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Roadmap: Definition, Tools, Examples

A thorough guide to effectively building and using a roadmap through definitions, examples, tools and tutorials.

Make project roadmaps in PowerPoint

Getting Started with Roadmaps

Strategic planning is an essential part of managing projects or activities of any kind, and it's especially important in implementing your business vision. A simple visual like a roadmap provides a clear overview of your strategic tasks and milestones and helps you define a long-term plan for reaching your goals.

We've put together some resources to make it easier for you to create and manage your project or product roadmap. Here, you'll find all you need to know, from what a roadmap is to useful examples, friendly tools and free roadmap templates so you don't have to build them yourself. Let's get started!

What Is a Roadmap in Project Management?

Simply put, a roadmap is a strategic planning technique that places a project's goals and major deliverables (tasks, milestones) on a timeline, all grouped in a single visual representation or graphic. You should always remember that a roadmap planner differs from a regular project plan in that it doesn't contain all the details of a project; instead, it's a high-level, easy-to-understand, strategic tool.

Characteristics of a Roadmap

Defining an overall goal along with the major steps needed to reach it, a roadmap helps articulate the why behind the desired outcome and the plan for getting there within all kinds of strategic initiatives.

To better understand the role of a roadmap, let us review what this strategic tool is and is not.

What a roadmap is

  • A high-level plan that states an overarching objective and captures the major steps to achieve it – a valid roadmap makes a persuasive case for undertaking any specific action towards the main objective and paints a clear picture of how these underlying activities interconnect to bring the desired outcome.

  • A communication tool that conveys a product’s/project’s strategy – when using a concise and convincing rationale for taking a certain step/including a specific feature, a roadmap proves essential to the effective coordination of cross-functional teams around a common goal, and for gaining the approval from company leadership, partners, and customers.

What a roadmap is not

  • Difference between a roadmap and a backlog – a backlog is a to-do list consisting of all the tasks required to carry out a strategic initiative, usually arranged based on their priority; meanwhile, a roadmap translates a collection of backlog tasks and ideas into a high-level strategic vision.

  • Difference between a roadmap and a project management tracker – a project management tracker is a compilation of all the tasks and associated details (the individual assignments, the staff responsible for each task, planned meetings to discuss major milestones, deadlines for each critical phase, etc.) that are related to the completion of an initiative; in contrast, a roadmap summarizes the main efforts that need to be undertaken in order to achieve the planned results.

  • Difference between a roadmap and a list of features – when it comes to product development and management, many managers mistakenly confuse a list of features with a roadmap, but a list of features doesn’t articulate the strategic thinking that supports building a product in a specific way, whereas a roadmap shows how all those features come together and yield a product that meets specific company goals.

Why Do You Need a Roadmap?

Creating a well-thought-out roadmap helps businesses and project/product managers judiciously decide to what they choose to commit. Aligning each work item to the overall objective, roadmaps ensure that time and efforts are invested wisely and provide a strong foundation in terms of:

  • Clarity – by answering the question “what are you working towards and why?”, a roadmap clarifies strategic goals and how the involved work is linked to the overall strategy.

  • Communication – sharing the strategy of an initiative, a roadmap shows direction, visualizes timing, and helps drive conversations with key parties around challenges in a transparent manner.

  • Coordination – in large or complex projects, a roadmap enhances collaboration between multiple participants within an organization as it can help track dependencies and identify bottlenecks.

  • Accountability – sharing what needs to be delivered and when, a roadmap makes it easier for everyone to follow through on the plan.

  • Alignment – clearly stating the vision and the objectives of a project, a roadmap aligns teams, portfolios, or areas of the same business.

  • Impact – highlighting how each area of investment ties to a high-level goal, roadmaps easily illustrate the impact of a team’s progress.

  • Prioritization – focusing on what is most important, roadmaps help project/product managers make tradeoff decisions and prioritize the work that brings the greatest benefits more easily.

Showing the why behind a planned initiative, a roadmap benefits any type of business because:

  • It clarifies business strategy.

  • It communicates company-wide initiatives to internal teams.

  • It links department goals to those of the business.

  • It shares general plans with external audiences such as partners and advisory boards.

  • It tracks organizational performance.

Serving as the reference point for everything a team will focus on, a visual roadmap is extremely useful for product/project managers in high-level meetings with clients and executives because it helps you:

  • Illustrate how business strategy ties to company goals.

  • Translate product goals and initiatives into features and requirements.

  • Communicate with leadership, cross-functional teammates, and customers.

  • Prioritize new functionalities and enhancements.

  • Report progress and status as the project is moving along.

Roadmap Examples

The structure of a roadmap may vary from one project to another, but there are some key elements you should include in all your roadmaps. These are:

  1. Goals and initiatives – defining the value that your product or project brings and how it delivers on business objectives.

  2. Releases and milestones – stating when work will start and be delivered.

  3. Features – showing the efforts that are prioritized based on their overall value.

  4. Dependencies – highlighting interrelated work that might impact delivery.

To briefly recap, no matter the type of initiative it illustrates, a roadmap needs to tie together your strategy (the “why”), the actions that you need to take to achieve your goals (the “what”), and a timeline for completion (the “when”).

Take a look at the sample roadmap visual below to explore these key elements.

Business Roadmap Example

Roadmaps have a flexible format for presenting strategic information, so there's no industry standard we should follow. Each strategic initiative - from Marketing to HR, Operations, or IT - can adopt a different approach, but over time we've seen that most professionals use a roadmap creator to build one of the popular types of roadmaps below.

To help you save time, you can download these examples for free (we've built them using PowerPoint and the Office Timeline add-in) so you can get started right away.

Program roadmap example
E-commerce program roadmap

High-level roadmap with an overview of project, teams, and activities for an e-commerce program.

Clinical trial roadmap example
Clinical trial roadmap

Simple roadmap showing the trial phases and key milestones in a drug approval process.

Product development roadmap example
Product development roadmap

A colorful roadmap with key milestones and sprint schedule for better planning a SaaS product.

Platform roadmap example
Platform roadmap

Roadmap slide with swimlanes and project details for effective management of a platform development process.


There are many ways you can use these roadmap examples to make better decisions around your strategic initiatives. Explore the roadmap templates page to discover which one fits you best, then download and customize them as you like.

How to Create a Roadmap

Here are the main five steps to building an effective roadmap:

  1. Define your strategy – this step requires you to outline the overall vision, goals, and initiatives. In-depth research into buying personas, product positioning and competitive analysis helps create critical context and the foundation for your strategy.

  2. Review and assess potential features – use a scoring mechanism to weigh potential features and decide which of them bring the most value to your initiative.

  3. Prioritize and determine requirements – break down the activities that best support your strategy into smaller units of work.

  4. Organize work into phases – group your ranked list of features or major efforts into major releases or stages and define their duration.

  5. Choose your roadmap view – decide the level of detail and manner in which you want to illustrate all of the above over a specific time frame. For example, you might want to highlight specific features or cross-functional dependencies that influence the course of your plan.

Once you have covered all the steps above, you can then proceed to actually building your visual either by using a roadmap template or a dedicated roadmap tool.

For comprehensive demonstrations on how to make a roadmap using various office tools, check out our collection of step-by-step tutorials.

Roadmap Templates

What Is a Roadmap Template?

A roadmap template is a pre-built roadmap sample that can be easily updated with custom data to fit your needs. It provides an already-done framework to specific cases, helping you save time and effort in creating such a visual.

Why Use a Roadmap Template?

Using a roadmap template makes it easier for you to capture and communicate your product/project plans as it offers a pre-made structure to your own data. Available in a professionally designed format, roadmap templates help you to quickly build a timeline on which you concisely illustrate your goals and initiatives, the efforts that support your strategy and the due dates for work completion. Moreover, you can easily update them as often as necessary and even re-use them for future initiatives without having to start from scratch all over again.

Start building your first roadmap with our free downloadable roadmap templates that you can easily tailor to your requirements. While some of them allow you to share high-level business goals, others are more suitable for conveying a more detailed view of your initiatives. You can also find examples designed for certain types of industries or organizations.

Simply download your preferred model, input your project/product data, and enjoy a presentation-ready roadmap.

Ready-Made Roadmap Templates

A variety of professional, stand-alone templates that you can instantly customize into your own beautiful roadmap.

Roadmap templates for PowerPoint

Roadmap Tools

Whether you are starting a business, launching a new product, or coordinating a cross-functional project, a roadmap will enable you to visualize your strategic plan and turn it into reality. It represents the output of your planning process and will serve as the main tool to communicate your initiative to stakeholders in a compelling manner.

This is why it is crucial to use purpose-built roadmap software that will allow you to easily develop and customize high-level visuals that you can effortlessly share with important audiences (executives, team members, other groups in your organization, and clients).

One such dedicated roadmap maker is the PowerPoint add-in called Office Timeline. This intuitive tool helps you automatically generate clear, stylish roadmaps as PowerPoint slides that you can quickly update as often as necessary and share or present in meetings.

How to Choose a Roadmap Tool

With so much at stake when it comes to creating your roadmap, it's no wonder that deciding which roadmap tool to use proves to be such a challenging task. To make it easier for you to choose a roadmap software, here are the top 5 things to consider when you review the many roadmap tools available on the market today:

  • Time-saving. Does the roadmap app make it easy for you to create and update your project visual? You may have very little time to prepare your presentation for an important meeting with a client or a manager. That's why you need an agile roadmap maker that helps you automate your work with just a few clicks.

  • Customization. Each project is different, so is it a good idea to use the same colors and shapes for all of them? Certainly not. Go with an agile roadmap software that allows you to customize every detail: colors, shapes, fonts, date formats, etc. and lets you style your roadmap to make it unique and distinctive.

  • User-friendly. Most work is collaborative nowadays and you're always in close contact with a client or team. Therefore, you'll need a roadmap tool that works the way your clients and colleagues do, and the resulting roadmaps are easy to view, edit, download, or share by anyone, with their usual office tools.

  • Integrations. If you use popular project tools like MS Project or Wrike, you'll want to choose a roadmap creator that integrates smoothly with your usual project management software so you can build roadmaps straight from your data. A Refresh function that helps you update your roadmap every time there are changes in your documentation may be very useful, too.

  • Visuals. We can't stress this enough: you need simple, clear visuals that your audience can understand. So, choose a software that makes roadmaps that have the right blend of professionalism and beauty to help you stand out and impress your clients or managers.

Need more guidance in choosing a roadmap tool? Check out our dedicated section on roadmap tools.

Best Practices for Roadmaps

To serve the purpose for which it was created, a roadmap needs to be:

  • accurate,

  • actionable,

  • up-to-date,

  • relevant and easy-to-understand for the intended audience,

  • and visually compelling.

So here are a series of guidelines on how to effectively update, share and present impactful roadmaps that convey relevant information in a quick and clear manner.

Tips on How to Share or Present a Roadmap

For product/project managers to efficiently present and share their roadmap, they need to consider their audience – who they are, what they need to know and why. This way, they can adjust the structure and level of detail of their visual so that the right information be conveyed to the right people in a visually appealing way.

Here are the elements that make for an impactful roadmap presentation:

  • Audience-awareness – customize your roadmap according to your intended public and outcome. Depending on the audience, you will establish what to highlight during your presentation. For example, when you present to executive or advisory boards, your roadmap should focus on timelines of major bodies of work, whereas an engineering or IT team audience will be interested on details about features, requirements, and release dates. A customer-facing roadmap presentation, on the other hand, might show only a general description of features and approximate release dates.

  • Agenda – once you determine to whom you will present your roadmap, set an appropriate agenda of what core aspects you will capture and discuss. This gives your audience the right expectation for what they will see along the way.

  • Purpose – a good roadmap presentation needs a goal. To build an informative and well-received presentation from a goal-first approach, answer the questions “why is this information shared with this particular audience?”, “what should be the intended takeway?”, “what feedback would be useful?”

  • Vision – include information about the product’s business model, goals, personas, and competitors to place your strategic plans in the context of the broader product strategy and direction.

  • Feedback – presenting a roadmap creates the perfect opportunity for a product/project manager to get valuable insight from both internal and external audiences. Make sure to allot time for questions, answers, and comments.

  • Shareability – the value of your roadmap goes beyond its presentation as it may act as a reference point for any decisions going forward. As such, it is important to allow the appropriate access permissions and expectations for how frequently it would be updated.

Tips on How to Use or Update a Roadmap

As a high-level plan that describes the work required to achieve a goal along with a corresponding schedule, your roadmap should include a series of visual elements to be successfully used:

  • Timeframe – include a timeline to highlight the upcoming work within a relevant time period. If your initiative is planned to happen over a three-month interval, it doesn’t make sense to use a year-long timeframe. For easier comprehension, this timeline is usually presented at the top of the roadmap.

  • Hierarchy – when working with complex initiatives, take the time to logically organize and break down the work into smaller units that you can then display according to start and end dates, status, priority or that you can group by categories.

  • Progress – indicate the status of different work items and the overall progress towards goals by using shaded bars, colors, checkmarks or % percent complete indicators.

  • Colors – assign different colors to different work components (by team or owner, for instance) to better differentiate stages of your initiative and communicate them visually.

  • Symbols – subtly convey extra details with shapes, arrows, and other custom elements. For example, you can use a diamond to indicate important milestones or an arrow/line/connector to highlight task dependencies. Whatever symbols you choose, make sure they are consistent so that your audience can decode them.

Since plans change and new opportunities or challenges may arise along the way, you will want to create a flexible and dynamic roadmap that you can effortlessly update when such instances occur, not only quarterly or according to release status. To this end, choose an interactive dedicated tool that will allow you to:

  • quickly reflect ongoing transformations and evolution on your roadmap visuals;

  • swiftly integrate with other systems used in your organization;

  • easily share it at a company-wide level;

  • customize and style relevant details into unique visuals.

Frequently Asked Questions about Roadmaps

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked question about roadmaps.

What is a roadmap?

A roadmap is the high-level, visual representation of the lifecycle of a business initiative, complete with the end goal, steps to take and milestones to reach along the way. The roadmap is primarily used for the strategic planning of projects and the development of new products.

What is a project roadmap?

A project roadmap is a strategic overview of a company-wide operation. It can define the scope, deliverables, high-level scheduling, milestones, challenges, and risk factors. Project roadmaps are slightly less detail-oriented than project timelines. The primary concern is respecting the original deadlines and adjusting deliverables to meet them, when required.

What does a roadmap include?

A typical project roadmap should cover the following elements:

  • Long- and short-term objectives;

  • Tasks, milestones, and dependencies;

  • Resources required and their allocation strategy;

  • Timeline of the project’s lifecycle;

  • Risk factors and challenges.

Why is a roadmap important?

Roadmaps allow all involved parties to evaluate the competitiveness of a strategy, raise issues and reveal gaps, correctly prioritize resource allocation, and set realistic targets based on market data. They provide the framework for interdepartmental collaboration. Without roadmaps, every venture is a journey into the unknown and the risk of project failure grows higher.

How do you create a roadmap?

Starting off with a specialized roadmap maker application like Office Timeline can save you hours of work, allowing you to focus on the project specifics rather than graphic design. Here are the basic steps for creating a roadmap:

  1. Define the timeline and project phases.

  2. List the tasks, milestones, and dependencies.

  3. Break down the workstream using logical containers like swimlanes.

  4. Keep updating the roadmap with new developments.

Roadmaps made easy

Office Timeline helps you quickly turn complex project data into clear PowerPoint roadmaps that are easy to follow, but hard to forget.

Make roadmaps free in PowerPoint