The Art of the Technology Roadmap

The Art of the Technology Roadmap

A Proven Approach to Implementing Software in Modern Business

Business leaders are hitting technical and institutional barriers, given the sophistication of technologies and enterprise smart stacks (analytic, IoT, cloud, social media). Many are failing to identify how these programs can be adopted to fit the needs of their business and utilize them to gain greater efficiency without reducing the performance of their current solution.

A technology roadmap can be a method of implementing new business software without creating bottlenecks, or leave out a deliverable that can hinder ROI if added later in a project. A roadmap is driven by a dynamic set of technical, legal, financial, market-oriented and organizational requirements. It should be seen as a living document, updated routinely as business needs change, resources are allocated and new information becomes available.

In a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, experts revealed the real problems businesses face when an implementation roadmap fails to be included in the deliverables of an IT project. After IT structures emerge, and evolve, it compounds noise and confusion inside the company. This is a common result of not having a blueprint of digital systems. In most cases these practices not only impair the system but the business itself; creating slow processes, multiple workarounds, redundancy and immeasurable ROI.

What we’ve found are companies fostering a pattern of poor software practices; investing in best of breed solutions, implementing the technology and failing to define how the system serves the rest of the organization. Understanding enterprise architecture should not be perceived as plug and play and some questions should be warranted at the onset of the project:

  • How will your company design the logic behind the new IT solution?
  • Do you have dedicated resources that will commit themselves to the creation and implementation of the roadmap?
  • Who will utilize the technology roadmap and what will it be used for?
  • What deliverables will you prioritize to make sure the project is successful?
  • And how can we use this document to integrate this solution with other technology platforms in the future?

Generally there should be five elements included in the creation of a roadmap:

  • Goals
    • Clear and concise set of targets, generally quantifiable with specificguidance from the business procuring the solution.
  • Milestones
    • Interim targets for achieving the goals, and often anchored to specific dates.
  • Gaps and barriers
    • A list of any potential risks or areas of concern the business may endure throughout the project and require attention prior the project’s kickoff. Gaps and barriers may include gaps in user knowledge or skill of the solution;technology platform limitations; integration with other business software; cleanliness of data; or public acceptance (i.e. financing).
  • Actionable items
    • Actions overcome gaps and barriers and distinguishing moments of managing risk. Actionable items may include technology development, customization, integration and deployment; vision and mission changes as market needs change (and they often do); policy formulation; methods of financing and when financing is needed; and ensuring there is engagement by stakeholders and everyday users.
  • Priorities and timelines
    • List of important actions needing taken to achieve goals within time frames to keepthe project in motion. Priorities and timelines must take into account the interconnections among these actions and the relationships stakeholders have with the action to be certain the integrity of their contribution is both warranted and checked to ensure the roadmap is true.

In the following sections, we provide a step by step guild for developing and implementing a technology roadmap. These efforts lead to an improved and enhanced course of action that have a significant and long lasting effect on enterprise architecture and the goals for which it was implemented.

Step one, create a vision.

The vision should contain initiatives of the business and target goals in the medium and long terms. Creating a vision requires a meeting of the minds to address economic conditions, market realities and public policy priorities. This effort leads to improved collaboration of specific research projects to determine the specific technology required to improve or renew operations.

Business operating under an umbrella of regulation will require a foundation that conforms the business to produce compliant data from the shop floor to those in charge with oversight. One example may include the food industry and their ability to trace ingredients far upstream and downstream in under four hours. Likewise, aerospace and financial institutions will likely require extensive road mapping to ensure the technology is capable of housing a dynamic set of legal, technical and economic data for as long as mandates require without despairing the system.

Step two, development of a roadmap.

The development phase of the roadmap aims to layout the expectations of the road-mapping process. It requires a synergy between a steering committee and the source in charge with selecting and implementing the software. Here you’ll find a list of types of requirements needed to address the purpose, scope and objectives of the roadmap. This may also be a good time for the ones whom are implementing the software to advise a methodological approach to ensuring the roadmap stays on course and all stakeholders participate.  Make no mistake, this phase of the process requires a good deal of high level perspective. The implementation should seek the clarification of objectives at the executive to make sure steps are taken at the detail level to achieve them.

The development of a roadmap answers three critical questions that will steer the project thereafter:

  • Which technologies are available to performthe type of work required to meet deliverables and goals, and achieve the greatest ROI? It is also where a break even formulations happen and explorations of opportunities at risk occur.
  • What markets – internal and external- will this solution most likely affect? (I.e. suppliers, distributors, customers, sales, engineering, finance)?
  • What policies or organizational charts will need to be updated or restructured?

Answering these questions builds a consensus across a diverse cross-section of business silos and yields stronger support for the implementation of the roadmap. In addition, it reduces chances a major technological capability, function or policy issue is left out.

Step three, creating the roadmap.

Create the roadmap; it is the easiest to describe, but the most difficult to perform. It requires access to a large amount of information from separate corners of the organization (data repositories in the legacy system, spreadsheets, users, etc.). The implementation team is in charge of assessing this information and reassembling it to tell a compelling story of opportunity. It should display a rational sequence of logic designed to achieve an expected future state. Essentially, implementers of the roadmap should be able to eloquently describe how the solution will come to be the brain child of the vision. This is especially important if the company seeks to integrate other modules of business systems thereafter.

Step four, validating the roadmap.

The role of roadmap creator is to maximize contributions from stakeholders and key executives whilst keeping the conversation manageable. One solution is to phase in review cycles, which permits stakeholders to modify priorities as needs become more apparent for various business reasons.

This is an important point in the process when project managers will pivot change management caps forward. Here the project team will artfully manage change orders and involve new stakeholders in the process that may have not helped with the initial roadmap development.

The circulation of the first draft of the roadmap needs a clear time frame for review. Limiting review cycles to a week maintain progress. From there, a second review of the technology roadmap document should be distributed to high level leaders complete with the first review modifications. The second draft is the final document that will move forward with the project. This draft requires resolution of final comments and outstanding issues, as well as requires approval from executives to publicize the document and trigger phase one of the implementation.

Wrap Up

Embracing a roadmap outlines the performance targets, pathways of development and deployment of technology it will take to achieve even the most high-reaching vision. And with every advancement of enterprise technology, every size business can use the roadmap approach to mandate their vision to their company as well.

Without a doubt there must be cohesion between project resources and those on the top floor in order to effectively delve a clear understanding how the technology will inevitably capture value for the business. Ultimately, the roadmap should clearly target priorities, time frames, create requirements and deliverables, and consider processes from end to end of the organization.

If you’d like more information we invite you to contact us for additional support in your ERP selection journey.

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