What is a technology or IT roadmap?
Innovative technology does not just happen. You plan for it. A technology roadmap is the visual document that communicates your plan — the goals, initiatives, and enhancements that will help you transform into a high-performing IT organization. It allows you to visualize and balance work of different scopes and types — addressing technical debt, core infrastructure, and growth-oriented innovation. Outlining the "why," "what," and "when" before starting the "how" helps you focus on the bigger picture and the value you provide to both internal and external customers.
Let's look at the example technology roadmap below. It outlines an integrations rollout for the next six months. Each schedule of work (e.g., new data center setup, automated testing model, etc.) belongs to a functional group (e.g., architecture, DevOps, infrastructure, and services). Each schedule is also linked to a higher-level technology initiative. Linking strategy to the work allows IT teams to track progress over time, keep everyone informed of your plans, and measure success against your goals. Putting strategy at the center of your plans is just one hallmark of a successful technology roadmap.
Why do companies need a technology roadmap?
Companies rely on various technologies to support business operations. These systems and technologies are often complex and resource-intensive. Therefore, the overall infrastructure must be planned and implemented in an organized manner.
The technology roadmap visualizes the implementation plans for new solutions and maintain existing ones. It helps key stakeholders and cross-functional teams better grasp the requirements needed to reach the end goal and provides a clear path for the organization's desired use case.
What is included in a technology roadmap?
Every organization has unique needs. Roadmaps can be customized to suit your imperatives and the audience you are presenting to. Technology roadmaps commonly include a mix of these key components:
Goals and initiatives
New system capabilities
Goals and initiatives represent the achievements that you are hoping to achieve through technology solutions. Specifically, the goals will focus on the business capabilities that are enabled by the technology, as well as what will be required to maintain it going forward. Initiatives are the big themes of work that will help you achieve those goals.
New system capabilities are what will be provided through the enhanced technology systems. For example, adding customer asset tracking to a CRM system will offer greater insight to several business units.
Release plans focus on enhancing the systems to support the new capabilities that are needed by the business. Releases are generally very predictable and are scheduled months in advance. Releases are also communicated broadly throughout the organization.
Milestones are key accomplishments achieved during the technology development process. Tracking milestones allow the stakeholders using the systems to understand the progress towards the long-term goal, at points throughout the project. Milestones are typically tagged to specific dates and treated as performance targets to ensure the organization is on track.
Resources detail the people needed to implement and maintain the systems once they are in place. IT groups must plan to simultaneously roll out new functionality as well as update legacy systems as needed. This creates cross-functional dependencies between multiple groups.
Training will spell out the type of guidance necessary for the internal team to support the system for the actual users. Training can apply to a new system that is being implemented for the first time or enhancements to a current system already in widespread use.
Risk factors represent internal and external barriers that may prevent the organization from achieving the goals and milestones noted in the technology plan. These may include limitations of the technology itself, as well as broader market conditions that present a difficulty for the organization.
Status reports are an important and necessary part of the technology roadmap to keep everyone informed. Delayed implementation of one key system will affect the plans for business units that were depending on it. For example, a business wanting to introduce a new partner discount plan for their channel cannot proceed until systems are enhanced to handle the new discounting framework.
Who is involved in building a technology roadmap?
The most effective roadmaps are developed based on input from each of the key stakeholder teams. This allows the organization to understand the objectives and needs of each area. Typically, an IT manager is responsible for building the roadmap.
Technology roadmap stakeholders include:
Sales and marketing
Maintaining a great technology roadmap helps your team identify the key technology initiatives that will support the needs of the organization. You can also take note of any potential risk factors so you can prepare for potential roadblocks accordingly.
As plans evolve, the technology roadmap should be updated to reflect any changes in projects, timing, or priority. This allows the entire team to visualize the detailed plans and how they might impact tasks for each person in the organization.
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