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6 Reasons You Should Never Embark on a Project Without a Roadmap

Sometimes in the excitement (or pressure) of a new project, it’s tempting to jump in and start to work without first making a plan.

This impulse is understandable. Maybe you’re passionate about the project and can’t wait to get started. Possibly you have a boss who talks a lot about seeing results quickly. Perhaps you’re eager to show tangible progress to your client. Whatever the reason for your hurry, you must resist this temptation!

A hastily begun project is almost always destined for failure. You should never embark on a project without a roadmap. Here’s why:

6 reasons you must make a project roadmap

Every project needs good goals from the outset

It’s essential to set your goals before work begins so that you, your client, and your team are all on the same page. Starting without good goals is an invitation for failure. What makes good goals? They need to be realistic, clear, and measurable.

  • Realistic– Can we accomplish this goal with the allotted time and resources available to us?
  • Clear– Do we know exactly what is being asked of us? Does everyone understand?
  • Measurable– Are there quantifiable indicators with which we can judge each goal?

There’s no way to know you’ve succeeded if you don’t set goals, but with good goals as the foundation of your project roadmap, you’ll always know you’re headed in the right direction.

The project vision must be communicated

Many project managers have a mental picture of exactly what needs to be done and how. The problem is when it remains a mental picture. A vision contained in just one person’s mind can’t be realized by a team of people. There are multiple stakeholders in any project– the client, the company, the team, the end users, and sometimes the larger community. All of these people have questions that need to be answered and even concerns that need to be addressed. A project roadmap can help with that.

Your team needs direction

Without a clear roadmap, each member of your team is left to interpret the vision of the project for his or herself. No matter how skilled the individuals are, every team needs the direction of a clear project plan. Beyond clearly defined goals, your team needs deadlines, communication guidelines, and a way to track their individual progress and that of the project. Lack of direction can result in demotivation, poor performance, and even high turnover, all of which are bad for both short and long-term outcomes. Without direction, the team–and your project–may end up in chaos.

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Resources are limited

Project management involves resource management because your team and your company have a finite number of resources to work with. Good resource planning often includes taking other projects into consideration to ensure that the resource demands of your project aren’t in conflict with any concurrent projects at your company. Most of us know that financial resource planning is important. You also need to plan for human resources, physical work spaces, outside vendors, and any knowledge or skill gaps on your team. Including all of these factors in your project roadmap from the beginning will help you avert collisions along the way.

A good roadmap prevents scope creep

Scope creep is when, over the course of your project, the vision is expanded to include things that were not part of the original scheme. It’s a common cause of project failure, but having a clear plan can prevent it. Scope creep happens when either a) the parameters of the project were not well-defined from the outset or b) there’s pressure–either internally from the team or externally from customers or bosses. If you’ve drawn a good roadmap for your project, you can point back to the plan any time someone suggests an idea that would expand your scope and possibly derail your project.

A good roadmap aids project transparency

In the realm of projects and processes, transparency means creating a system in which all team members can access all relevant information about a project easily and efficiently. While some managers feel that providing transparency poses risks to the project, the benefits of transparency far outweigh these risks. Some of those benefits include clear communication, establishing collectively recognized expectations and standards, and improved motivation on the team and individual levels. When combined with a clear roadmap in the form of a string project plan, project transparency leads to better outcomes for both the team and the project itself.

Give your roadmap superpowers with automation

With a clear roadmap from the beginning of your project, you can take advantage of the power of automation.

  • Have clear goals– Having measurable goals enables you to automate reminders and status checks to keep your project on track.
  • Communicate the vision– Automated communication on missed deadlines, task completion, and changes to the project can remove the time burden of composing emails and also prevent lapses in communication.
  • Provide direction for your team– Using automated processes to help guide you team’s activities can take a huge burden off the project manager, allowing you to focus on larger issues as they arise.
  • Manage resources– Automated resource tracking helps prevent conflicts among projects and gives you time to adjust if resources become delayed or unavailable.
  • Avoid scope creep– With automated process management, there’s less room extra tasks to creep in and disrupt the tasks and goals at the core of your project.
  • Effortlessly promote transparency– Transparency is important, but manually generating and sharing status updates other reports can consume valuable time. Automated reports and updates provide transparency without burdening your team.

Automation and roadmaps go hand in hand. You can’t automate what you haven’t clearly defined, but once you have a good plan in place, automation can take your project management to the next level.

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