How to build a business roadmap

You have goals for your business. But how do you get there? Here’s a step by step guide to build a business roadmap for your business.

You have strategic goals, but how do you make sure you reach them? Techniques that convert your goals into actionable steps for you and your team belong to the field of strategy execution.

This article outlines a 5-step approach to craft an effective roadmap for your business.

Follow these steps to create clarity and reach your goals.

  1. Define your goals
  2. Define critical milestones and strategic moves
  3. Map activities
  4. Assign responsibilities
  5. Review regularly

Let’s go.

Define your Goals

The first step to effective strategy execution is having clear goals. Use the SMART methodology to define goals the right way.

The acronym smart stands for the following.

  • S for Specific: Your goals need to be specific, i.e. unambiguous. Formulate them in the way that makes it clear for everyone what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • M for Measurable: Define your goals in a way that can be measured either directly or through a proxy metric.
  • A for Achievable: When setting goals for your organization, make sure they can reasonably be a achieved, or it will just lead to frustration and neglection.
  • R for Relevant: Make sure the goals you set are highly relevant to you, and your business’ success. Ideally, also factor in what’s relevant to your team (more on that later).
  • T for Time-bound: Your goals should have a deadline tied to them.

Example for poor goal formulation:

“I want to generate much more profit”

Example for proper goal formulation using SMART goals.

“My business generates 1mn USD in net profit (pre-tax) in the next business year, ending on Dec 31st 2026, which would mean a 25% increase from this year’s projection”

See how the SMART goal formulation ads clarity at this very early stage?

Define critical milestones and strategic moves

As a next step on your path to a roadmap, you need to define the critical milestones you need to achieve along the way, as well as the high-level moves that support you in reaching these.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I need to accomplish along the way to reach my goals.
  • What products or services do we need to add to get there?
  • How many new clients would I need?
  • How much more would I need to sell to my clients to reach my goals.
  • How and where do I sell my services and products, and how are they priced?
  • What does my cost structure need to look like?
  • What talent and tools do I need to reach my goals?
  • What infrastructure or financial support do I need to reach my goals?
  • What things should we stop doing, because they’re distracting us?

When you answer these questions, you’re basically translating your goals into a strategy. Strategy in its simplest form is a short list of things that you’ll be doing to reach your goals.

This short list is accompanied by a long list of things you will not be doing (this list is often more important than the positive short-list).

Strategy is mainly focus. Focus on will get you to your goal, and deliberately neglecting everything that won’t.

Defining milestones

Map out the milestones that you need to pass on your way to reaching your objectives. These might include

  • certain revenue numbers
  • having a certain number of clients
  • the launch of a certain type of product
  • establishing a brand or
  • the launch a service in the market

Apply the SMART methodology to your milestones, so there’s no ambiguity to whether or not you have reached them.

Spread your milestones across the time frame from today to your deadline for the strategic goal. This timeline will typically be between one and five years.

Your milestones should be far apart enough to be realistic to be reached, but close enough to make them ambitious and fill them with activities. 

Assuming your strategic time horizon is 3 years, you should set up between three and 12 milestones through that period.

Lastly, try to find milestones that are independent of each other. If there’s a qualitative dependency between them, missing the first one (or learning that it should look different), will make the later ones obsolete.

Let’s discuss your roadmap. Book a free consultation here.

Defining strategic moves

With your milestones set up, you can now define the large strategic moves that you’ll have to make to reach them.

Thinking about your future strategy, you will find that you will need to do things differently than today. More of the same is in most cases no good path to reaching your goals.

So ask yourself: In order transform your business to its target state, what do you have to do differently from today?

For the examples above, strategic moves might be to expand your market reach, implementing a retainer offering to increase client retention, building a product team to develop a new product, etc.

While milestones are points in times, at which you want a certain condition to be true, strategic moves are the high-level changes you need to make to get there.

The number of strategic moves should be as small as possible, it can even be 1. The goal here is to focus.

Map activities

This next step is where your roadmap comes to live. You need to break your strategic moves down into tasks. You follow of the nature of the exercise so far and start high-level, to then break it down into more and more detail.

Defining what you need to do

Depending on the timeframe of your roadmap and strategic moves, move on to the next smaller interval. Let’s assume your milestones are 6 months apart, your activities in the first step can be 1-2 months long.

Then you reiterate through your activities and break them down to the level of detail you need.

Make sure each activity has the same SMART attributes. Specifically, be clear about the outcomes you need to achieve in each step.

If you have experienced people in your team who you trust, involve them in this exercise to utilize their know-how.

How granular should your roadmap be?

Now this is where many entrepreneurs struggle. There’s no single right level of granularity that guarantees success of your roadmap. 

Granularity here means how small the activities are that you define. You could define activities for a three month period, or you could define what needs to be done each week.

I’ve seen entrepreneurs succeed with both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between. There is no single right way of doing this.

Rather, there are a few factors that determine the right level of detail.

The skill level and seniority of your team

If you have a very autonomous team, with senior employees that really own their field of work, the breakdown can stop at a rather high level. Your team will be able to figure out how to break the activities down into actionable tasks.

If, on the other hand, your team is rather junior and needs more guidance, you want to break down tasks into more specific steps, like weekly scopes of work. This will create the necessary clarity.

The predictability of your industry and business

If your industry is rather stable, and you have a good understanding of what your business will look like in 6 months, it makes sense to break down tasks into smaller chunks. The likelihood of your breakdown being accurate is high.

If, on the other hand, there’s a lot of uncertainty in your business and environment, breaking tasks down into smaller chunks is risky, because you don’t know yet if the sequence of tasks will still make sense in a few weeks.

How certain you are about your activities

If you are certain about the sequence of things that need to happen, you can go more granular. This is because you already know what steps will need to be taken.

If, on the other hand, the nature of your roadmap is more exploratory, you should keep your breakdown more high-level. This will give your team the slack to respond to things they learn while executing your plan.

Defining the sequence of activities

There’s the tendency to “front-load” your roadmap with many early activities. This is natural, as the first steps are typically rather clear, whereas later steps are still opaque and uncertain.

When defining the sequence of your activities, account for things that need to happen in parallel. Also, schedule things that are foundational for next steps early.

Also, it’s fine to have different levels of detail for different phases of your roadmap, and then define them in more details as you progress through the roadmap.

Assign responsibilities

Up to this point, your roadmap is just a thought experiment. A tool to bring your intentions to paper. To bring it to life, you need to involve your team.

Communicating your roadmap

Communicating your roadmap can be divided into two parts: What you’re trying to accomplish and how you intend to do it.

Communicating goals and milestones

In a first step, you need to communicate your roadmap to your team in its entirety. You want to accomplish two things:
  1. Paint a crystal clear picture of where you want your business to be at the end of your time horizon, as well as of the milestones you have defined along the way.
  2. Raise an emotional reaction in your team, so they not only understand where you want to go, but feel the need to get there the same way you do.
Essentially, communicating your roadmap is the start of a change process. After all, your team will need to do things differently, or do new things to get to the goal. There’s a fantastic book about change management, check it out here: Switch – How to change things when change is hard

Communicating the work breakdown structure

Secondly, you need to communicate the steps that you think you’ll need to take. Walk your team through the roadmap in detail, including the most granular level of tasks that you have defined. Use the opportunity to get feedback and input from your team to refine or change your roadmap. The goal of this session is to make sure everyone understands and agrees with the work breakdown structure.

Defining accountability and responsibility

Next, in the same session, assign accountabilities and responsibilities for milestones and activities.  Accountability means who owns the activity. Who will you go to to discuss results? Who will need to answer if an activity is not completed or not completed well? Responsibility on the other hand defines who does the work. In many cases, this might be the same person who’s accountable. In the end, you want to end up with exactly one person being accountable per task, and at least one person being responsible.

Implementing the roadmap

Regardless of the format in which you created your roadmap (it can just be a Word or Google doc), you need to translate your roadmap into a format that integrates with the way your team works. If you’re using a task management tool like Asana or Clickup, this is the place to set up the activities.  If you don’t have a tool like this, here are the requirements you’re looking for in a tool to display your roadmap:
  • Ability to define tasks with a start and an end-date
  • Ability to display tasks in a Gantt or timeline view
  • Ability to assign tasks to individuals
  • Ability to track progress and completion of tasks
  • Ability to add subtasks and contextual information (optional)

If you’re using a new tool, it’s important to implement it well. Train people and manage adoption of the tool alongside adoption of your roadmap.

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Review regularly

In your roadmap, you’re making an assumption about how the future will develop based on your actions. At the same time, you’re assigning many tasks to people. Therefore, it’s important to review progress continuously. Set up a regular meeting with your team to discuss activities, achievements, roadblocks as well as new developments and learnings.

Review activities and milestones achieved

The first central goal of the reviews is to create accountability. Your team needs to see that the roadmap and activities defined are a priority and you will hold them accountable.

Factor in new learnings and and changes in environment

As you progress through your roadmap, you will learn new things and will find out what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be adjusted. Your roadmap is not a “set it and forget it” tool but rather a living and breathing tool that you’ll need to adjust as reality unfolds.

Adjust roadmap

Lastly, in the review meetings, you need to adjust the next steps to account for what you have learned. If you have completed an activity, but you didn’t reach the milestones related to them, you need to figure out what do do instead. All dimensions of your roadmap can and should regularly be adjusted to account for the status quo. Treat every review meeting as the initial launch of your roadmap.  Change, reassign, redefine, delete or add activities based on what you now know.


The roadmap is a fantastic tool to guide your team through the execution of your strategy. As everything in business, it’s no “set it and forget it” tool, but needs constant readjustment. The key to success is finding the right level of granularity, and then following through with execution over an extended period of time.

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