What is a strategy roadmap? Best practices and templates for visualizing goals and initiatives
A strategy roadmap shows how you will achieve a competitive advantage. It visualizes your plan for accomplishing your goals through specific efforts in a given time frame. You can create an overarching strategy roadmap that encompasses a company's broad strategic vision or a more discrete strategy roadmap for a certain product. Either way, the purpose of a strategy roadmap is to create a link between where you want to be and the actions you will take to get there.
Building and sharing a strategy roadmap clarifies what the overall organization or an individual product team is working toward. The roadmap aligns everyone around shared objectives and gives valuable context about how effort ties to impact. Folks can make the connection between how their daily, weekly, and monthly work supports the broader business or product goals.
Create and share beautiful strategy roadmaps — try Aha! Roadmaps today.
What should a strategy roadmap include?
If you are a product manager, you might be thinking about all of the roadmaps you have built so far in your career. You might even be thinking, "Every roadmap is strategic, what is so different about a strategy roadmap?" This is a valid quibble. All roadmaps should be strategic — rooted in the goals and initiatives you are aiming for as you complete your work.
Many of us think of roadmaps as related to a specific effort. That could be the plan for building a new product, delivering an important release, or simply a collection of upcoming features. Instead of zooming in on the details of the work like a release roadmap or features roadmap, a strategy roadmap shows strategic areas of investment and major efforts.
A strategy roadmap is broad, not granular. Yet it still conveys a lot of important information about the company or product direction. No matter what type of strategy roadmap you are building, you will likely want to include the following:
Timeline for completion
A strategy roadmap for a software product may also include:
Epics or main areas of investment needed to achieve the initiatives
Which group is assigned to each body of work
This is a good time to delineate a strategy roadmap for a company from a strategy roadmap for a product. A company strategy roadmap (sometimes called a business roadmap) communicates the organization's vision. For example, a company strategy roadmap could include time-bound goals, such as reaching a specific revenue target or growing the business by a certain percentage by the end of the year. It could also show the major areas of investment from cross-functional teams such as product, engineering, marketing, and customer support.
A product strategy roadmap conveys the product vision, which connects to and supports the larger company vision and goals. A product strategy roadmap also includes time-bound product goals, such as gaining a certain number of new customers or free trial signups each quarter. The roadmap will highlight product initiatives, or themes of work, that product and engineering are responsible for.
What are the benefits of a strategy roadmap?
It takes deep thought and deliberate planning to move from where you are now to where you want to be. Put simply, a strategy roadmap helps you visualize the strategy for achieving your vision. It is a powerful tool for communicating your desired destination, rallying the entire team around the "why" behind their work, and guiding priorities.
A quick primer on the difference between vision, strategy, and a roadmap:
Vision — Establishes where you want to go and why it matters
Strategy — Captures the goals, initiatives, and approach for achieving the vision
Roadmap — Visualizes how you will achieve the strategy along with a time frame for completion
A strategy roadmap for a company and a product are anchoring for any team. You can use these visual tools to help inform prioritization decisions about which work to pursue next, what to postpone, and what to say "no" to. Only invest in the efforts that will bring you closer to your goals and initiatives.
Here are some core benefits of a strategy roadmap:
Alignment — Unite everyone around shared objectives
Clarity — Declare what the organization or product team is striving toward
Focus — Orient the team around what you will accomplish and how you will deliver value
Inspiration — Motivate teammates to achieve and excite people about what is coming
It is worth pointing out that a strategy roadmap is typically an internal document. But some companies choose to share high-level roadmap views with various external groups such as customers, investors, shareholders, or partners.
For example, many companies have contractual agreements with customers. With a customer-facing strategy roadmap, you can show general time frames for when the team plans to work toward certain efforts or deliverables. Public or venture-backed companies might also create external strategy roadmaps to give context around what shareholders or investors can expect. Typically, these types of external roadmaps are even more high-level than internal ones — showing only select areas of investment and general dates.
When should you create a strategy roadmap?
Setting a bold strategy takes time and careful consideration. It can be tempting to bypass strategy and jump right into making your business or product roadmap — so you can get to the exciting work of building new things faster. But if your roadmap is not rooted in strategy, it often ends up being a collection of random efforts or somewhat-related features. It is difficult to deliver real value without a strong anchor to tie your work to.
This is why company leaders typically create a strategy roadmap early — soon after founding a new business, coming up with a new offering, or deciding to expand into a major new market. Similarly, a strategy roadmap for a product also comes early in the product development process. Usually, company or product leaders will build it after the company and product strategy is defined, but before creating more detailed plans (such as release or features roadmaps).
For existing companies and products, you will likely make or update the strategy roadmap on a set cadence — either annually or in line with your organization's strategic planning cycle. What matters is that you regularly revisit the strategy roadmap to ensure that you stay responsive. Changing business needs, evolving customer preferences, and significant market shifts are all compelling reasons to think about adjusting your strategy for the future.
How to build a strategy roadmap
Ready to create your own strategy roadmap? If you are new to the process, it can certainly feel daunting. This is why many companies and teams use purpose-built roadmapping software like Aha! Roadmaps. You can set strategy, link features to goals and initiatives, and create and share a variety of roadmap types with both internal and external audiences.
Build your initiatives
Visit the the Strategy tab in Aha! Roadmaps and navigate to Imperatives. Here, capture your goals and initiatives for each level you would like — such as company, platform, or product level. If you are defining product-level initiatives, you can map them to the overall company strategy, too.
Link initiatives to goals
Once you have defined your company or product goals, select the corresponding goal (or goals) that each initiative supports. Depending on the level of specificity you want to show on your strategy roadmap, you may want to build out epics or releases that will support the goals as well.
Adjust the time frame
Navigate to Roadmaps, then Strategy to see your strategy roadmap visualization. Aha! Roadmaps automatically populates your data — goals, initiatives, epics, releases, and more — into the roadmap view. Drag and drop each initiative to update its time frame, adjusting the start date and end date. At the top of the roadmap, you can also control the schedule you want to display — three months, six months, one year, or custom dates.
Customize your roadmap
You can show progress toward goals with shaded bars, sort initiatives (by workspace, start or end date, rank, status, assignee, or name), or hide releases for an even higher-level view. You can also color bars by status, assignee, type, initiative, or release.
When you are happy with your strategy roadmap, you can share it in a variety of ways — add it to a whiteboard, presentation, or dashboard, or export it as a PDF or PNG image. This makes your roadmap accessible to leadership, the product team, other groups in the organization, customers, and more.
Strategy roadmap templates
Thus far we have shown examples from Aha! Roadmaps, which is the best way to build strategic roadmaps that show exactly how your areas of investment will help you reach business or product goals. But some teams may want to sketch out their strategic direction on a whiteboard first.
This is why we created simple roadmap templates in our digital notebook and whiteboarding tool, Aha! Notebooks. You can craft documents, design stunning whiteboards, and share your direction with teammates. The best part? When you are ready, you can convert the details on your whiteboard directly to real work in Aha! Roadmaps — no need to duplicate data.
To get started quickly, take a look at the guided templates available in Aha! Notebooks. These templates give you an easy and consistent way to create all kinds of product documents. This consistent approach is especially important in large companies with several product teams — but of course, all types of organizations can benefit from the clarity and structure that templates bring.
The strategy roadmap template is below. This template makes it easy to visualize and share your high-level plans quickly. Fill in your details and customize the template to display exactly the information your team needs.
A strong strategy roadmap can transform the way the team approaches their work — inspiring everyone to rally around the direction you are heading. Use your strategy roadmap to inspire meaningful conversations about what you will achieve and why it matters. With a goal-first mindset, you can accomplish great things together and make a real impact on customers and the business.
Set brilliant strategy and share visual plans with Aha! Roadmaps — a purpose-built product development tool. Get started with a free 30-day trial.
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