What is a technology or IT roadmap?

A technology roadmap (also known as an IT roadmap) is a visual document that communicates the plan for technology initiatives at the organization. A technology roadmap typically outlines when, why, and what technology solutions will be implemented to help the organization move forward while avoiding costly mistakes.

There are various categories and approaches to building a technology roadmap. However, roadmaps for IT teams generally fall into two different categories: IT systems roadmaps and technology roadmaps.

IT systems roadmap

An IT systems roadmap identifies the systems that enable core capabilities across the organization. It outlines your current IT capabilities, your future IT needs, and the improvements you plan to make in order to reach your strategic goals. For example, an IT systems roadmap would communicate plans about the major systems used to run your business. These might include technologies like your customer relationship management system (CRM), enterprise resource planning system (ERP), data analytics platforms, and identity management tools.

Technology roadmap

A technology roadmap shows the technology currently available today and highlights improvements that are scheduled in the future. A technology roadmap also considers when a technology may be scheduled for end-of-life. For example, when a core CRM system is being replaced by a new one, a technology roadmap will highlight when support for the current CRM will end and when the new CRM will be brought online.

As companies outline their strategic goals and initiatives to help them achieve their vision, they can use a technology roadmap to determine which technologies to pursue and outline their implementation plans. A technology roadmap should ensure that technology and infrastructure investments will meet the short-term and long-term goals of the organization.

Example technology roadmap

This example technology roadmap outlines upcoming releases for the next six months. You will notice that there are several releases represented. Regardless of the effort involved, each release is linked to an initiative and each initiative belongs to a product: Compliance, Data Center, or Security. Linking initiatives to the work — features and releases — allows IT teams to track progress over time, keep everyone informed of their plans, and measure success against their goals.

IT Technology Roadmap example

Why do companies need a technology roadmap?

Companies utilize various technologies to support their employees. The collection of these systems and technologies are often complex and resource-intensive. Therefore, the overall infrastructure must be planned and implemented in an organized manner.

Ultimately, the purpose of a technology roadmap is to align key stakeholders, such as Engineering, IT, and other business units, by creating a plan of action to implement new technology solutions or maintain existing ones. This plan helps teams better grasp the requirements needed to reach the end goal and provides a clear path for the desired use case for the organization.

What is included in a technology roadmap?

The key components of a technology roadmap include:

  • Goals

  • New system capabilities

  • Release plans

  • Milestones

  • Resources

  • Training

  • Risk factors

  • Status reports

Goals are both short-term and long-term achievements that the organization is hoping to achieve through the technology solution. Specifically, the goals will focus on the business capabilities that are enabled by the technology system, as well as what will be required to maintain the systems going forward.

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. They 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 which 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.

Technology roadmap stakeholders include:

  • IT

  • General managers

  • Product management

  • Project management

  • Operations

  • Engineering

  • Finance

  • Sales and marketing

  • Legal

A great technology roadmap is an ongoing process that identifies the key technology initiatives that will support the needs of the organization. This process keeps business units focused on the most important high-level objectives so the organization can form the technology roadmap and plan to deliver on the milestones. The roadmap should also take note of any potential risk factors so the team is aware of potential roadblocks and can prepare accordingly.

Sometimes plans do change, and when this occurs, 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.

Creating a technology roadmap is only one part of the process. It is important to share it with key stakeholders so that the organization can stay informed on the overall plan, as well as how the technology projects are tracking. This allows everyone to fully understand the overall state of the entire project and individual projects within the technology roadmap.

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