-known vision statements include:

  • Microsoft: “A computer on every desk and in every home”
  • Facebook: “To connect with friends and the world around you”
  • Netflix: “Helping content creators around the world to find a global audience”

Questions to ask:

  • What is it that we ultimately want to achieve?
  • What core problem are we trying to solve?
  • What’s our ultimate purpose? Why was the business created in the first place?
  • What is the one thing that is most valuable to both us and to our customers?

 

Step 2: Analyse the market

Take a look at the competition. Not in the sense of copying their actions or replicating their digital plans, but simply getting to grips with what’s being done across the industry and how those efforts are – or aren’t – bringing value. At this stage, it’s just about better understanding the possibilities.

Questions to ask: 

  • What are your industry’s emerging trends?
  • Have any competitors seen success from their digital initiatives?
  • Have any competitors failed or struggled to get their initiatives off the ground?

Step 3: Know where you are

Understanding where you are is key to knowing what’s within reach. There may be areas where current processes align closely with your vision and help you get to where you need to be. There may be weaker areas that could hinder efforts, so knowing where you are is critical.

Questions to ask:

  • What tools are we using, and will they help us meet our objectives?
  • Are we collecting the data we need to deliver improved digital experiences?
  • Are we clearly communicating our vision with our employees and stakeholders?

Step 4: Assign responsibilities

Developing a roadmap is just one part of the equation. You’ll also need to ensure you have people on board who will action the plan. It’s important to agree on who will be involved, and, in my experience, this can be tricky. But if you don’t have people making decisions, you’re not going to get anywhere.

Question to ask:

  • Which stakeholders should be involved in developing, adapting and actioning the roadmap?
  • What level of involvement – decision making or simply being informed – should these people have?
  • How are all stakeholders going to communicate and collaborate?

Step 5: Consider your customers

It’s important to have peace of mind that any digital developments are relevant and valuable. Therefore, it’s vital to consider customers and analyse their needs so that you can be sure you’re moving forward in the right direction.

Questions to ask:

  • What sort of customer feedback would be useful?
  • How can we collect this type of feedback?
  • What user testing could we carry out?

Step 6: Prepare your resources

Take a look at your current capacity. If you haven't got the capacity or people with the right skill set to achieve your objectives, it’s either going to take employees two, three, or even four times the amount of time to deliver – or you won’t be able to deliver at all. It’s essential to properly assess internal capacity before actioning your digital roadmap.

Questions to ask:

  • What skills do we already have available to us, either internally or externally?
  • Should we be looking to fill any skills gaps through partnerships or recruitment?
  • Do we need to redesign the company culture to align better with our plan

Tips for creating your roadmap

Before we wrap this up, here are four more tips to help you create more workable and realistic roadmaps:

  • Allow for contingency because there's always something that gets in the way.
  • Prioritise. Know which initiatives need to take precedence over another.
  • Be flexible, and remember that a rigid plan is unlikely to generate success.
  • Review your roadmap in the light of emerging trends and commit to adapting and changing it as the landscape changes.

 

Don’t fall at the final hurdle

If you’ve got to this point in your digital roadmap journey, congratulations! But be warned: there’s one final hurdle that’s standing in your way, and I’d hate for you to fall at it. That final hurdle is communication.

Not only does your digital roadmap need to be clear and flexible in terms of your objectives and timeline, it also needs to be clearly communicated to all of the people involved. For a digital roadmap to get you where you need to be, it’s vital that everyone is making decisions that get you closer towards your goal, and they can’t make these decisions if they’re not involved in the process. Accessibility goes hand-in-hand with this, they need access to the latest version of the roadmap and be kept informed when it changes.

By making sure that everyone has access to the information they need when they need it, every digital project is simpler, more streamlined, and ultimately, more successful.

 

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