What is a development roadmap?

7 minutes to read • Published 3 February 2020 • App development, Digital strategy, Web development

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      When we talk about app development, we often mention a development roadmap. 

      But what exactly is a development roadmap? What does it entail? And why is it important to have one when developing your next mobile app?   

      What exactly is a development roadmap? 

      Sometimes called a technology roadmap or an IT roadmap, a development roadmap is quite simply a strategic document which details a plan to reach both short and long term goals, through the use of technology solutions. 

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      Product Plan offers the following definition:

      “A roadmap is a strategic plan that defines a goal or desired outcome and includes the major steps or milestones needed to reach it.

      “It also serves as a communication tool, a high-level document that helps articulate strategic thinking—the why—behind both the goal and the plan for getting there.”

      The key aspect of a development map is that it is a strategic tool for guiding the development of products.

      Is a development roadmap like a Gantt chart?

      In a word, no. 

      A Gantt chart is “a horizontal bar chart developed as a production control tool in 1917 by Henry L. Gantt, an American engineer and social scientist. Frequently used in project management, a Gantt chart provides a graphical illustration of a schedule that helps to plan, coordinate, and track specific tasks in a project.” (Source)

      Therefore, a Gantt chart is really helpful for mapping outputs against timelines – or release dates.

      But where a Gantt chart falls down is that it doesn’t indicate task dependencies – which is to say, it doesn’t show you how one task falling behind schedule then affects the other tasks. 

      A development roadmap, by contrast, is a much more strategic document, rather than one that captures all of a plan’s every detail. 

      In short, a development roadmap is not a project management tracker. 

      As Ricksoft clarify, “While a Gantt chart timeline focuses on outputs (X number of features to deliver), a roadmap focuses on outcomes (metrics that reflect business success). A roadmap serves as a high-level and strategic plan that reflects your product vision and goals.” 

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      Why is it important to have a development roadmap?

      So what is the value of having a development roadmap? And how can it help your business? 

      Brian de Haaff, CEO and founder of roadmap software Aha! believes that “Ultimately, the purpose of a technology roadmap is to align key stakeholders, such as engineering, IT, and other business units, by creating a plan of action to implement new technology solutions or maintain existing ones. 

      “This plan helps teams to better grasp the technology requirements needed to reach the end goal, and provides a clear path for the desired use case for the organization.”

      So, a roadmap helps keep everyone in your team focused on the goal. For example, as an app progresses in its development, it is all too easy for individuals or teams to submit last minute change requests, such as a design change or plea for a whole new feature. 

      And therefore, a key benefit of a having a development roadmap, is that you get to assess these new requests against your strategic theme – and ultimately say no to feature requests that are not aligned with your company’s previously agreed vision.

      What does creating a development roadmap entail? 

      Project management experts Wrike suggest that a good project roadmap should contain the following:

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      • Project goals and objectives 
      • A timeline indicating the schedule
      • Important milestones and deliverables
      • Possible risks
      • Dependencies

      So you might want to start with clarifying your vision of what you want your product – your next mobile app for example – to become in the future. Talk to all your stakeholders, including your customers, look at the market and understand what your competitors are doing. 

      For example, we know that the mobile app market is predicted to grow and grow: indeed, by 2022, annual mobile app downloads are projected to reach 258 billion. Which is a 45% increase from 178 billion downloads in 2017. (Source). 

      We have previously written about how to turn your app idea into a design that is ready for development. Understanding exactly how your product fits into this rapidly expanding market – and how it will get downloaded and used over and over again – is absolutely essential to its success.

      Once your vision has been established, you then need to decide on a strategy for executing how your company plans to achieve this stated goal or vision. 

      There is no shortage of data available to you when it comes to designing an app – the question here is perhaps how much data should you use?

      Once identified, this strategy can then be broken down into well-defined and easily measured goals or milestones, bound by clearly stated timeframes.

      Not overcomplicating the output is important. 

      In order for the whole process to work, Product Plan believe a good development roadmap must be clear and easy to understand as well as able to meet the following essential requirements:   

      • Conveys the strategy of the product development
      • Shows the vision of the product
      • Evolves and changes with the product and market requirements
      • Prioritizes high-level units of development
      • Acts as a communication tool between all people involved
      • Sets long-term timeframe
      • Indicates exact goals and ties them to the business objectives

      Who should be involved in creating a development roadmap?

      In order to get the best buy in, alongside the most effective document, it is worth consulting as widely as possible when pulling together a development roadmap.

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      This means getting input from teams such as:  

      • IT and UX
      • Product management
      • General managers
      • Project management
      • Engineering
      • Testing
      • Finance 
      • Operations
      • Sales and marketing
      • Legal

      And of course, it is worth remembering that despite the best laid plans, things change. 

      Therefore the development roadmap should be regularly revisited in order to make any necessary changes to projects or timings, as well as understanding how these changes might affect the overall business.  

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      The other important aspect of creating a development roadmap is to remember to share it widely, with all key stakeholders, so that everyone is kept up to speed with the latest developments within each individual project as well as the overall project as a whole. 

      Looking for help with developing your mobile app?

      Are you considering building a mobile app for your business but not sure where to start?

      Would you like a hand with putting together a development roadmap for your mobile app, so you can be sure about exactly what you want to achieve – and how you plan to get there? 

      If you would like support, advice or practical help with any aspect of developing a mobile app, then Creative.onl would love to help.

      We are a friendly team of people, with expertise across all of the following areas: 

      • App development 
      • UX design 
      • Responsive web design
      • Web development 
      • Digital strategy 
      • Content
      • Graphic design
      • Video animation 
      • Marketing support 

      And we would love to help you with any part of your online business, from designing a new website through to creating infographics for your social media platforms. 

      Whatever you are looking for, get in touch with Creative.onl for a no obligation talk through the creative processes of any of our services and products.    

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