Why You Need a Strategic IT Roadmap
May 22, 2018

Why You Need a Strategic IT Roadmap

by Brian de Haaff

“IT manages technology and projects — not customer experiences.” Have you heard this before? Not lately, I hope. Most companies are taking on major initiatives to focus all teams on customer experience. Not just customer-facing groups. Of course, this focus requires big changes in mindset and approach in departments across the organization, including both internal- and external-facing teams.

For IT, the question becomes — how do you guarantee technology is serving the company’s vision for customer success?

The question is nuanced because, in the past, the customer-centric focus was reserved for external-facing teams. These groups were responsible for recognizing customer desires for no-hassle, no-drama, self-serve experiences that are enjoyable. And, at the most basic, fast updates and even faster support.

Increasingly, these expectations are bleeding into the tools and teams we depend on at work too. Anyone with responsibility for rolling out new technology within their organization must take notice. For IT leaders and professionals, this means providing the platforms and solutions that make transformation initiatives possible.

Just like the external-facing product teams, these internal-facing IT teams are innovating not for innovation’s sake — but to better serve users. This requires working closely with other departments to understand and deliver what they need. And it requires a plan to get there.

To be fully aligned with the overall enterprise strategy, IT teams need a real strategic roadmap too.

This may feel like a big change from the traditional IT function. But it is quickly becoming the norm. We see this at Aha! with our own customers. Having a truly strategic IT roadmap is essential to go from reactively addressing tactical requests to proactively planning the technical capabilities the organization will need for the future.

Take the technology group at a major engineering company, for example. This team serves thousands of internal stakeholders — each working towards delivering major bodies of work for the business. So the IT group is using Aha! to set strategy and build shared roadmaps that improve visibility into long-term planning. It is a major shift in thinking that delivers more value to everyone.

Here are six things to consider when building your own strategic IT roadmap:

Internal customer personas matter I do not think I am going out on a limb when I say that most IT groups have probably never developed personas for internal (and definitely not for external) customers. Why would you? You know your customers — these are your colleagues who rely on specific software and technology you maintain to do their jobs. Yet analyzing who your users are and what problems they are trying to solve is a critical part of building out your roadmap. You need to understand their pain points and needs.

IT goals align with the company vision In the past, IT goals were very technical and specific to the department’s function. And that can still be the case — but not exclusively. Your work supports the teams who are delivering customer experiences. And no one works in a vacuum. So, goals for internal technology solutions should align with the company’s vision as well. This way, you can focus on work that will deliver the most value and help the IT team understand the role of their work at the company level.

Strategic themes connect work to goals What do you actually need to accomplish? Not the nitty-gritty details, but the major bodies of work that will help you achieve your goals and serve those customer personas. We call these large efforts “initiatives” at Aha! It is crucial that you define and link these themes to goals on your roadmap. Doing so further ties the planned work to your strategic approach. This will give everybody on the team confidence that whatever they are working on matters.

Transparency builds cross-functional trust Transparency is the key word here. Your IT department may have put together a technology roadmap in the past — but did you share it with the rest of the company? Show that your work really does serve the greater company goals. Explain how and why you prioritized what you did. This builds trust and establishes credibility, which makes it easier to get your colleagues on board when it comes time to roll out those new solutions.

Real-time feedback benefits everyone Many IT departments still think of gathering feedback as work for external-facing teams. Yet this work benefits just as much as any from real-time feedback and requests. You need to provide an easy and open way to capture this input. Our team at Aha! uses our own software for idea management. With our ideas portal, you can quickly and objectively say “no” to requests that do not align with strategic goals and prioritize those that do.

People want to know what is next Other teams are counting on you to deliver what you promise. Keep them updated on any roadblocks you encounter and any course-corrections you make. Give as much time as you can to react and adjust. Your colleagues will pay you back with status updates of their own so that you can continue to improve how you support these groups. Cross-functional status updates build goodwill and keep everybody in sync.

People are the most important asset a company has — delivering exceptional experiences should be at the center of everything you do.

So, yes technology is a key part of delivering great customer experiences. But introducing new technology is not the goal. It is simply a means of serving people. And a strategic roadmap serves everyone — especially the IT team that is responsible for meeting customer needs.

What do you always include on an IT roadmap?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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