What is an Operational Roadmap and Why Do You Need One?

Let us start by asking a question: Does your organization have an actionable operational roadmap? Whether your answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, this post is for you. You see, we’ve worked with a lot of SaaS companies, and neither scenario is uncommon. 

Those in favor of roadmaps are generally good at turning their vision for their company into a kind of big picture outline, and knowing—at least vaguely—what steps need to be taken to bring that vision to life. 
The roadmap-averse, on the other hand, are probably still writing their company’s story. They likely prefer rolling with the punches, seeing where each quarter’s current steers the ship, and acting accordingly.
When it comes down to it, every company needs a roadmap. Here’s why. 
A roadmap is, first and foremost, a statement of intent. The only prerequisite? An idea of where you want to end up at the end of it. 
In a recent company-wide meeting of ours, there was a discussion about roadmapping and why it’s such a crucial part of a RevOps team’s job—and, by extension, ours. Essentially, a roadmap is the best way to ensure all your teams are working towards the company’s larger goals. Having a prioritized outline of the initiatives that will help meet those goals makes it much easier for people to unite behind the vision. 
It’s a common argument that roadmapping is a waste of time, especially being that SaaS companies grow and change so frequently. The idea there is that all the planning will be for naught, and might even hamper a company’s ability to be agile. 
That’s the wrong way to look at it. Of course, change will happen. Things will come up, left turns will be taken, and that’s okay. It’s important to keep in mind that even as circumstances change, it’s likely that your overall intent will stay more or less the same. Roadmaps, when done right, afford you plenty of agility. Here’s how. 
They are strategic. 
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a critical distinction. Knowing that your roadmap is meant to be an illustration of your operational intent—as opposed to a vehicle for task management or a dumping ground for backlog ideas—will ensure that what you end up with is something actionable that can actually guide your teams. 
They acknowledge the likelihood of change. 
Like we said above, a roadmap is not a surrender of your company’s agility. When you create one, you should do so with the understanding that it isn’t etched in stone and should be able to adjust along with you. A roadmap’s most important function is to communicate the big picture vision for your organization and give priority to the work that is going to make the most impact. 
They break down harmful silos. 
Having a clear, shared view of your operational goals is a good way to align your teams, and give each one insight into what the others are working on. Having this kind of insight allows everyone to do their own jobs better, and creates a transparency that fosters empathy between teams and individuals. 
Here’s how we do it: 
As consultants, we have created strategic operational roadmaps for each of our clients. To do this right, we need to have a deep understanding of their business—that means knowing as much as we possibly can about their current processes, tech stack, and effectiveness of the business as a whole. 
This is how we are then able to create a list of impactful workstreams, which we then categorize and prioritize before starting to plan. For this process, we use Roadmunk to help construct and visualize the roadmaps we create, both internally and with our clients. Depending on the business and the length of their workstreams or sprints, the roadmap will be revisited as frequently as every couple weeks to ensure that priorities haven’t changed. 
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