First, let me say that I’m a huge fan of roadmaps as information radiators for projects, programs, or the enterprise.  If done well, communicating large amounts of information in a beautifully simple set of boxes, text, and lines is nothing short of art.  However, done poorly and you’ve got yourself a multi-colored, pain-in-the-neck to update, distraction.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve created my share of roadmaps using a wide variety of medium including Excel, PowerPoint, pen and paper, white boards, sticky notes, OmniGraffle, Visio, JIRA, and Trello.  And shamefully, Microsoft project…but that’s a topic for another post.

Some of my roadmaps turned out more useful and beautiful than others.  Some were limited by the medium I could use (e.g., Excel is horrible IMO).  Some were used every day during the project and others were thrown on a shelf and never looked at again.  As I thought back to all those products that I created over the years and also thought about all the other roadmaps that I’ve seen in meetings or been exposed to during projects, certain characteristics definitely stood out as indicators of trouble.

Here are my top five signs that it’s time to ditch your IT roadmap

  1. It’s more than one page…OK…two max if it’s a really complex program.
  2. You have to use all the colors in the rainbow and available clipart shapes to communicate status, milestones, etc.
  3. Your grandmother can’t read the font because it’s too small.
  4. It takes a small army of people to maintain it.
  5. Versioning is done with file name changes and emails.

Now, I’m not saying at all that you should stop the planning that goes into road mapping.  After all, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  What I’m talking about it the output of that planning.  Too often I’ve seen roadmaps that look like this thing.


As Alistair says, a good information radiator:

  • Is large and easily visible to the casual, interested observer
  • Is understood at a glance
  • Changes periodically, so that it is worth visiting
  • Is easily kept up to date

Do you have any other things to look out for?  I’d love to hear them.

Happy road mapping!


Image references: 1, 2