Build a roadmap
A roadmap is a plan or a timeline that explains when you will do things. It will help people to understand and support your work. At the start of a project, you should focus on explaining when you will undertake activities like research, development and testing. Once you know more about the problem and your solution, you will be able to add more detail and commit to when specific features will go live.
When to do it
Do this as early as you can and add detail to your plan as you understand more.
How to do it
identify your milestones – milestones are events or decision points during the lifetime of your policy, product or service, examples include:
hard milestones such as public commitments or legal deadlines or contracts ending on essential services
soft deadlines such as internal deadlines or dependencies on other teams
estimate how long the stages of your project will take - do this based on the size of your project - as a guide:
discovery phase: specify scope, understand user needs, explore and test options - typically lasts 4 and 8 weeks (more complex, technical projects may require additional time)
design and prep (alpha and private beta): select and test the solution - typically alpha lasts between 8 and 26 weeks and beta lasts between 12 and 52 weeks
live delivery (public beta and live): the policy product or service goes live and you can start assessing users’ experience of it - ongoing until the policy, product or service is decommissioned
describe what you’re doing next – focus on your timeline for the immediate future and prioritise tasks that give you evidence about things that are the most uncertain and will have the most impact on your work
predict the events that will slow down your team and take action in advance - procurement, recruiting users and getting agreement with stakeholders regularly slow teams down
Try this activity
This will help you decide when tasks will occur to deliver your policy, product or service. You will get a visual map, sometimes called a ‘roadmap’ of when tasks will occur.
Time, space and materials
any space with a wall, sticky notes, tape or a long piece of paper (like butcher’s paper), and pens for a face-to-face event
or for a remote event use a video conference and online whiteboard that will take the place of the wall and enable participants to add and move online ‘sticky notes’
create a timeline on the wall (it’s a horizontal line!). It should be 2 to 3 metres long
People to include
your team and subject matter experts
any number of people
a facilitator to provide the instructions
The purpose of this activity is to produce a timeline – sometimes called a roadmap – that describes your tasks during the project.
This part of the activity is to identify milestones.
Everyone should take sticky notes and a pen. Write down all milestones that will affect your work. A milestone is an event or a decision point. Write 1 milestone per sticky note. You have 3 minutes.
Stick your milestones to the wall, but not on the timeline. As you put them up, read other people’s notes and group together similar ones. You have 3 minutes.
Now move your milestones into 2 groups: hard milestones and soft milestones. Hard milestones are fixed. They are things like public commitments, legal deadlines or contracts ending on essential services. Soft milestones are not fixed. They are things like internal deadlines or dependencies on other teams. Write “H” on the hard milestones and “S” on the soft milestones. Discuss as you move them. You have 3 minutes.
Choose 2 volunteers. In turn, each person will summarise the hard milestones or the soft milestones. You have 1 minute each.
Now prioritise the soft milestones. Vote for the soft milestones that you think will be the influential on your work. You have 5 votes. You can vote how you want, share them around or put them in one place. Vote by putting a big dot on the sticky note. You have 1 minute.
Stick the hard milestones and the prioritised soft milestones to the timeline. You have 3 minutes.
This part of the activity is to think about how long each stage of the timeline might last.
To help estimate the length of each stage, ask participants to compare this project to other projects the organisation has previously completed.
On the timeline, mark when you estimate that each stage will begin and end. The length of these stages will depend on whether you project is small, medium or large. Where you position the stages will depend on your milestones. Do not worry about getting this exactly right, this is only an estimate.
This part of the activity is to describe what you are going to do in the immediate future.
Write down all the types of evidence that you want to show people at the end of the next stage of the project. Focus on the type of evidence, not the answers. These are things like user needs or project benefits or research analysis. Write 1 type of evidence per sticky note. You have 3 minutes.
Stick your ideas to the wall, but not on the timeline. Read other people’s ideas as you do so and group together similar ideas. Agree which are essential and which are just nice to have. You have 3 minutes.
Stick your essential requirements to the timeline at the end of the next stage of the project.
Now write down all the tasks that you need to complete to meet the essential requirements. Write 1 task per sticky note. You have 3 minutes.
Stick your ideas to the timeline. Read other people’s ideas and group similar ones. Discuss when they should occur and what the dependencies are between the tasks. You have 10 minutes.
One person should now volunteer to summarise what needs to be done until the end of the next phase. You have 1 minute.
This part of the activity is to think about what could slow down or stop your project.
Everyone should write down things that could slow you down or stop you from completing the essential requirements at the end of the next stage. We call these ‘blockers’. Write 1 idea per sticky note. You have 3 minutes.
Stick your ideas to the wall. As you put them up, read other people’s notes and group together similar ones.
One person should now summarise the ‘blockers’. You have 1 minute.
You are now going to prioritise the ‘blockers’. Everyone should vote for the ones they think are most important. You have 5 votes each. You can vote how you want, share them around or put them in one place. Vote by putting a big dot on the sticky note. You have 1 minute.
Distribute the prioritised ‘blockers’ between the participants.
Everyone should write an action that the team could take to tackle the ‘blocker’ that you have been given. Write 1 action per sticky note. You have 3 minutes.
Tell the group what actions you have come up with. You have 1 minute each. At the end of your minute, others will comment and you should edit the action on the spot.
Add your actions to the timeline. Discuss when they should occur and what the dependencies are between the tasks and actions. You have 5 minutes.
You now have a roadmap for the next phase your project.
try using different coloured sticky notes to show things like milestones and tasks
talk to a delivery expert before the activity to get a sense of how your work compares in size to prior projects
Find out more about this topic by searching the internet for:
Government service manual: developing a roadmap
IDEO design kit: roadmap
Jamie Arnold: seven questions to build a roadmap
Daniel Zacarias: 20 product prioritization techniques: a map and guided tour