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Roadmap: A Program Managers New Friend

In a recent video, I got some firsthand experience with the new Microsoft tool called Roadmap. In this article, I would like to share a couple of things:

  • What is it?
  • What should we use it for?
  • What could be improved?


What is Roadmap?

Roadmap was announced at the Ignite 2018 event. The new functionality was said to be coming to tenant’s all over the world at the end of 2018, and would be accessible through the Project Home page (another feature that was recently added to the cloud).

True to their word, Microsoft released the feature to most, or at least prepared those environments for the use of Roadmap. There are a couple of technical things you need to do before Roadmap is ready for use, but apart from turning on the feature and making sure you are on CDS for Apps 2.0 for the whole tenant, you are probably already seeing the new option on the Project Home page.

This is part of the new functionality added to the Project Home page. We used to only see favorited and recently accessed items, but with Roadmap we now have “Shared with me” and “Created by me” tabs. Both tabs only relate to Roadmap, but it’s an easy way to find them once the list of recent files grows.

Apart from these new tabs, we also have a new visual icon showing users of the Project Home page the difference between a Project Online project or a Roadmap.



There is a new option in the Create new button, too, stating that you can now create a new Roadmap right from there.



Once you perform the Create new Roadmap action, you are ready with a new blank Roadmap. But, what is it?

In my opinion, Roadmap is the ideal way to create an overview for running projects that are linked to each other with a common denominator. This could be a portfolio, a department, a product, or a program.

With Roadmap, you have the option to surface the most important activities and milestones (which are called Key dates in Roadmap). And you can see at a high level the status in the form of color codes (blue, green, amber, red, and white).


What should we use Roadmap for?

Roadmap is a tool for the Program/Portfolio/PMO manager. It’s a tool that should be used by people that need a high level overview on multiple schedules that have a corresponding subject or common goal.

The bars in Roadmap are called “Phases,” and for that precise reason, we don’t expect Roadmap to be used for the nitty gritty details of schedules. We keep using the respective back end systems (such as Project Online and Azure Boards) for that.

Roadmap rows; however, provide you with the option to choose an owner that isn’t the actual “Project Owner” as described in Project Online. This is a pretty big thing, because, in most implementations I get the question, “The scheduler (the one that created the project) isn’t the owner, but the PM….can we change the name ‘owner’?” With a little Java script, you can, by the way.

And with Roadmap, you can assign the actual owner of that project to his respective row. And that person can be added to the Roadmap Office 365 Group. I haven’t tested this, but I can assume that an “Owner” can change the values within his or her row.

If you are a program manager, Roadmap will give you a clean and easy way to get an overview of all projects within your program. It also provides you with a platform where the owners of the individual projects or Agile initiatives can interact on the most important items/phases from a program perspective.

As an added feature, you have the option to create a generic Key date (a date that’s not associated with a single project). These kinds of key dates will show up above the Roadmap, visualizing the key date across different projects, as shown below.



What could improve?

In my opinion, the following are potential areas of improvement for Roadmap.


The Filter option

The current filter option on the top right only allows for you to filter by owner, which I’d say is rather limiting. As a user, I would love to be able to filter based on the status or even on back end sources.


The Go to filter

If you click on the Go to filter (next to the Owner filter), you need to select a date, and if you don’t, the window will not close anymore.

Clearly this is a small bug, and my guess is that they will fix it quickly 😊.


Limited mobile support

I tried to create a Roadmap with my Android phone. It started off great, but as soon as I hit “add row,” the view wasn’t mobile friendly anymore. I don’t know if you would ever need this feature, but in the world of tablets and mobile, it’s too bad that the new feature isn’t completely responsive.


Flow every 5 minutes / 1 hour?

If we take a look at the Flows that were created when we added a Project Row or a Boards Row, we will see that for Project Online it looks for changes every 5 minutes. For Boards, only once per hour.

I don’t think that once per hour is a bad thing, but why even create a recurring ping to said services when it would be a ok if we only updated a board once a day or a schedule once per week? That would minimize the amount of server activity a lot, right? Let me know what you think about the recurring triggers for these flows.

By the way, the flows don’t count for your max amount of flows per user! That’s a nice thing to keep in mind.


Final thoughts

What do you think Microsoft should change on Roadmap? Do you think they should add an option for Planner boards? How about a native integration with Microsoft Teams?

In any case, you have the power! With the UserVoice website you can directly influence what Microsoft works on next.

Keep an eye out for Roadmaps and Home, both are promising new tools and I expect, we will receive frequent updates on them in the coming year.


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Written by Erik van Hurck

Erik van Hurck is a Senior PPM consultant for Projectum, a western European Microsoft Partner with offices in Denmark and The Netherlands. On top of that Erik is a Microsoft MVP. As such, Erik assists enterprise customers to adopt the new Power Platform cloud solutions for Project and Portfolio Management. Erik has a personal blog (www.theprojectcornerblog.com) and is also a writer for the Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG.com).

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