Chapter 11

Why a roadmap tool is better than a Microsoft Office roadmap


Visual product roadmaps act as a statement of intent. They need to be flexible, living documents that facilitate the communication of the product strategy, foster team collaboration and improve the quality of presentations meant for achieving buy-in and alignment.

So, basically, three of the most important aspects of a product manager’s job.

It’s not easy to do any of those things using an alchemical blend of spreadsheets, presentations, calendars and project management tools. To (loosely) quote our own roadmap tools guide: there’s no excuse for roadmapping in ad hoc tools like Excel and Powerpoint when there are so many roadmap tools to choose from. So, you know, stop doing it.

Don’t believe us? (Fair—here at Roadmunk, we’re a roadmap tool—so we’re a little biased). But hear us out. Here are some of the ways spreadsheets and presentation roadmaps are holding you back from being your best, strategic self.

Ready to level up your product roadmap? Check out our complete guide for product managers.

Building a Microsoft office roadmap is time-consuming 😪

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet
Spreadsheets and presentations require a tedious level of manual formatting. Think about it—you have to manually design, populate and update each cell in a spreadsheet using raw data. You have to shape a blank spreadsheet into a reliable, highly functional organizational tool that quickly communicates important strategic information.

And, we don’t know about you, but moving shapes and pictures in Powerpoint, Word and Excel can feel downright apocalyptic:

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

Working with a Microsoft Office roadmap requires an unsustainable level of time commitment. Say you want to add, change or move a cell into a different section of your spreadsheet roadmap. This involves copying and pasting individual cells, which then means you have to carve out new rows and columns in the spreadsheet to make room for this new information.

Why would anyone live like this? Why waste your time when you have better things to do? This is the year 2019, and roadmap tools exist.

With a roadmap tool like Roadmunk, the tools you need to build out your strategy are right there. No need to create them yourself. For starters, Roadmunk is made up of ready-to-use items and cells. Items are the building blocks of a roadmap—the "things" or individual records of data that you're turning into a visual roadmap. In Roadmunk, items can be initiatives, tasks, projects: anything that you want to organize in a visual way.

You can easily import Jira issues as items that you want to map out by uploading the raw data as a CSV file. After waiting for a few minutes, your data is in Roadmunk, ready for you to turn it into a powerful communication document.

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

And the shortcomings of using a spreadsheet don’t stop there.

If you want to add background information, comments that need to be seen by any relevant party in charge of the initiative, or attach files related to the information in a cell, what do you do? You add comments. Those little yellow dog-ear tags can be hard to track, especially when everyone has something to add. Not only that, but there’s no real way of letting anyone know that an update was made, a comment was left, or a file was attached except by emailing them or by dropping the link to the file in a group chat.

We know a better way. Item cards—a sort of “command central” for each initiative in your roadmap—are a place where you can leave comments (and tag the people who need to see these comments), and add file attachments. When you tag people in an item card, they’ll be notified by email.

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

With Roadmunk, you have the option to create multiple views of your roadmap depending on your specific needs and audience. Timelines show you a deadline-oriented view of items, which you can punctuate using milestones and goal highlights. You can adjust the time scale in a Timeline as well as select time periods, including weeks, months, quarters, and years.

On the other hand, swimlanes are for those agile teams that like to be flexible with their timelines. With a swimlane view, you can choose to see your data in sprints, quarters or “fuzzy-time” buckets (in progress, soon, future, completed).

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

And when it’s time to share the final result with different parties? Excel spreadsheets force you to create multiple documents and keep track of them separately.

With Roadmunk, you can save different views of the same roadmap, all in one dashboard, which you can then easily share with the relevant parties. You have the choice to send it as a png, as an html file, or as a URL.

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

Ready to start building your own product roadmap? Try our ready-to-use product roadmap template.

Spreadsheets and Powerpoint roadmaps are ugly 🤢

There’s no other way to say this: Microsoft office roadmaps aren’t pretty. This isn’t a dig at Office applications as a whole (we love you, Bill). We understand how Excel, Powerpoint and the bazillion other organizational tools created by Microsoft fit into the everyday lives of product managers. We just don’t think they’re the right tools to get all stakeholders, executives and your entire team aligned on one strategy.🤷. Hear us out:

A messy roadmap doesn’t let you communicate the superstar strategy you worked so hard on with your team and stakeholders, which in turn hinders the buy-in process and bottlenecks your delivery and execution. So, why risk it?

With an Excel or Powerpoint roadmap:

  • It’s hard to visually depict the strategic key points you’re trying to convey because your eyes get lost in massive, rambling blocks of text.
  • Commenting on a particular cell can get cluttered pretty quickly.
  • It’s impossible (ok, just complicated) to show if one item on a cell is dependent on another.
  • Powerpoint slides are clunky and tight on space, limited to a 4:3 aspect ratio in most cases.

Phew. Just talking about it made us cringe.

Here at Roadmunk, we’re a little obsessed with design. In fact, we firmly believe roadmaps are great for turning your product vision into a plan that’s crystal clear and easy to understand (we see roadmaps as an exercise in information design).

“Information design?” you might ask, “What are these nerds talking about?” Well, the idea here is that a visual roadmap relies on the calculated and economic use of visual elements and copy to turn your vision into a consumable, actionable plan. This is just Branded Talk™ for: “Use cool and pretty things to make your roadmap look good and easy to read!”

With Roadmunk, you can use an arsenal of visual tools to build something truly chef’s kiss beautiful. Here’s how:

  • Use a timeline roadmap to quickly and clearly communicate how long tasks, projects and initiatives will take.
  • If hard deadlines aren’t your thing, use a swimlane roadmap to communicate who’s working on what in looser timelines like in progress, soon, future, completed or in quarters and sprints.
  • Use visual hierarchy markers like milestones and key dates to add an extra layer of context, helping your audience’s gaze travel smoothly down the important stuff.
  • You can use colour to convey relationships between items.

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

For more on how you can give your roadmap a beauty makeover, check out our guide for creating a roadmap that’s boardroom-ready.

Microsoft office roadmaps can seriously [redacted] %$@#! [censored] your whole workflow 😬

We know that in some contexts, spreadsheet roadmaps can actually work. If you’re a small product team, a startup just getting off the ground, or a project manager who’s got her Excel game locked down and can whip out complex maps and charts out of raw data in seconds—Excel spreadsheets could (maybe, probably) work out in the short-term and under very specific, tactical and simple circumstances.

With spreadsheet roadmaps, things get messy, clunky and complicated at a larger scale, with larger teams, and in companies that have to juggle multiple product lines.

When you pass a spreadsheet around to multiple teams, who then have different outputs to add, it makes it hard to track when and where changes were made. It’s especially hard to stay on top of your shit if the strategy for updating teams is to email a spreadsheet every time it’s updated. Soon, the increasingly frustrated questions will roll in:

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

  • Which one’s the latest version?! Is it Mark’s version from last night?! Kelly’s version from this morning?!
  • Did you update every single person who needs to know about these changes?!
  • When you made changes to a cell, did you account for each and all of the inter-dependent fields?!
  • Where’s the %$@#! Advil?!

The best case scenario is that nothing happens and you all somehow, miraculously, by the will of some merciful organizational entity, keep track of all...that. The worst case scenario is that someone uses the wrong information from an outdated doc file to make a decision, which in turn affects someone else’s work that’s dependent on it.

And what happens when communication is affected at this level? Your team morale suffers because they don’t have a way to reliably show and share how their plans align with the overall strategy and organizational transparency gets thrown out the window.

With a cloud-based SaaS roadmap tool like Roadmunk, you avoid this mess thanks to a few things. Roadmunk, for one thing:

roadmap tool microsoft office spreadsheet

  • Allows you to share it in a format that doesn’t require an external party to log in (big bonus: a Roadmunk URL updates automatically, even after you share it).
  • You can also set up your roadmap so it automatically sends updates via email to anyone involved in any given roadmap.
  • You can control who can access, edit and update it.
  • You can create different views for different team members: engineering will see X, marketing will see y, etc.
  • And not to brag, but we’re also certified as ISO 27001 compliant. You can read all about how seriously we take our customers’ security here.

But we’ve already talked your ear off (read your eye off?) about what makes Roadmunk so valuable as a roadmap tool. See for yourself by signing up for a free 14-day trial, and start building beautiful, crystal-clear roadmaps.

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