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Why Your Business Needs a Road Map

Why Your Business Needs a Road Map

Have you ever asked someone for directions to a destination that was not just right around the corner or a half-mile down the road? After about the second left and the fourth right turn past the oak tree with the lightning damage, I bet you wished you had written down the information or better yet, that the person giving directions had a map to show where you currently were located and your destination.

A challenge that many people and businesses face is not being able to clearly and concisely explain where they are and where they plan to be in three to five years and how they plan to get from here to there. It is not that you do not have a vision or a series of goals to lead you to where you are going, but rather you do not have an easy way of explaining it to someone else.

In business, the use of road maps helps us to explain to customers, investors and internal team members what the vision and the journey is going to look like in the coming months and years.

People want to know the answer to the following questions before making a large purchase or investing into your business:

• What enhancements are going to be added to the product I am buying today?
• What new services or product lines are you planning to add?
• What potential new market segments is your organization going to expand into?

A great spokesperson might be able to communicate a concise picture of where you are today and where you are heading tomorrow. However, just like with the example of giving complicated directions, having a document or some presentation material with your road map on it is the ideal. Unfortunately, many new businesses forget or do not know how to put a road map together.

The following is how I suggest building a road map that can be shared internally or externally:

1. Use a spreadsheet program. I am a PC person, so I use MS Excel for my spreadsheet needs. The formatting of the document I will leave to you as far as font size, data, etc. I use my columns to represent time. Depending on your needs you will want to represent your time elements in months, quarters or years.

Use the rows on the spreadsheet to call out the names of the products or services that you have or will be building out in the future. You can group the name of your products of services together in a combined cell and then use individual rows to call out individual components of the product or service.

For example, you might have a product called entry gates. Within the entry gates bucket you have your current “standard gate.” Then in third quarter of year two you will be rolling out to market the upgrade to the “standard gate.”

2. Use colors. When using a road map in your sales or information material, colors make information easy to read and understand. How you use colors in your materials is up to you. I have seen many different examples with using colors that have been effective. The key thing to remember is to be consistent and to make sure the colors work on your print and electronic materials. Remember a nice yellow color might be great on a glossy printout but that same graphic on an old projector might not look as good.
3. Prioritize your road map. As the projects or product offerings start to fill the road map, you or your team will need to prioritize the items on the road map. You will find that you have more ideas and projects than resource availability. These constraints are beneficial because along with your organization’s vision you or your team will have to rank the road map items based on the following – return on investment, strategic importance of needed systems or organization maintenance.

Coach's Wrap Up:

While a focused vision and direction is important to both individuals and organizations, a well laid out road map provides the steps needed to move forward. Think of a road map as combining both the vision and goals together in a logical laid out plan that builds on itself. The road map not only gives direction to your future state but it also is a record of where you started and what you have accomplished along the way.

Question:

Have you worked in organizations where you felt there was not a clear map or direction that management was following? Did the team feel like they were moving towards something or did the team feel like they were wandering without real purpose?

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