Five key components of a successful business roadmap

When done right, this long-term strategic document can help your business grow

Illustrations courtesy of iStock

Business roadmaps are not business plans—in fact, the two are very different. Whereas a business plan requires incredible granularity and detail, business roadmaps aren’t meant to dive into each individual plan item or goal and the activities required to meet those goals. Roadmaps are flexible, working documents that capture high-level, relevant actions for the stakeholders.  

Like your business itself, your business roadmap is unique in concept and execution. A compelling roadmap should focus on the execution of the big picture that you are trying to achieve within a set timeframe. The main goal should be to keep company stakeholders and departments aligned on business objectives and priorities. The route you choose to map your growth strategy is yours alone. Keep in mind this may become the most relevant, most referenced, and most updated document you and your team use for growth planning. 

The most successful business roadmap addresses five key things. Read on to make sure you’re covering all bases.   

Compliance

As a business owner, one of your main responsibilities is ensuring the business is meeting or adhering to all state and federal laws and regulations. Based on business type (e.g., financial, retail, manufacturing, technology, among others) and location, the business will be required to function under certain laws to maintain legal compliance as it pertains to finances, copyright, and health and safety, among other things. 

Defining business objectives that are both performance-based and compliant can be a challenge, but it’s essential. In fact, performance goals often require some level of compliance to ensure there is structure and discipline. External factors, including legal, financial, technological, environmental, or competition-based factors, impact an organization’s ability to become or maintain compliance. Each of these elements requires decision-makers to anticipate the constraints or compliance issues that may change in the future. 

Most businesses will have some level of regulatory compliance to which they need to adhere to avoid legal action and/or fines. Your business may be required to comply with laws, standards, guidelines, or regulations from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), just to name a few. Legally required benefits are another area where employers will need to maintain compliance at all times. These benefits include unemployment, health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA),  or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In addition to government regulations, the roadmap should include compliance elements mitigating business risk. That may include financial impact due to outages, supporting contractual service level agreements, and how to prevent failure in areas of the business deemed “business-critical.”

Onboarding and retention

The job market in 2021 is showing its resilience. Recruiters, HR teams, and business owners have a unique opportunity to create and maintain a quality onboarding and retention process. If done properly, business owners will find that strong onboarding processes lead directly to quality talent retention in the future. When it comes to hiring best practices, businesses should focus on referrals and networking, posting on public job boards, and offering unique employee benefits. 

Once the right person is in the right role, it’s up to department managers and the HR team to ensure the employee’s needs are being met, their performance is adequately evaluated, that feedback is given regularly, and performance management or role-centric goals are being put in place. 

2020 brought a unique set of challenges to the business world in terms of onboarding and employee retention, including a remote-work mentality that may not have existed for companies previously. These businesses are now left to decide whether they will embrace a new hybrid mindset or return to a pre-COVID strategy of being entirely in-office. Research from Deloitte shows that 20 percent of employees are missing the personal interactions with colleagues and have a lingering sense of isolation. Addressing this critical point head-on in the roadmap will help department leaders ensure teams understand the purpose and company stance on flexibility and remote work.  

Data

All companies have data, whether they are large or small, old or new, local or national. What they do with it, and how they use it to make data-backed financial decisions, is up to them. According to Forbes, nearly 47 percent of companies haven’t touched their data and are only planning to use it in the “future.” That’s a big miss. 

When deciding milestones or items to include on a business roadmap, it’s important to base decisions on data and tie them to financial strategy, as opposed to making financial decisions based purely on personal or team desires, department objectives, or competitor insight. 

As internal stakeholders are developing priorities, allocating resources, and securing funding, the initiatives for the upcoming quarter, half, or year should reflect clear data points and analytics that tie to financials. 

This is one of the most important elements in building a business roadmap. Data fluency gives stakeholders and internal teams the confidence and ability to dig in, analyze the data, and have open conversations resulting in informed decisions. To get started: 

  • Clearly define how successes empower better decision-making in the future
  • Inspire team members to be more productive and work more efficiently
  • Assign a stakeholder to manage or oversee the data collection and generation 
  • Get excited about future organizational moves or improvements as they impact the larger employee base

Once you have a plan, you can assess the data and determine the financial impact, linking it to a strategic goal on the roadmap. 

Technology

In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, 42 percent of the American workforce shifted to working from home full-time. Companies who had previously relied on in-person operations were forced to rapidly change how and where their employees spent their days, putting a heavier focus on keeping employee-manager communications flowing. The best way to do that? Technology. To ensure managers could keep projects moving, meet deadlines, touch base with employees, file taxes, process payroll, and onboard new employees, companies were turning to HR-based technology to fill these gaps

Selecting the right technology to help navigate the different elements of higher-level project plans is a crucial element to the success of a growth plan. Human capital management (HCM) software allows business decision-makers to use integrated, to-the-minute data to increase efficiencies across the organization. A single employee record can track benefit information, contact details, help managers plan the coming week’s work schedule, deliver and track employee performance management reviews, report, update, and review compensation plans, along with requesting and approving PTO and employee timesheets. 

Roadmaps can exist as timelines in a project management tool (like Asana, Trello, or Nifty) with swimlanes, focused on business development or business intelligence, or even as a primary data strategy map. 

Growth strategy

As employers look to their business roadmap for growth opportunities, it’s imperative to make a conscious decision to be open to and ready for change. Leaving room for change isn’t always considered in the early stages of roadmapping, but as the product or range of services offered broadens, so does the growth strategy for the organization. 

In this section of the roadmap, organize goals or ideals into three categories: current, near term, and future. This will help the team conceptualize a high-level strategy for each priority item on the list. For example, if the business is focusing on increasing customer engagement in the near term, the long-term (future) goal would be to build out a full single-sign-on platform, with a short-term (current) goal of increasing per-post social engagement by 5 percent over the next month. 

To measure performance along the way, businesses often lean heavily on key performance indicators (KPIs) or objectives that can be applied to any goal. Suggestions for KPIs include user/customer acquisition, retention, engagement, revenue, and more.  

How to build a business roadmap 

Developing and maintaining a business roadmap is not a lighthearted commitment. Ensure that these few items are in place before you hit the gas on this part of the journey. 

  • Encourage select stakeholders to be involved in the process.
    These individuals should not only represent a diverse set of roles within the organization but should also be devoted to the process. 
  • Publish a review plan and timeline.
    A business roadmap should be reviewed anywhere from quarterly to annually to ensure a clear path to the future, starting with where the company is today. 
  • Define each activity.
    Each element on the roadmap should fall into a pillar (e.g., data, technology, compliance). Identify the purpose of each activity, tie the activity to an organizational goal, and determine how the success of the activity will be measured. 
  • Address any growth blockers.
    Uncover, discuss, and systematically remove blockers to the growth and success of the business. Commit to facing errors head-on, learn from failures, and make adjustments to current processes to avoid repeating mistakes.

WeWork members have an exclusive offer to receive a free business wellness consultation and roadmap developed by a VensureHR business consultant. The time to grow your business and build your roadmap to success is now. 

Julie Dower is the associate vice president of marketing and communications at Vensure Employer Services, living in Chandler, Arizona. A mother of toddler twin girls, she holds a master of science in technical communications from Arizona State University and a master of arts in English with a focus in professional writing, technology, and literacy from Northern Arizona University.

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