Our new roadmap

I’m really pleased to be sharing our Digital Comms roadmap for the next quarter. It’s the first time we’ve publicly shared it. It’s our way of explaining what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we think we’re going be doing next.

As it’ll be a new concept for some, I’ll use this post to explain more about it, how we created it and how we plan to use it.

What’s a roadmap?

I rather like this 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.”

So, it’s two things – a plan and a comms mechanism.

In my experience those two things are equally important. Our roadmap ensures the efforts of our team are aligned as closely as possible to our workstream strategies. And it also ensures we can align key stakeholders around that roadmap so everyone works together effectively.

Screengrab of roadmap
The student recruitment part of our roadmap, showing the vision and the work just done and work to come.

The format

Our roadmap is split into workstreams. This is how we organise the team to ensure all our work is aligned to the University strategy.

Under each workstream heading is a vision for that workstream. These explain what each one is ultimately trying to achieve for our users. While we don’t expect to have achieved these visions in the roadmap’s timeframe, every piece of work we highlight should in some way bring us closer.

The best roadmaps are focused on defining value for the user. What benefits will this piece of work bring to your users? A focus on outcome over output. Accordingly each item of work is presented in terms of value to our users.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. In the complex world that is a university, stakeholders are multiple and disparate in their needs, desires and views. All our work has to (and does) take them into account.

Being user-centred means improving the experience of our users in order to do the things that benefit us as an organisation. That means listening to and empathizing with our stakeholders and their needs.

This might be by making our course search intuitive to what prospective students want rather than reproducing the print prospectus format. This will make applying to the University easier and help our stakeholders in Recruitment meet their targets.

Or structuring content on our staff intranet so that it reflects the way colleagues see the world instead of replicating confusing internal organisational structures. And by doing so help our colleagues right across the University improve staff productivity.

Or iterating on our student app to make sure it solves real problems our students have in their day-to-day interactions with the University. Thus making their experience at the University better, and hopefully enabling our teaching staff to do less admin and spend more time on teaching.

What a roadmap isn’t

It most certainly is not a Gantt chart. In the messy, uncertain world of digital Gantt charts seldom reflect reality.

You’ll see we use the words ‘discovery’, ‘investigate’ or ‘understand’ liberally. These kinds of actions preclude certainty in the future. They mean rigid milestones can never be rigid, and loading requirements upfront can never be anything more definite than a wishlist written with disappearing ink.

So, a roadmap isn’t a project plan, it’s far more flexible. Until we do X work, we won’t know Y and so we can’t promise what Z will look like.

Why we are publishing it

We’ve had a roadmap for some time now. But it’s been on a Miro board, available for the team to see but hidden from anyone else.

Publishing it on our website has two main benefits.

It makes it feel official. We are – as much as we can be given its inherent flexibility – now committed to it. By this I don’t mean it’s a promise. It’s more a statement of the current state of play, which means we have to prioritise our work.

It also will help far more of our users and stakeholders become aware of our work and be able to feed into it and – touch wood – support it.

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