Anyone in the world who has Internet access can list their free space such as a room or whole apartment for rent. Similarly, anyone can book a night or two in a stranger’s space in minutes. Yes, we’re talking about Airbnb.
In April 2020, the home rental startup raised more than $1 billion — valuing the company at over $26 billion. Not bad for a company whose business model was written on a piece of paper. This ‘document’ outlined objectives, key dates, features, and milestones. That’s exactly what roadmaps are about.
What a business roadmap is, exactly
Most businesses believe they should start with text-heavy business plans even if they’re not sure why. The truth is that a business plan can be a great tool, but not for every kind of business. For instance, unlike huge businesses, startups do not need a fully-bound, multipage business plan. Instead, working on articulating a business vision or finding solutions to key challenges could make more sense than creating a lengthy business plan, especially for early-stage startups. The main disadvantages of business plans are:
- They are time-consuming.
- They get outdated quickly.
- They can be too complicated for stakeholders to understand.
When planning a company’s growth, owners and managers should pay attention to a more flexible way of communicating a business strategy and goals—a roadmap.
A roadmap is a document that captures and presents key goals, important dates, and action plans relevant to all company’s stakeholders.
The business plan explains the commercial potential of a business and doesn’t provide much specific direction. The business roadmap is aimed to illustrate what needs to happen when it needs to happen and who needs to do it. With a roadmap, it becomes clear how different roles, tasks, and responsibilities come together.
In fact, a business roadmap illustrates everything required to turn a business plan into reality.
How to define goals for a business roadmap
Before creating a roadmap, it’s important to develop a strategy itself. Start with setting goals, and then build a roadmap to achieve these goals.
1. Identify long-term goals
Ask yourself: what do you want to achieve in the next 3-5 years? The question will help you shape a business roadmap. Specifically, long-term goals can be associated with revenue, growth, company reputation, etc.
2. Identifying short-term goals
The context set by long-term goals will help you identify short-term goals. In fact, short-term goals are meant to bridge the gap between your current position and the long-term goals you’ve set. For instance, one of your long-term goals is to increase company revenue by 20% by the end of the year. There are several strategies to achieve this goal, such as:
- invest in marketing budget
- decrease the price per unit
- run seasonal promotions
- offer discounts
3. Involve stakeholders
Once you’ve got a clear understanding of your long and short-term goals, it’s important to get your team members acquainted with these goals and motivate them to achieve certain results.
Make employees not just listeners, but creators and participants. Listen carefully to their feedback and fresh ideas. The more involved your team members are in the process of shaping where the company is headed, the more motivated they will be to get there.
What else do you need to build a roadmap
Identify capabilities and connect them with goals
A capability is what a business is made up of—processes, people, technology, or equipment. So, a business capability denotes what a business can do.
Then you should link capabilities with goals you want your business to achieve. For example, the capability for a goal ‘to increase company revenue by 20%’ would be digital marketing and sales management. Each capability must be clearly linked to a corresponding objective.
It’s highly likely you’ll end up with listing way too many capabilities. At this point, start prioritizing: which are the most important capabilities for delivering the goals? Mark the capabilities as high, medium, or low priority.
Determine a course of action
Once you’ve assessed business capabilities, define specific actions required to change each one. These actions should include the people changes, process changes and physical (technology, equipment) changes.
For instance, a course of action for a sales management capability could be to enhance the sales process, and a physical course of action could be to get started with an email marketing tool.
Formulate the initiatives
Once you’ve defined the courses of action, it’s time to formulate initiatives — individual assignments, people responsible for each task, deadlines for completing each element of the project, etc.
And the final step is to build a roadmap that describes which initiatives are delivered, and in what sequence.
Basically, your roadmap doesn’t need to look gorgeous or be too complicated. It can even be a napkin-thing if it’s your first iteration. However, we recommend you try using roadmap tools that can significantly ease the process of building your business roadmap, especially, if you’ve never created one before.
Here’s the list of our favorite roadmap tools:
Here you go. Now you know what a business roadmap is. This might be new to your company. Still, they’re a powerful tool for visualizing key business growth strategies.